Okay, so there are a few things that make teaching this book a little difficult. First, and most obviously, is the fact that the plot in the book revolves around a rape. Is sex a tough thing to discuss with your kids? Absolutely. The problem really is that they are exposed to it everywhere else, and we spend most of our time pretending they aren't. So is there a silver lining in this sexual cloud? Yup; the fact that you get to talk to kids about sexual assault is a challenge, but it's also an opportunity to create a safe space for questions and to help students think a bit more about those parties where they aren't necessarily making the best choices.
Challenge number two: This is a book written by a girl, about a girl's high school experience, where the bad guy is, well, a guy. As a result, the boys in your class will probably have some trouble relating to the material and the main character, but there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, while we tend to think of sexual assault as a crime against women, guys can also be victims, and it's important to discuss this with your class. If we are trying to capitalize on the opportunity to encourage teens to speak up about assault and abuse, we can't forget that this message is for all students—guy or girl.
Second, boys need to talk about and learn about sexual assault as well. The fact is that it takes two people and if everyone is knowledgeable about sexual assault and the consequences, perhaps that is a step in the right direction toward addressing the problem. For example, you may want to discuss how alcohol and drugs can lead guys to do things they wouldn't dream of doing when sober, and guys should be encouraged to keep one another in check and pursue healthy dating relationships. All of your students need to know how to recognize when a situation has the potential for trouble or when a friend is really hurting so we can do our best to help all the other Melindas out there speak up.