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Suggested Reading

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Suggested Reading Book Poster Image
Teen starts secret library in intriguing banned books tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Students in Clara's Honors English class read about actual court cases that dealt with schools, censorship, and free speech. Two cases mentioned in the novel are Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School, a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established students' rights to free speech in public schools, and Todd v. Rochester Community Schools, in which a  parent took a public school to court to have Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five removed from the high school curriculum.

 

Positive Messages

You should never be afraid of the ideas in books, the controversies and disagreements they create or the changes they make in your life. As Clara discovers, being afraid is the opposite of being free.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Clara has all the usual qualities expected of an activist teen hero (intelligent, inventive, courageous) she also evolves in ways that might surprise readers. She comes to question her motives for creating the underground library and must confront how naive she was about the possible consequences of her actions.

Violence
Sex
Language

A few uses of "s--t," "a--hole," and "hell."

Consumerism

Lots of mentions of books banned by the Lupton Academy, and several (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Catcher in the Rye, Speak, Eleanor & Park) feature in the story.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen wrestling with the consequences of coming out as gay is arrested for DUI and later tries to overdose on prescription drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clara Evans, the smart feisty main character of Dave Connis' Suggested Reading, is absolutely certain there's not a nook or cranny of her life that hasn't been guided by a book. So she's shocked and outraged to discover that the administration at her posh private school has compiled a secret list of "prohibited media" -- a list that includes many of her favorite books. Clara decides to fight back and sets up an underground library in her school locker. Lending out books to her fellow students is a courageous act, but it means putting her future at risk. Being caught could jeopardize her chance for a much needed college scholarship. Teens use a bit of profanity ("a—hole," "hell," "s--t") and a student is pulled over for driving drunk. There's an attempted suicide by a character wrestling with coming out as gay. 

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What's the story?

For the Lupton Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, students' SUGGESTED READING will now be limited to books they feel are suitable for young minds. When senior scholarship student and passionate reader Clara Evans stumbles on a confidential email detailing a secret list of now-banned books, she's determined to fight back. With the help of the school librarian who looks the other way, Clara takes the newly banned books off the shelves, stashes them in her school locker, and sets up her own underground lending library -- the UnLib. It's not long before students begin texting her looking for books and the library is doing such a big business that she has to expand into lockers belonging to two friends. But along with success come some harsh reality checks. Clara is competing for a scholarship that will give her a full ride to college, and that will be in jeopardy if she's caught. She's also begun to question the real reason she began the library -- was it all about books or all about her? And while the books have a positive and often empowering effect on many readers, a book she recommends to one student might have led to a narrowly averted tragedy.

 

Is it any good?

This thought-provoking novel should open the door to lively discussions between teens and parents about censorship and student activism. Some teens may already have read many of the banned books mentioned in Suggested Reading. Others (like the character Mav, a football player who learned how to become a better boyfriend after reading Eleanor & Park) may discover new titles that will expand their knowledge of both the world and themselves. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Lupton Academy's decision in Suggested Reading to remove from the school library books they consider unsuitable. Do you think teens should have access to any books they want to read, or should parents have a say in what their kids are reading?

  • Have you read any of the "prohibited" books mentioned in the story? Was there anything in the book's storyline or content that shocked or offended you? Anything that made the book better suited for adult readers?

  • Are there ever any circumstances in which you think students should actively defy a school policy or rule?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love coming-of-age tales and stories of activism

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