…who have been assigned Crime And Punishment as a summer reading book:
“College-level literature.” By that, they mean university-level literature. (What, did you think it would be, The Alchemist? HaaaahahhhhaaaaaaHAAAAA. Okay, let me compose myself.) Hence the exhortation to start now.
One chief reason that we recommend the Norton Critical Edition of the Coulson translation is because of the excellent essays that follow: you did notice that 1/3 of the pages are commentary and essay, no?
Read the story. Raskolnikov thinks he can do the murder — that he should do the murder — but when he’s done it, his thinking really falls apart. Human nature is being illuminated quite deeply in this rich story.
Are you seeing that? If you are, then you’re on the right track and you’re doing fine. When you finish, read the commentary and essays. Things will click.
CaP is part of the canon. If the novel doesn’t show up on the free choice essay list, I will be a monkey’s uncle. (Even if it doesn’t, the question will say “or a work of equal literary merit,” and CaP is indeed that.) By taking your time with Dostoevsky, you are laying a firm foundation.
Take time and have faith.