I was 12 when I first ready TKAM. I was in love with it immediately. The moment I met Scout, I knew this would be my favorite book. I read it again when I was a freshman in high school. The second time I read it, I was able to pick up on some things I missed the first time around. There were metaphors and analogies that were just a little to mature for my 12 year old brain to understand. There were also some dark themes that I was too naive and inexperienced to relate to. I have since read this book at least 5 times and I learn to love it even more each time. One read is simply not enough.
p.s. Don't read Go Set a Watchman.
When I finished The Alchemist as a 16 year old girl, my initial response was, "Huh, well that was kind of weird." But I recently decided to give it another shot. I'm so glad I did. I was finally able to do what I could not do as a 16 year old, empathize with the shepherd boy. As a 16 year old, I had only one job (scoop artist at Baskin Robbins). My parents and teachers told me I could be anything I wanted. I had never known adversity in following my personal legend. It wasn't until college when I was first rejected after a job interview that I knew how it felt to be discouraged about your future and feel as though you will never find the treasure in your dreams.
Ray Bradbury has been my favorite author since I first road the merry go round in Something Wicked This Way Comes. His writing style is so unique and from the heart that every sentence on every page resonates with the reader. Of course, this book is important because books are important to democracy...blah blah blah blah. That is what your English teacher wanted you to write in your essay. However, there is so much more to this book. Montag is not a likable character when the reader first meets him. He is every bit as conformed as his fellow firemen. That is what is important in this book. The reader learns to love an unlovable guy because he has the courage to do something hard. Our hero is no Hercules or Odysseus with great might and a strong moral compass. Montag is just a guy. He's you or me. He lies to his wife and his boss. He is a glutton. These are mature themes that very few teenagers could pick up on. This is why you need to re-read Fahrenheit 451.
p.s. Everyone also needs to read Something Wicked this Way Comes.
If I could trade writing talent with anyone, it would be Tim O'Brien. No one sets a scene quite like he does. As a high schooler, this short story hit me hard. It was tragic, raw and I felt a rock sink deep into the pit in my stomach as I turned each page. But I knew I had to read each word. I had to feel each emotion. I had to carry each weight. I don't think I was ready for the magnitude of this story. As I read it as an adult, I was really able to dissect O'Brien's writing and understand why his words had such a strong impact on me. But as a student, I didn't know how to handle those types of emotions. I had never "carried" anything that heavy. This is why I suggest that you re-read this story. It truly is a beautiful story written by a master of words. And as an adult, you will be mature enough to feel those emotions and respond to them in a healthy way.
DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE!! If you are like me, this book was special to you as a child. This was the first book that ever really changed me. Most of the themes are simple enough that a 12 year old can understand them. However, they can only be understood on a certain level at that age. I also think it is important for people who like books such as The Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner to go back and read The Giver. True, this book cannot capture the adventure of Katniss with her bow and murderous gang of children. Jonas and his bicycle could never compete with that. But Katniss could never compete with the wisdom and pain Jonas receives. This is why it should never have been made into a movie. Comparing and contrasting these two very different types of Utopian novels shows a reader how a government or institution can be subtle and dangerous. Children are not murdered in a large arena like in the Hunger Games, but rather they must wear the same type of shirt and settle for jobs assigned to them. The true danger of corruption lies in the silence. That is why you need to re-read The Giver.