We here at Shmoop know that reading the classics isn’t always easy work. There’s a reason that they’re considered classics in the first place - they are multi-layered and intelligently written (suck on that, John Grisham), and generally require quite a bit of in-depth scrutiny and analysis in order to get as much out of them as you should.

Tom SawyerCredit: ShmoopAnd then there is the occasional novel that is just so darn funny, endearing and original that it receives widespread critical acclaim despite its avoidance of any ‘heavy matters.’ In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, there are no rapes, no political uprisings, no philosophical interpolation. Okay, so there is a murder, but it isn’t dealt with in a heavy-handed manner, and isn’t intended to cause the reader any real amount of distress. It serves merely as the impetus for a grand adventure.

One of the reasons that younger readers may enjoy reading about Tom’s exploits is that he represents that kind of rebelliousness that you perhaps envy or fantasize about, especially with regard to school. Although you of course know that there is nothing more important than your education and would never dream of slacking off (cue eye roll), it is hard not to smile at Tom’s carefree attitude, and at how he guiltlessly plays hooky or rolls into class whenever he darn well feels like it. If they’d been around at the time, we have no doubt that he would have phoned in his ACT Prep and conned a fellow student into taking his AP Exams for him.

More than anything else, however, we all see in Tom that sly cleverness that each of us wishes we had in our own personal arsenal. It is the same reason that we marvel at movie characters such as Danny Ocean, Jack Sparrow or Tony Stark - deep down, they’re rascals and we know they aren’t the best role models, but they’re just so dang cool. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has lived on so successfully because it is an escape, albeit a brilliantly executed one. When you are reading it, you can easily forget who and where you are, and exist purely in mind of Mr. Sawyer, living out forbidden fantasies of mayhem without repercussion.

There is a place for every type of great literature, and not every example needs to force you to examine the human condition, expand your mind or make you a better person. Sometimes it is just enough to create a wholly believable and wonderful imaginary world, and to populate it with characters that live on in our minds and hearts. And then there’s John Grisham. (Can you tell we don’t think much of him?)