In her letter of Dec. 2, headlined “Too much assigned reading unfit for high school kids,” Brenda Goulet writes of her concerns about two titles on Freeport High School’s freshman reading list.

Of one, Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award-winning “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” she directs readers to a brief passage and then says, “There probably is some good subject matter in this book – but I had a hard time reading past the unsavory parts.” The “unsavory parts” consist of the protagonist’s discussion of his far-from-unusual habit of masturbation.

Had Goulet continued reading, she’d have encountered a one-of-a-kind Spokane Indian protagonist who possesses all the heart, thoughtfulness and bravery you could want in a kid. It’s a very particular story that gives enormous insight into the universal human condition. In closing the book, Goulet missed not only a deeply satisfying read, but also the reasons why the book had been assigned in the first place.

As for the second book, Gail Giles’ “What Happened to Cass McBride,” it also has earned critical praise. The book’s plot takes an all-too-common adolescent personality – the mean girl, and every high school student knows one – and crafts a thriller around it, demanding that its readers tussle with their own easy assumptions.

Goulet closes her letter with an exhortation: “Parents, please get involved in your child’s schooling. Know what they are studying and if you’re not OK with it, speak up!” This is excellent advice. By all means, parents should get involved and speak up, but they don’t know what their children are studying if they confine themselves to the “unsavory parts.” Life and literature are complex, and both contain the “unsavory” and the sublime. Read the whole book so you don’t miss out.

Vicky Smith

South Portland