The Caine Mutiny: A Novel by Herman Wouk
I almost didn't read this book. I am so glad I did!
The novel follows the military career of Willie Keith, who joins the Navy during World War II in order to avoid the Army. As time goes on, he grows as a seaman and as a man, recognizing his growth as he goes and yet seemingly blind to the growth that will continue. The first half of the book covers the time onboard the Caine under Captain Queeg. The second half describes the trial for the mutiny and the end of the war.
I find it difficult to explain more of the plot because I don't want to give away the most powerful moments. More than anything, I think the book is about authority. It's also about how the people around us influence us, how we can find courage within ourselves, and how we come to recognize the good and bad characteristics of all people, including those we believe we knew.
Every teenage boy should read this book (and just about everybody else, too). There's a lot of swearing (despite a note at the beginning that the "general obscenity and blasphemy of shipboard talk have gone almost wholly unrecorded") and an instance of premarital intimacy (which is not described graphically), but I think most teenagers are eager to read and talk about the questions surrounding authority and peer influence that fill the pages of this book. I look forward to reading it with First Son in a few years (not aloud, though; I could never read all those swear words).