Suggested Reading – Dave Connis – Katherine Tegen Books – 17 September 2019
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?
As a librarian, I don’t need to be told about the benefits of reading – I see them every day. Suggested Reading is an ode to everything librarians stand up for. The right to read for pleasure, the right to choose your reading material, the right to free and unchallenged access to reading material that stretches and challenges the reader. I highly enjoying this book, as will all lovers of books, libraries and reading.
When Clara, a regular library volunteer, starter of a tiny library community scheme and avid reader, discovers that her school has banned 50 books and plans to remove them from the school library’s shelves, she unwittingly starts a rebellion when she creates a library in her school locker. What starts as a mini rebellion soon has far reaching consequences and Clara must decide if her stance against the banned books policy is worth the cost.
Suggested Reading is sure to inspire the secret rebel in us all. It asserts the importance of books, but it doesn’t do so blindly. Clara pauses to reflect on her position on literature and banned books many times through the book. She is challenged, as are her thoughts and everything she thought she believed in. By doing so, Suggested Reading allows Clara and the reader to experience both sides of the argument for and against banned books. And while the story picks a clear winning side, it does so without preaching.
There are many quotes, references to books (both real and those created for the purposes of this novel) and a sound love of literature within these pages. But this isn’t a book just about books. Like reading itself, Suggested Reading is also about empathy, learning not to judge people by first (or second or third) impressions, about growth, and challenging your thinking. Clara goes through fantastic character development. She realises her mistakes and where she has done the very things of which she is accusing others. She’s also really funny and not afraid to call herself out.
Suggested a Reading is also about standing up for what you believe in – and explores how this can be done in many ways. Alongside the ‘bad guys’, school leaders and admin who are championing the banned books policy, are many positive education role models.
I loved how Clara’s classmates rally around her Underground Library. She is surprised by her clients, and must learn another lesson in not judging people. And yes, reading is cool.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Reading, banned books, high school, scholarships, college applications, prejudice, libraries, benefits of reading.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, sh** (6), pi** (1), bi*** (4), as***** (2). Mature themes, attempted suicide.
Published: 17 September 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 385 pages.