Savannah Howard had her heart set on attending and HBCU once she finished high school. But she knows she can’t turn down a full ride to an Ivy League university like Wooddale–even if she also knows she’ll be one of the only Black students on campus. As her Mama always reminds her, Savannah has worked hard and she deserves to be at Wooddale as much as all of the rich students. Maybe more since she spent her entire high school career studying hard to make sure she could afford college.
Reminding herself that she deserves to be at Wooddale only goes so far when she starts facing microaggressions from her mostly wealthy, mostly white classmates almost immediately. Savannah is used to rude comments from people like her snobby roommate, that she can handle. Defacing the statue commemorating Wooddale’s first Black president is different. And Savannah isn’t going to stand for it.
Strongly suspecting the rich, white student body president Lucas is behind the vandalism, Savannah creates #WooddaleConfessions to raise awareness and enlists help from Black sophomores Tasha and Benji to try and find some concrete evidence. Faced by opposition from the university administration and threats from Lucas, whose family funds Savannah’s scholarship, only leaves Savannah more determined to uncover the truth in Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman (2022) by Kristen R. Lee.
Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman is Lee’s debut novel. Readers who appreciate Savannah’s relationship with her best friend B’onca should also check out Lee’s companion novel, Sun Keep Rising, which focuses on B’onca.
Narrated by Savannah, Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman is a fast-paced novel that blends mystery and activism as Savannah struggles to do what she knows is right while maintaining her scholarship and her place at Wooddale. In addition to facing Wooddale’s racist past, Savannah also grapples with income disparity with her privileged classmates while she tries to navigate her first semester of college and make friends.
While some elements of the mystery and its resolution are heavily broadcast, Savannah’s journey to realize that Wooddale being the best school does not mean it’s the best place for her remains fully developed and satisfying.
Possible Pairings: Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi, All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon, The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, This Place is Still Beautiful by Xixi Tan, Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner, The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao