Clara Evans, graduating senior at the private Lupton Academy, lives, eats and breathes books–fiction books, in particular. Although her best friend, LiQui, is student council president and, through her, Clara associates with non-book-fanatic people (going to Friday night football games and hanging out at the popular burrito place), Clara nonetheless focuses most of her energy and activities on her Tiny Little Libraries project as well as on volunteering in the LA library. A conscientious student who is in the running for a big scholarship award that will pay her way through college, she has gone through three years of high school without making any kind of fuss with teachers or school administrators.
That comes to an end when she discovers that the school librarian has been asked to pull books from the shelves that are considered unsuitable for student reading. As she agrees to take the banned books out of the library to avoid their being trashed, she decides to appropriate some unused, empty student lockers in which to stash the books so that she can surreptitiously circulate them to students throughout the school day. Covering the books with white construction paper so that the titles are hidden, she installs a circulation app on her phone to keep track of borrowers and titles. She expects to circulate a few each day, but as students learn of the banned books, the book circulation increases to the point that it almost overwhelms her. As students react to her recommendations–and one does so in a dangerous, unpredictable fashion–Clara’s growing awareness of the societal issues involved make her uneasy and lead her to question her purpose and the wisdom of what she has undertaken.
Sometimes this book doesn’t read at all like a teenager talking but instead too much like an adult lecturing young people on censorship and political activism, which is unfortunate. That may turn off some YA readers. The story, however, is interesting and the characters likable. Acceptance of others not in one’s social circle, honest self-examination of one’s motives, the unpredictable and varied ways in which books can provoke different reactions in readers, the empowering feeling that comes from standing up for one’s beliefs, and the need for understanding and compassion for those unable to easily articulate their problems are some of the themes that will resonate with YA readers.
Sex, violence and language are not really issues, though there are some instances of badass, asshole, shit, and such. One character is involved in a DUI and suicide attempt and is kicked out of his home by his parents after he comes out as gay. In general, students are presented in a positive way, as are most of the adult characters.
Categories: Books We Recommend, Bullying, Civil Rights, Controversial YA Topics, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Social Media, Suicide