Throughout June, GeekMom will be celebrating Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is The Paper and Hearts Society: Read with Pride by Lucy Powrie.
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The second book of the Paper and Hearts Society series, Read with Pride sees protagonist Olivia starting out on the first day of her final year of secondary school. Olivia is an overachiever and this year she needs to juggle revision for her upcoming GCSE’s, spending time with her girlfriend Cassie, and hanging out with her friends in the Paper and Hearts Society, a group formed around a mutual love of books. That morning, however, she discovers that her school has instituted a draconian new library policy. After a complaint by a parent, all students need a signed permission slip to remove books from the library, and the slip has a second box that must be signed to allow books “featuring LGBTQ+ characters” to be withdrawn. Worse, books featuring LGBTQ relationships now have huge stickers on their covers with the word “WARNING” on them.
Olivia and her friends are horrified. They know the importance of reading about others who look and think like you and the school’s new policy will keep those books out of the hands of the kids who need them the most. Determined not to take this lying down, Olivia forms the Read with Pride activism group with other like-minded students at school and begins campaigning to rid the library of this new policy. But with a campaign group and a whole bunch of new friends to manage on top of everything else, Olivia soon begins to feel her internal pressure building to unbearable levels and something, somewhere is going to have to give.
Read with Pride was a surprisingly short read that I pretty much powered through in a single afternoon. Written by one of my favorite YouTubers – Lucy Powrie – it features many of my favorite YA story elements, nerdy, bookish teens, a sweet romance element, and young people fighting to change an unjust system imposed on them by adults. I also loved the message the book promoted about how vitally important it is that young people get to read about people who look, think, and feel the way they do. I know having access to more wide-ranging literature in my own teenage years would have helped me avoid a lot of unnecessary confusion and, as a result, we keep fiction featuring all sorts of characters and relationships freely accessible in our home.
While I loved the sections of the book that dealt with Olivia’s Read with Pride group and their attempts to force their school to examine its policy, those focused on the Paper and Hearts Society ended up feeling like a distraction from the main story. This is book two of a series and as I’m yet to read the first volume, perhaps I would have connected with those parts more if I had done? As it was, I mostly felt eager to move on to the next part of the book whenever I found myself reading a section where the group met to decorate bookmarks or have a Book Olympics.
As for the characters, I did find myself getting occasionally mixed up given how many of them there were by the end. Once you add together the members of the Paper and Hearts Society, Read with Pride group, and occasional others like Olivia’s younger sister, there were nearly a dozen teens to keep track of and I often got mixed up about who was who – even when reading nearly all the book in one day. With so many characters to follow, it was natural that the majority were rather two-dimensional, with only Olivia having a huge amount of character development. Of her friends, Ed was the one who leaped out as having a distinct personality, even more so that Olivia’s girlfriend Cassie who received surprisingly little page-time. I’d have loved to see more development for the Read with Pride members and I felt like the book could have benefitted from that extra length.
As it was, Read with Pride was a short and sweet book with a powerful message about the damage that prohibiting access to books can cause, and the lengths people will go to in order to regain that access. It’s a book I’d love to see parents, teachers, and librarians picking up in order to help them understand why they need to allow the young people in their care to have access to those books – honestly, it may be even more important for adults to read this than the young adults it was written for! I’ll be using the #ReadWithPride hashtag used here for all my Pride Month books this year so look out for it across our social channels over the coming weeks.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.