Hope you’re all having a good week! In today’s post, I’ll be sharing my review of Caroline Bobick’s debut novel Censored. I wasn’t actually aware of this book until I spotted it on Netgallery just over a week ago, but it immediately sparked my interest when I read the blurb and saw that it focused on important issues such as human rights, freedom of speech and media. I just had to request it, and luckily I was approved almost straightaway. Read on to find out what I thought about Censored.
What might happen to you if your words were suddenly monitored more closely? Would you be more careful about what you said, what you thought? When a government has the power to control free speech, can it alter the truth and shape a new reality? In Censored, one family is caught in a war of words. The novel follows their lives over the course of one year as everything they took for granted is quickly taken from them.
Inspired by true stories of families around the world today, Censored demonstrates how a government crackdown on freedom of speech and media can have real effects on everyday people. This book is essential reading for those wishing to better understand the personal implications of eroding fundamental human rights.
This raw and heart-breaking YA book is very relevant to the current situation regarding the protests that are going on across the world. It follows a teenage girl and her family as they deal with an unstable political situation and are eventually ostracized from society and forced to flee the country, having to start over in a place that has a completely different language and way of life.
The story begins with the teenage girl returning home from her bat-mitzvah to find out that teachers are holding protests across the city of Alexandria. This quickly escalates when more citizens become involved and the government start to intervene. The city soon turns into a warzone, unsafe for the girl and her family, and after her parents lose their jobs (just because the founder of the school they work at is linked to spreading anti-government information), they have to sell their house and move in with the grandparents. Unfortunately, the grandparents are ignorant and believe the government over the citizens of Alexandria and their own relatives – they think that their son (the narrator’s father) is a terrorist. After he is arrest for something minor, the mum and her two kids have to leave the country as authorities are searching for them.
The narrator, who doesn’t seem to be given a name, is easy to empathise with. At the start of the novel, she is just a regular teenager, who is purely concerned with boys and schoolwork and has a solid friendship group, until her life is changed forever. She is fascinated by the teacher protests that are happening in Alexandria and immediately wants to find out more about them. Much to her frustration, the government has become totalitarian, and her teachers forbid her from writing about politics in her essays. She’s also unable to share things about the protests and government on social media, and has to be careful about what she discusses with her friends. The government also use tear gas and pose a lockdown, which many people are experiencing right now.
While all this is going on in the wider world, the narrator is also dealing with her own personal problems. It seems that she has body dysmorphia and is obsessed with counting calories and exercising. She’s bullied at school and thinks it’s because of her body: after seeing a photo of herself, she says that she looks “so chubby” and “fat” (p.7). Her parents are unsurprisingly concerned at first, but they are too caught up in their own financial struggles and soon forget about it. Nevertheless, the narrator matures over the course of the novel and grows into a confident young woman who cares less about what other people think of her.
Although Censored is an insightful novel, the book is clearly aimed at a much younger audience. The narrator is very juvenile and a large proportion of the book is set in school, focusing on her class assignments and crushes on the boys in her school. The writing style of Censored is quite chatty and childish – I think it would’ve been better in a diary format. The book is very short (with only 211 pages) and the ending is quite abrupt, but I guess that leaves room for a sequel.
Despite its faults, Censored is a thought-provoking novel that raises numerous questions about free speech, conspiracy theories, and the role of media. The narrator wonders why people protest, why they government acts violently in response (won’t it “just lead to more chaos and anger?”, p.22), and why we need freedom of speech. Censored also highlights how the media isn’t always accurate and it’s important to read several sources before forming an opinion on current events and politics. Censored is timely and would appeal to pre-teens and young teenagers who are interested in politics.
So that’s my review of Censored! If you like the sound of this book, you can purchase it on Amazon – as it’s an affiliate link, I’ll receive a small commission!