An excellent way to introduce young people to heavy topics
This novel gets students who are just now no longer children to grapple with some heavy issues. It is a good introduction to difficult things, like bullying and tragedy. The novel is a classic tragedy: The protagonist does everything right, and tries his best, but ultimately loses, anyway. Anyone who thinks this novel is "anti-religious" is incorrect -- the only open atheist is the antagonist, and the religious authorities at the school vary between being villains, bullying victims, and sympathetic helpers. A religious school is just the backdrop -- although there are religious overtones, including of Jesus and his tragedy (in which he also tried to do "the right thing", and was persecuted and punished for it in front of the community, just like the protagonist). Those who think the book is "negative" need to give their heads a shake. This novel is about the realities of life, and how life is difficult, and sometimes tragic, and how we are not truly in control of our own destinies -- and sometimes, no matter how hard we try to do what is right, there are people out there who will try to bring you down... and sometimes, they win. This book is tremendous. Those who think it is "too controversial" in 2018 need to recognize that the book was controversial when it was published, in 1974. Forty-four years later, it is less controversial than any single episode of any TV show on after 9 P.M. on any given night. If you want to shield your teenager from the world, then oppose this book, I suppose. If you want to give your teen an interesting school read that makes them question their own values and think, then let them read it.