Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R. Lee


I bought this book impulsively when it went on sale because I thought the cover was really cute (her space buns!) and thought it would be about banned books. It is not about banned books. The required reading refers to-- I believe-- this Gossip Girl like network of this made-up Ivy League college where students anonymously discuss campus life, including some of the very real inequalities of the school.

There was a lot I liked about REQUIRED READING but in many ways, it felt like an imperfect book-- to me. For the subjects it discusses, it comes across as heavy-handed as an after school special, but it doesn't have the satisfying ending that those specials have. I actually thought the message of this book was kind of bleak. And maybe that speaks to how fed up some Black people are about dealing with white people's shit in places where white people make up the majority. I understand that, if so. But it honestly felt like a pretty demoralizing ending to give Savannah, in my opinion. 

Ultimately, this ended up feeling like a cross between THE HATE U GIVE and ACE OF SPADES, both of which I enjoyed significantly more than this book. I think some of this book's flaws stem from it being a college-age YA for an adult audience, as the modular, cliquish nature of the student body felt very high school. College and high school are very different environments, and writing about college for younger teens is difficult to do, because there are things you can talk about with college students that you can't really do with high school students. This kind of contributed to the over-simplified vibe of the book.

REQUIRED READING isn't a bad book and does a lot of things well, but it wasn't a fave of mine.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

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