The Word "Notebook" Does Not Guarantee Academic

I'm of course very supportive of high school students reading full novels in class, as opposed to excerpts in anthologies, but while reading Vanity Fair today I discovered something very unsettling: students are being taught Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. In fact, the novel has become so commonly taught that Cliff's Notes has created a teacher's edition and one of their infamous "read this so you can skip the novel" guides. Nicholas Sparks? As scholarly literature? What the hell is the world coming to?

I'm fine (well, as fine as I possibly could be about anyone reading Sparks) with students reading him on their own time; one of my students had a Chelsea Handler book she was reading the other day, and I was just psyched she was actually reading. And, for the record, I have read a book by Sparks- Message in a Bottle, and it was absolute crap (dear God of All Things Literary, please forgive me, I was in eighth or ninth grade). How can an actual English teacher encourage students to read him when there are thousands of other more substantial texts available? "You know, kids, forget that Fitzgerald and his stupid Gatsby, today we're going to analyze the devices Nicholas Sparks uses to nauseate his readers." The only time I can see this as appropriate is maybe for an advanced class where they're contrasting junk and quality, and even that's a stretch.

You know what, kids? Go ahead and get the Cliff's Notes version. And see the movie. Just please don't buy the book.

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