I didn’t read this book when I was younger. I am 35 now, and I am a high school English teacher. I am NOT Bill per se because I am not a well-meaning Teach for a America fellow, but instead am a long-working teacher who is much more likely to put a few books in the hands of a student or read the ones they give me.
Also, I am not Charlie in this book. My adolescent was pretty tame in comparison.
However, not exactly connecting to either of the characters I am most likely to did allow to recognize that this is a deeply sympathetic portrayal of teens. People are fragile and flawed. They are fun and charming. They are not hugely messed up and they’re not even all that precocious and precious. Instead, there’s a realness to them that is fetching and good.
This was a book that I resisted when I was younger. I didn’t even know it existed until college so I was already older than the leads. I needed some distance and some experience before I could return to a story like this.
I couldn’t really put a book like this into the hands of most of my students because of its content, but like if they saw it and picked it up and looked through it I would be glad for them. There’s a reason why dorky English teachers put well-worn classics in the hands of smart kids like Charlie that even Charlie recognizes, weight plus times equals timelessness.
I do kind of agree with Mary Elizabeth about To Kill a Mockingbird though.