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Review: Suggested Reading

Suggested Reading

Title: Suggested Reading
Author: Dave Connis
Page Count: 385
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Date Published: September 17, 2019
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


When Clara Evans arrives for her first day of senior year, she assumes this will be her best year yet. She loves her school, she loves her library, she runs a very successful city-wide little libraries program, she has been shortlisted for a full scholarship, and she has just stayed up all night reading her new favourite book of all time.

When she arrives at her beloved library to start her daily volunteering, (okay, she practically runs this library) she quickly learns that the school will be banning a large selection of classic, beloved books – including Eleanor & Park, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Catcher & The Rye. These books changed Clara’s life and she is determined to not see them censored.

Fuelled by anger and the help of best friend LiQui, and other surprising sources, Clara starts running an underground library out of her locker. This small act of rebellion has far reaching consequences for herself and others when a book she loans plays a role in a tragedy.

Clara’s world is blown open, her own prejudices and motivations examined. How can one little library create such a ripple effect? The power of books, the hold they have on us, and the connection of the written word are all explored in this excellent novel of censorship.


Let’s talk Contemporary:

Ok, I admit, YA Contemporary is my least favourite genre. Mainly because it is often written way too young for me. Characters come across a little fake, forced, everything seems a little too bright, bippity and happy. I hope that the positive, more open and accepting teenage dialogue, (at least in the contemporaries I’ve read), exists. But they didn’t in my case, nor do they exist on the whole today, and therefore this dialogue usually elicits eye rolls from me.

Suggested Reading does a fantastic job of acknowledging that a lot of teenagers are jerks. They are present here at the periphery; they are acknowledged. This is so important to creating a platform for honest storytelling. But Dave Connis does such a fantastic job pointing out our own hate and how our own prejudices and assumptions are often 100% misguided. This dynamic read forces you to look into your own hateful walls of defence and assumptions you’ve made. We never know the full story of others and people often are surprising as hell, often dealing with more than you could imagine.

Let’s talk relevance, politics:

What an incredibly poignant and powerful read that resonates so very strongly in our current dangerous political climate. In a world that feels so heavily corrupted, so many people fighting for rights: rights to love, rights to body, rights to country, rights to acceptance … Suggested Reading shines a spotlight right into that pain, connecting larger policy to a smaller, manageable scale. The right to read – what books are deemed appropriate? Why does someone get that right to decide? Why do we censor teens from heavy topics like rape, bullying, racism? They see this, they hear this, they deal with this. They need to know how to cope, they need to know how to fight. This book addresses our failing to properly fill our children’s coping toolkit under the blanket label of “protection.”

But while this is a book about censorship and deals with heavy topics (a gay teen struggling to be accepted, suicide) it is ultimately hopeful. It shows the power of the individual. The power to make small change and the ripple effect of that consequence.

Let’s talk favourite quotes:

“Books are a light. A light that melts ignorance and hate. They show new paths to take. Or, for some, the depth of seemingly unfixable brokenness. Books illuminate something different for all of us. Books change lives because they’re matches, starting fires that show the grandness of the world, the depth of others, and a path for us to see ourselves.”

Let’s talk characters:

I think the characters here serve as great conduit to the stronger message of censorship, assumption, and perception. Clara is a great narrator for this journey and I absolutely loved how Dave Connis turned common character tropes on their ear.

Overall Take:

Incredibly moving, incredibly relevant, incredibly detailed, nuanced and researched. The small chapter-heading excerpts from past, heralded reads is a true celebration of the power of books, the power of words, the power of assumption. This book will touch you, move you and make you think. A compelling, poignant read that deserves much more attention.

TBR Ranking: Top

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