Rating: 3.5 stars
Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” hit list. The iconic books on the list have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises. Students caught with the contraband will be sternly punished.
Many of these stories have changed Clara’s life, so she’s not going to sit back and watch while her draconian principal abuses his power. She’s going to strike back.
So Clara starts an underground library in her locker, doing a shady trade in titles like Speak and The Chocolate War. But when one of the books she loves most is connected to a tragedy she never saw coming, Clara’s forced to face her role in it.
Will she be able to make peace with her conflicting feelings, or is fighting for this noble cause too tough for her to bear?
I really enjoyed reading this book that focused so much on censorship in schools. Even though the story itself told within its pages is fiction, censorship of books in schools is very much a real topic. While I’ve never (to the best of my knowledge at least) experienced having books I’m interested in being censored from me reading them, I know I can’t relate to Clara’s experience other than feeling empathetic towards her and the other characters in this book. I do not understand what any of them are going through, but I feel like I would also react in the same manner as Clara and want to do something so my peers that’re interested in reading can continue reading books they enjoy.
Suggested Reading is an enjoyable book for any bookworm because of the amount of book references within its pages. I love that this book also had at the beginning of its chapters quotes from different books because I felt like they were a good preclude to what was going to happen in that chapter. But I really loved seeing all the book references in this read because many of the books mentioned are books I have heard of before, even if I have not read every single one of them. I did know enough about the books mentioned though to understand why they were being referenced, which made this read that much more enjoyable for me.
What I also enjoyed with reading this book was the characters themselves in the story. While I feel like there was extraordinarily little character development, I enjoyed learning more about Clara and her friends and the world she inhabited while she worked tirelessly to provide her peers with books to read out of her locker. Just even imagining her rebellion with using her locker as a library made me gleeful and cheer her on to thwart authority.
I also appreciate the lack of romance in this story as well. Most young adult books have a little bit of focus on romance, and I appreciate that Suggested Reading did not have any. I do not have an issue with books that have romance. However, I feel like sometimes every young adult literature book has it in some capacity or another, and there are times when I feel like its not needed. This book is one of those instances, and I found I loved this book even more because of it.
However, that does not mean that I do not have any criticism when it comes to this book. While I enjoyed what I was reading, I felt like this book did lack some things. For starters, I felt like the pacing of this story was off. When I first started reading it, the story had a decent pace that felt relaxing to me. But as the story went on, it picked up in a way I was not expecting. It went from Clara making her locker library to her questioning her decision to start her locker library to begin with in the blink of an eye. I understand the author having her question her decision to start this library. However, I did not like the way it was done because it felt sudden to me. Like the events that unfolded to cause this change in Clara and make her see things from the principal’s perspective. While I understand wanting to show another perspective on the censorship issue, I feel like it was not needed for Clara because she did not do anything wrong.
I also feel like this book should have been longer. Not because I did not want the story to end, but I feel like there was a lot missing from the story that should have been there to make everything come together cohesively. Like her getting to know the people she started becoming friends with because of the events in this book.
However, I overall enjoyed reading Suggested Reading. It was a charming read and I feel like it is a story a lot of people will enjoy. Especially anyone who is a book nerd like me that will understand the book references mentioned within its pages. While I have never experienced censorship when it comes to reading, I am curious if anyone here has. If you have, please leave a comment below and share your experience if you feel comfortable doing so.