Why is the novel Dry essential for high school English study?

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A novel like Dry is essential to high school English programs because of how the novel can be used to illustrate characterization and narrative point of view.

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It could probably be argued that novels like Dry should not be a part of any high school English curriculum. There are always going to be educators that argue English curriculum content should be filled with novels that are considered a part of "the canon." The canon consists of authors or literary pieces that have been deemed "worthy of study" by academics, historians, and/or teachers. Dry is not part of the canon. It could be some day, but it is not currently; therefore, some critics would argue it has no business in a high school English class.

As a high school English teacher myself, I absolutely believe Dry should be part of an English course. The book gets kids talking about the characters and the conflicts surrounding those characters. My students love to argue with each other about the decisions each character makes throughout the novel. They passionately defend their opinions about the novel in ways that they simply do not do while reading Shakespeare.

From a teacher's perspective, Dry does a lot of great things that an English teacher can get excited about because of how it effectively illustrates concepts like characterization and narrative point of view. Shusterman's novels frequently shift narrative perspective. His novels do a wonderful job of being limited and omniscient at the same time. Chapters will be titled with a character's name, and those will be written in the first person perspective; however, the next chapter might recover some of the same events from a different character's perspective. Additionally, Shusterman will weave in purely third person omniscient sequences that give readers a snapshot of the wider conflict involving the water crisis. All of this narrative perspective shifting causes readers to be watchful of direct and indirect characterization moments. Jacqui can tell readers directly that she is strong willed and independent, and we see it when Alyssa takes over the narration and tells readers about Jacqui's selfish actions. The novel's ability to demonstrate standard literary devices in a package that students enjoy reading easily makes Dry a novel that is essential for a high school English program.

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