If you went to some fancy pants high school not located in Idaho where they actually made you read books, you’ll probably be all too familiar with the titles on this list. You either begrudgingly drudged through most of these books, or you frantically tried to track down a Spark Notes summary 15 minutes before class so you could get the jist of what was going on. If you were really lazy, you just watched the movie so no reading had to be involved whatsoever. The struggle was real in 10th grade English class, amirite?! Also, if your favorite book from high school isn’t on the list 1) calm down, weirdo and 2) I probably didn’t read it and therefore I don’t think it exists.
9. ‘Animal Farm’
Props to every freshman English teacher for trying to get 14-year-olds to wrap their heads around the 1917 Russian Revolution. Especially consdiering their only other form of reference for this time period was Anastasia. Most freshmen think it’s supposed to be some more adult version of Charolette’s Web and they are sadly very mistaken. Basically the only similarity between the two books is that there are talking barn animals. I haven’t read Charolette’s Web since third grade, but I’m pretty sure Wilbur doesn’t go rogue and try to take over the farm. Shouts out to George Orwell for dropping this and 1984 so every kid in high school has to encounter your work at some point. Luckily for those of us who were too busy trying to figure out how to force your boyfriend into doing a Promposal or talking shit about literally every person you saw throughout the day, there was a cartoon movie version of this book that you could just watch on the DL and pretend you read the book.
8. ‘The Scarlet Letter’
Hester Pynne was kind of a betch for just doing what she wanted to do and hooking up with a dude when everyone wanted her to be a boring-ass seamstress and spend her whole life alone. She loses points for hooking up with a pastor, though. Like, gross. The good thing about TSL is that it probably prepares high schoolers for the fucked up fact that women will probably always be judged for their choices when it comes to sex, and dudes who do the exact same thing are praised for being studs. #Feminism. See also: The Handmaid’s Tale. The Scarlet Letter was pretty much boring AF, but it’s part of the cultural zeitgeist where, like, a shit ton of references about it pop up all the time. Like, how great is Easy A? Speaking of Easy A, The Scarlet Letter is basically responsible for Emma Stone. Like sure, she was in Superbad, but she really came into her own in Easy A. Honestly, can this review just be about Easy A? Thanks.
7. ‘Death Of A Salesman’
Despite what the main character tells you in this Arthur Miller play, this story isn’t about how important it is to be well liked, which is too bad because as a teenager, that’s like, a much more relatable moral. Spoiler alert: the super depressing life of Willy Loman is meant to prove that the American dream isn’t real. Shout out to Mrs. Foote for teaching me that. The whole thing is depressing. Loman is super shitty and cheats on his wife. His two sons are garbage people—one of whom is named Biff, which should really tell you all you need to know about him—and then our man Free Willy just offs himself because he can’t deal with responsibility and he thinks his family will get rich off of his insurance money. He doesn’t even leave any tapes behind for them to sort out or anything. He just like, dies. Not sure who’s a worse suicidal protagonist, Willy Loman or Hannah Baker. But hey, at least this book sets high school kids up to be disappointed with life as adults. Thanks for keeping it real, Death of a Salesman.
6. ‘The Stranger’
Albert Camus’ existentialist novel tracks the main character living in French Algeria from the time his mom dies until he murders a dude on the beach and then waits out an execution in prison. Like uh, that escalated quickly. Apart from the the shooting, it’s mostly just a lot of talking about how God isn’t real and human existence doesn’t mean anything. So, yes, to answer your question, it’s super French. The emo kids in your class fucking loved this one, and would always pretend they understood it more than you, as if your understanding of literature is in any way correlated to the amount of time you spend at your local Hot Topic. Sad.
5. ‘The Picture Of Dorian Gray’
All weird theater kids in high school are obsessed with Oscar Wilde, but you probably didn’t know who he was until you had to read The Picture of Dorian Gray or like, saw his quote that’s like “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” and used it as justification to act like a complete freak all throughout high school. Anyway, this book is about a Victorian-era fuckboy whose friend paints a portrait of him and then that portrait starts aging in his place. So, think of it as Victorian era botox, only you don’t look like a wax figure. You just stay young and hot as you terrorize London, basically. TBH I loved reading this because Oscar Wilde is the king of sassy-ass remarks. If your GBF was a Victorian author and playwright, he would be Wilde for sure. The book tries to make it seem like there’s a downside to the whole stay-young-and-hot-forever-while-your-potrait-grows-as-old-and-rotted-as-your-soul thing, but I honestly still can’t see it. The whole scenario still sounds very legit to me.
4. ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’
If you read Tom Sawyer in elementary school, then you graduated on up to Huckleberry Finn in high school. It’s the quintessential American novel or some shit, right? You probably had a class debate on if you should say the N world while referring to the book in class. AWKWARD. (The answer is no, btw. Very hard no.) This book is way too fucking long and Mark Twain wrote it colloquially so it’s basically impossible to understand some of the shit being said unless you read it out loud. What the fuck, high school English teachers? Why are you putting kids through this? Then again, it’s not that bad of a story and at least there’s enough action to keep you somewhat entertained. Also, props to Mark Twain for trying to make people in the 1800s be not racist. It’s 2017 and we’re definitely still working on that.
3. ‘The Great Gatsby’
Ugh, this fucking book makes me irrationally angry because it inspired every fucking basic to throw a Gatsby themed birthday party for themselves. In reality, those parties are much more exciting than this book. In fact, the book is kind of weird and boring in comparison to watching Leonardo DiCaprio play a rich dude who throws dope parties with Jay Z music in the background. Sure, the roaring twenties seemed amazing, and everyone likes stories about rich white people with problems. I mean, that’s how the Real Housewives franchise has such a big following, right? But in reality, the book is the very depressing story of Gatsby, the world’s most delusional dater. Honestly, it provides a very vauable lesson, that delusional dating does not work, and you’ll just end up dying and embarrassing yourself. Shouts out to every English teacher who constantly reminded you that Nick was an unreliable narrator, making the book unreadable. Like, why am I going to waste my time reading this book when I can’t even believe anything written in this book? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! This is the exact same reason I never listen to anything I hear from Ashley in gym class. It’s just unreliable.
2. ‘Lord Of The Flies’
Lord Of The Flies is a book about a group of young boys who buy tickets to a high-end luxury music festival promoted by Ja Rule, and end up stranded on an island with no food or water and have to eat each other. JK. But like, Fyre Festival definitely made this one relevant again #blessings. Anyone with even a D in high school lit could see the comparison. In reality, Lord Of The Flies is the fairly disturbing story of a group of British schoolboys who get trapped on an island (sans Ja Rule) and have to try to figure out what the fuck to do about it. Just like in actual high school, there’s one fat kid who everyone calls “Piggy” that gets shit on relentlessly by everybody as the group goes slowly insane. Unlike in high school, a boulder falls on his head and he dies. The whole thing is a big allegory for humans’ need for structure and order butting heads with their desire for power and control. Also, the dangers of being the fattest person in your friend group.
1. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
In a survey I did of randomly asking two people what their favorite high school read was, they both said To Kill a Mockingbird. So, I’m taking that as proof that it was the least terrible thing you were assigned to read. Also, Scout and Atticus are becoming a super popular hipster baby names so we know this book has had an impact on people. TKAM is about a little racist town in Alabama, shocker, where a black man is on trial for raping a white woman. Atticus Finch, Scout’s dad, is his lawyer and totally hot for a dad, or so I pictured. I know kids who I didn’t think could even read in high school, and yet they read this book. There was also a decent black and white movie to watch if you really couldn’t read or some shit. And Gregory Peck, who played Atticus in the movie, totally reaffirmed that Atticus was probably a hottie.