They were the best of books, they were the worst of books; it was the age of homework, it was the age of procrastination. ... "we had everything before us, we had nothing before us," as Charles Dickens wrote in his famous "A Tale of Two Cities."
According to college professors, high school teachers and that random neighbor down the street, classic novels are the best of books. They teach lessons and have themes that are believed to communicate to every reader.
Tyler Roberts, a senior at Clearfield High School, would define a classic as "a novel that relates to everyone's interests in some way -- in a way the reader wants to keep reading and share the great experience they had with the book."
However, Cody Lloyd, a Layton High School senior, sees a classic novel as simply an "old book that teachers say sounds good."
Rachel Kimber, a Bonneville High School junior, would define a classic novel as "a book with a nameless feeling that's written before the 1950s."
So which of the many classic novels do teens see as the "best of books" and which ones qualify as the "worst of books?"
Maddie Turner loves William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
"It has many different genres in one, such as romance, mystery and suspense," says Turner, a Clearfield High senior.
Chelsey Wakely, a junior at Bear River High, enjoys "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky "because of the twists and turns it holds, and the psychology of Raskolnikov's mind."
Fellow Bear River High junior Hunter Nielson also puts in a vote for "Crime and Punishment" because "it views literature in a different perspective."
"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas is one of Lloyd's favorites.
"It's just an interesting story," he says. "The plot was something different from what I was used to."
For Kimber, Homer's "Odyssey" is also a favorite: "It's such a beautiful story."
Sarah Lomax, a junior at Northridge High, likes "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison because "it displays the horrors of racism and how hypocritical Americans are about liberty and justice for all."
Other recommended classics by teens include Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and Jack London's "White Fang."
Not the greatest
But just because one teen likes a book doesn't mean everyone does.
Sarah Loock, for instance, is not a fan of Shelley's "Frankenstein."
"Victor is annoying," says the Layton High senior.
And Kimber does not care for "Romeo and Juliet."
"It's about two stupid teenagers that die because they're stupid," she says.
"Crime and Punishment" wasn't a great read for Andrea Campbell, a Layton High senior, who explains, "It was a creepy book about a murderer."
Sarah Lomax, a Northridge High junior, and McKell Weese, a Bonneville High senior, both agree that Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" is their least favorite novel.
Weese thinks the classic is "too old," while Lomax finds all the "thees," "thous" and "thousts" to be "pretty annoying."
"Invisible Man" is Lloyd's least favorite novel because it's "mostly about this guy who, every time he tried to do something, he failed so he just gave up in the end."
Other books that teens dislike include Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls," Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," and Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."
Read or don't read?
With all these contradicting opinions, how do Top of Utah teens feel about having to read these classic books for English?
Jeffery Hein, a Clearfield High junior, enjoys reading the classics in school.
"By requiring this, students can be exposed to various cultures and ideas," Hein says. "Plus, students may discover a great book they wouldn't have read otherwise."
Andrea Campbell of Layton High also thinks English reading assignments are a good idea.
"They help us prepare for college books," the senior says.
Lomax agrees: "I think they're important for us to understand and take and draw important lessons from."
However, she adds, "I believe we should also have some modern novels with good literary merit because they relate more to us, and we can draw more wisdom and knowledge from them."
Regardless of what you enjoy, there is bound to be a classic novel out there for you. You don't have to like all of them, but give them a try. Who knows, maybe the next classic you read could be your new favorite book.
Hillary Slaughter is a recent graduate of Layton High School. She loves reading, crafts and "the great outdoors." You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.