I liked this more than The Fault in Our Stars, mostly because it wasn’t really trying to beat you over the head with stuff about death. I felt like it was a little forced in that book, where this seemed more natural. Stuff happens and you feel responsible for it.
Students in my English classes get to choose their main book for the semester, because I think telling students what to read, because the teacher likes it is a great way to make sure they don’t read. Nothing is more alienating than telling someone they have to read something for a grade, but telling them not to read isn’t an option. I have a textbook too, but this choice book is a big part of their final paper. Letting them pick a book that they like, have an interest in also gets them to participate. They can pick anything: comic book, science fiction, memoir, literary fiction or 50 Shades of Grey (and some have picked that book and come up with some great papers about women in the workplace and other things.) They pick the book; we work through some literary criticism worksheets—like formalism, reader-response, and feminism—and come out with a cultural issue to talk about from their book in a research paper.
Last semester, a student did Saga and ended up writing a research paper about mixed race marriages. It also works as a kind of book club and gets me reading things that I normally wouldn’t. So this semester I’m going to use Looking for Alaska, because I think it’s relatable for quite a few freshmen in my composition classes. The characters are away from home for the first time, there are girls, booze, pranks, and responsibility, but most importantly it’s about selfishness—of only thinking about yourself when you’re away from home. It’s a great book to talk about for my English 101.