"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck remains properly on the reading lists of high school students because of the regional imagery through succinct dialogue. Unlike "Grapes of Wrath," Steinbeck brings us swiftly into each moment, never letting us linger too long before walking us to the next place.
The American Dream has many variations, but always, it is about independence and the pride of being one's own man. Lennie and George want this independence more than most men, but have less than most men to get there. In their case, it isn't a white picket fence, but a farm where they can raise rabbits.
Lennie is not a bright man. He desires to care for someone and to be loved, but is unable to think past his own fear. George tries to protect him, but he too, although smarter than Lennie, is managed by his insecurity and foolishness.
The story surrounds Lennie and George's efforts to get and retain work on ranch near Soledad, and more so, toward their American Dream. The big picture is always with them, but it is the day-by-day difficulties they have with being outsiders. Their intrinsic inability to be free is sheer tragedy, as they both fail again and again to make the right decision.
It's a lonely story about two men who hope more than they can think, who are destined by their misery never to enjoy true companionship and happiness.
Few books are as thematically pure as "Of Mice and Men," which follows Man's search for self and meaning carefully. It is harsh in language and image, and the abstract ideas might be too much for younger readers to comprehend, but any intelligent teen will gain from it where John Knowles' "A Separate Peace" and J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" leave off.
I fully recommend "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck.