C.G. Drews's Reviews > Suggested Reading

Suggested Reading by David Connis
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-2020, young-adult, ya-without-romance, contemporary

This is the kind of book that left me with a LOT to think about. It manages to be softly dorky, a love letter to bookworm problems, and also slam you in the chest with some intense themes to sort through. Like, honestly, at first I was all, "This is cute," and then by the end, I'm like "WHAT ARE MY MORAL STANDINGS ON THIS ISSUE." I was just marking all these passages to share, but what I really need to do is sort of slide the book over to you and whisper reeeead it.

Note / edit to this review: I want to clarify and underline that when I talk about not banning books, I'm NOT meaning people who are problematic, racist, and discriminatory should be given platforms to view spew their rhetoric.

things to look forward to:
→ Clara is a massive bookaholic, starts Free Little Libraries, is an overachiever and also a clumsy dork
→ it talks about judging people (by their covers haaa)
→ lots of detailed discussion on banned books
→ lots of dialogue! mostly dialogue based, and school-set
→ no romance, bless
→ library appreciation
→ some dark topics unpacked, so it's not a fluffy read

let's talk about banned books...
This is, essentially, a book about books. Specifically, it's about banning books. The politics behind it, the justifications adults give when pulling from school library shelves, and then the true reasonings behind why they're doing it. It talks about why censoring is wrong and then throws a curve ball and talks about why books CAN be dangerous. When it started heading down that avenue, I started really frowning. Was this book in my hand going to diss literature and say maybe it should be banned!? So the fact that it tackled BOTH SIDES to the banned discussion was good.

I've read books about banning books and stealing books and censorship before. But this really got it's hooks in me. And honestly, is there any greater compliment to a novel?

We shouldn't be telling anyone what they can and can't read, can and can't handle. No two people must be ready for the same book at the same age. Let people have books and use their capable brains to analyse and discern. AND DISCUSS. Instead of banning a book from a kid because you don't think they're ready for it: let them read it, and be there to discuss it.
"I'm not, like, a book guy, but isn't the point of all this book stuff like what Ms. Croft was teaching us -- that unrestricted access to books allows us to be challenged and changed? To learn new things and to critically think about those things and not be afraid of them? To be better than we were before we read them?"


...it's also a total love letter to just reading.
The story starts off with Clara getting a highly anticipated release and pulling an all nighter to use highlighters and eat cheese and just ABSORB this book that ends up changing her life, her world, her just...everything. It shakes her up. She has the biggest book hangover ever. I just felt so seen!! There's so much bookworm love here! The smell, the feel, the act of sorting books, of turning pages, of your brain going overtime thinking about it.
The prospect of having so many copies of Don't Tread On Me out in the world felt strange. I think because it was a weird thing to realise, you know? The communal aspect of books. They became so close to you, so ingrained in your blood, that it was like they became unpublished. The bar code, along with your memory of buying it along with five other duplicate copies, disappeared. And somewhere between the covers you'd start to think you were the only one who'd ever set eyes on the words, that there couldn't possibly have been another person that book spoke to as much as you.

And I love that it even covered the concept of loving a book so so hard you...don't want to share it?! I have felt this. One thing I adore about books is how they can be so personal: you can be reading and your whole world becomes just you and the book. Gahhhh that moment is phenomenal and a special sort of magic.

I always assumed that people who didn't experience a book the same way as I did weren't look at it right. They missed the point. They misunderstood it. But, suddenly, there was context to consider. Was I privileged enough to be able to love books in which hurt flowed abundantly without feeling more hopelessness? Was it privilege or did it change from person to person? Or was it both?


...the privilege of how you experience books.
There is such a thing as a book being harmful for one person, and perfect for another. There's such a thing as a book being needed for one person, and trashy for another. This is why hating books, cancelling books, saying some books don't deserve to exist, can be inherently harmful. (NOT TALKING ABOUT really problematic books that are built on hate!!)

The problem is, we bring ourselves to the pages. Our whole selves. Every single darkness. Every single light. Every single passion. Every single hurt. We read with all the layers that make us who we are acting as filters. We read with all that our eyes have seen and all our hearts have felt since birth. With that much density making up humanity, it can't be up to us to make sure people don't misunderstand a book. And it can't be up to books to make sure people don't kill themselves or hate someone, or even love someone. Or even decide to be president. What we do, before and after we read, is our choice. And that choice is freedom.

*sits here in contemplative silence for 10 years*

Some dark stuff happens in this book. Reading a book triggers one character badly. It makes Clara doubt everything she ever knew and wonder if books ARE harmful, if books SHOULD be banned. And I love love how it handled the topic, because it's not easy to figure out how to say a book shouldn't be banned even if it caused someone to hurt themself. Don't you get rid of the weapon? No, because JUST like that passage says: not everyone is going to be able to cope with every same book. But we still have a level of ownership for our own feelings and actions. A book being dangerous for someone, doesn't make the book inherently dangerous. Although I have been in a place where I've been badly triggered by a book, so I do get it.

...but let me pause for a quick critique.
Like I love the very BONES of this novel, and it's nuanced and complex deconstruction of the act of telling stories and sharing words and what that means. But there were actually places I was a bit "eh will I even like this book?" because the characters are not very deep. Clara was almost too quirkily clumsy and dorky at times; it felt like she was trying to be Uber Relatable but just felt cringey. And I desperately wanted to get to know Jack and Ashton better, but it just didn't delve into anyone's characters. They both have such a deep backstory, it was nearly frustrated how the book was 90% centred on Clara. She needed to look outside herself.

Reading this was a gift because it was a discussion I'd been craving but hadn't known how to put what I felt into words. I did NOT agree with everything in this novel (at one point it said fighting with anger is always wrong; when NO. Marginalised communities have every right to be angry as they fight against oppression.) But I enjoyed the discussions in this book.

Books are not perfect. They are imperfect explorations of one person's thoughts. We are not all the same. There are a thousand ways to view the same book, and your anger or love of a book is valid...but not universal.
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Quotes C.G. Liked

“I'm not, like, a book guy, but isn't the point of all this book stuff like what Ms. Croft was teaching us -- that unrestricted access to books allows us to be challenged and changed? To learn new things and to critically think about those things and not be afraid of them? To be better than we were before we read them?”
David Connis, Suggested Reading


Reading Progress

March 11, 2020 – Started Reading
March 11, 2020 – Shelved
March 11, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
March 11, 2020 – Shelved as: read-2020
March 11, 2020 – Shelved as: ya-without-romance
March 11, 2020 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 11, 2020 – Shelved as: contemporary
March 12, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Fiona (new)

Fiona I am all for books not being banned but I can also see how a copy of, for example, Mein Kampf ending up with the wrong person could have bad consequences. I do see both sides of the argument.


C.G. Drews Fiona wrote: "I am all for books not being banned but I can also see how a copy of, for example, Mein Kampf ending up with the wrong person could have bad consequences. I do see both sides of the argument."

It's definitely interesting to talk about both sides, especially when we're talking about protecting kids. But at the end of the day, literally anything can be dangerous for certain people. We need to help the people, not restrict art and call that solving a problem (I feel).


message 3: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan » Hello Book Bird Thank you for the examples of this review. Needless to say, I'm sooooo ready to be challenged.


Kirstin Culp You pretty much put everything I wanted to say about this book into words!


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