The Great Debate: which required reading book is the worst?

Breeze Aguilar and Brooke Saaty, Editors in Chief


If there is one book that students should not be required to read, it is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. I apologize to anyone who actually does like this story, and I want to make it clear that I have nothing against Shakespeare as a person. After all, I did not know him. So, how can I form an accurate opinion about him? But, it is actually for that same moral reason that I dislike Romeo and Juliet so greatly. Let me explain.

At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo rants to his cousin about how much he is in love with a girl named Rosaline, Juliet’s cousin. However, Romeo quickly changes his mind after a single glimpse of Juliet. Suddenly, he claims to be madly in love with Juliet even though he has never spoken to her and knows absolutely nothing about her. Rather he rants about her beauty, completely ignoring the fact that he has know idea what kind of character she has. Then when they finally do talk, all they do is trade compliments. The couple never actually takes the time to get to know each other, which goes back to the false idea of how you can form an accurate opinion of someone who you do not truly know. The same theme continues throughout the rest of the play. Even during the famous balcony scene, all the couple does is flatter each other and then profess their undying love for each other. Romeo and Juliet never actually had a real conversation in which they learned about the character of the other person.

My second major complaint about Romeo and Juliet is that it is really a story about the consequences of poor communication. Think about it. Not only did Romeo and Juliet fail to communicate to each other their true character, but when her parents order Juliet to marry a man named Paris, Juliet never actually admits that she is in love with Romeo. Rather she refuses to give a reason why she does not want to marry Paris. This makes her seem unreasonable and does not actually convey the problem to her parents. Then, later in the story, both Romeo and Juliet fail to communicate with each other about their plans. Yes, Juliet did attempt to send Romeo a letter explaining her plan. However, the letter never reached Romeo. This did show an attempt at communication; however, it does also show the importance of proper planning. But no, Juliet had to rush into an extreme and problematic solution without making sure that Romeo actually received her letter. What the couple should have done was sit down with their parents and explain their situation. True, the parents were sworn enemies, but both parents did claim to love their children. It is possible that a different solution could have been reached. At the very least though, keeping their relationship a secret and not properly communicating about the truth of their situation did the couple no favors. Even if both parents did not take the news well, at least being open about their relationship would have opened up new opportunities for communication as the couple would no longer have to communicate in secret. Additionally, if Juliet had communicated to Romeo that her father threatened to throw her out of the house if she did not marry Paris, then Romeo could have helped Juliet. After all, once Romeo and Juliet married, they would live together, and it would not matter that her father had thrown her out of his house. I am sure the situation, the divide between father and daughter, would have been extremely painful for Juliet. But, by failing to communicate, the couple only made things infinitely worse and took away any hope of reconciliation with their families.

Perhaps my greatest complaint, though, is that Romeo and Juliet is revered as one of the greatest love stories of all time; however, it really is not about love at all. It is about obsession. The difference is that love means not wanting to live without the other person but still being independent enough to be capable of living without the other person. Obsession though is about not being able to live without the other person, being dependent on them. In Romeo and Juliet, the main characters are so dependent on each other that they cannot live without each other. So, they both end up taking their own lives rather than try to function without the other person. That is not love. That is the definition of obsession and addiction, neither of which is a healthy relationship. If Romeo and Juliet had truly been in love, then while they may have experienced great depression or grief, they would have still been able to live without the other person. Which leads me to my point; Romeo and Juliet encourages students to engage in unhealthy relationships. By glorifying Romeo and Juliet as one of the greatest love stories, schools are teaching students that love is the same thing as obsession, and that shallow relationships where you never get to know the true character of the other person are preferable. 

Is this really the message that schools want to be teaching their students? High school students are at such an impressionable age, one where dating is becoming more common. How is it acceptable for schools to be encouraging those impressionable students, who trust those schools to feed them trustworthy information, that addiction, obsession and bad communication are a recipe for love? Therefore, Romeo and Juliet is one book that no student should ever be required to read in school.



The Outsiders is the worst required reading book. No, not all books we read must have some sort of allegory or lesson, but I’d argue that books read almost exclusively for entertainment should at least be well-written.


S.E. Hinton’s classic novel, as iconic as it is, falls short of its full potential. Her characters aren’t particularly memorable. Besides their names such as Sodapop or Ponyboy, each greaser and soc fall into their respective stereotypes with no notable difference between personalities. There are no notably unique characters besides Ponyboy– but that’s only because the novel is told from his perspective. Everyone was two dimensional– the greasers aggressive and rowdy, the socs snooty and uptight. The only time we saw nuance in characters and their personalities were the more intimate moments with Ponyboy and Johnny when they lived on the run.


Though it can be argued that The Outsiders is read purely for entertainment, I must ponder why, specifically, The Outsiders? There are, undeniably, better novels which are not only more enticing, but also have sturdy plots, devoid of holes. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, for example, is a well-written novel which follows its teenage protagonist through New York as he struggles to deal with his unique limbo between childhood and adulthood. Salinger’s novel is undeniably more relevant to teens than Hinton’s because not everyone may be a greaser or soc, but everyone endures the tribulations of adolescence.

Sure, Hinton wrote her magnum opus at 15, possibly inspiring young writers, but there are plenty of other books written by teenage authors. Malala Yousafzai was 16 when I Am Malala was published. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein at 19. Talented writers can be found at any age– Hinton did not revolutionize the classroom by writing a novel at 15.