I hated reading Dickens in high school, and I was never able to get past the first chapter of any of his books, including this one. Now that I'm in my mid-30's, I want to re-visit a lot of the works that I had no patience for as a teenager, so I read Hard Times. Although there are many flaws to this book, I felt proud to have finally cleared the Dickens hurdle. Dickens is excellent at creating sympathetic (and evil) characters, even though they may be slightly cliche or wooden. The fact is, Dickens is able to hook you in with his plots and create a profound concern on behalf of the reader that the good guy (or girl) wins and the bad guy suffers. A lot of the twists in this book were a little "too convenient" and implausible to make it a crowining work of literature, but nevertheless it has motivated me to move on to Dickens' larger, more daunting works. If you are having any trepidation about tackling Dickens, Hard Times is a good place to start.