I have already read between 5 and 7 hours this week (starting Sunday) and cannot seem to put this book down. Water for Elephants is a really great book; it is set in the 1930's era during the depression and follows a young man (age 23) named Jacob Jankowski on is journey to becoming part of a circus and what goes in while he is part of this circus. The reader is presented the story through the "ninety or ninety-three" year old Jacob's flashbacks to the time when he was 23 and a part of the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
Although I love this book, I think I would have a hard time teaching to a class of snickering high school students. There is a very descriptive/vulgar scene where the prostitute of the show is dancing or stripping, rather. Jacob describes every part of her body, every action she is making, and every reaction the men in the "cooch tent" are having. He is in shock, as would be most of the class. There are several other vulgar, descriptive scenes which do not leave any room for the imagination because Jacob's descriptions have already told the reader anything and everything he/she might want to know. I know I read books in high school which contained sections about prostitutes, sex, and the like, but I think this book is much more vulgar. Parents would have a heyday with a novel like this one.
It really is a good read, and I love that it shows so much of the Depression's characteristics as the circus travels from town-to-town all over the United States. Even some of the circus members and other characters are shocked and appalled by the state of the United States. Also, it shows the reader how Jacob copes with the accidental and shocking death of his parents. There are definitely parts of the novel which students can relate to, but it would definitely be harder than the other novels I have read because of the age of the main character and the other characters, for that matter.