Book Review: Required Reading for the disenfranchised freshmen by Kristen R. Lee

Today is my stop on the book tour of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen by Kristen R. Lee hosted by TBR and Beyond. Check out the full tour here!


A striking debut novel about racism on elite college campuses. Fans of Dear White People will embrace this activist-centered contemporary novel about a college freshman grappling with the challenges of attending an elite university with a disturbing racist history–that may not be as distant as it seems.

Savannah Howard sacrificed her high school social life to make sure she got into a top college. Her sites were set on an HBCU, but when she is accepted to the ivy-covered walls of Wooddale University on a full ride, how can she say no?

Wooddale is far from the perfectly manicured community it sells on its brochures, though. Savannah has barely unpacked before she comes face-to-face with microagressions stemming from racism and elitism. Then, Clive Wilmington’s statue is vandalized with blackface. The prime suspect? Lucas Cunningham, Wooddale’s most popular student and son to a local prominent family. Soon, Savannah is unearthing the hidden secrets of Wooddale’s racist history. But what’s the price for standing up for what is right? And will telling the truth about Wooddale’s past cost Savannah her own future?

A stunning, challenging, and timely debut about racism and privilege on college campuses.

My thoughts

I was not expecting to fall in love with Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen the way I did. I am shocked this is Kristen R. Lee’s FIRST novel. The plot flows seamlessly, pulling you in as you follow Savannah through her freshmen year at predominately white college.

This book is so real, so so real. I cannot put my thoughts into words that will convince readers to pick up a copy of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen fast enough. This is not a lighthearted read, it is emotional, tough, and at times frustrating. Lee paints a realistic picture of the struggles of a low-income black student attending an elite institution. This story is one that many can and will relate too as it explores academia, family, racism, and so much more.

Lee does so much right in Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen, one thing being Savannah’s character. Her anger about her high school experience with the stress of a college student was structured perfectly. From the first few pages, you know the amount of pressure Savannah puts on herself, as she worked hard to be a top student and get into the university her mother dreamed Savannah would. Once at college, Savannah has a chance to bring to light what is happening behind closed doors.

I see Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen actually being assigned as a required read. Until then, I highly recommend snagging a copy. Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen is an educational yet emotional read, highlighting what is it like to experience racism, privilege, and elitism in higher education. It is going to take me a long time to fully express my love for this novel, just trust me you don’t want to skip over Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshmen. Lee has crafted the next best seller contemporary YA, I can’t wait to add a hard copy on my shelf.

Favorite quotes

I have a tip for them: stop being afraid of Black folk.

this might not matter to mama, but it matter to me.

white privilege don’t begin and end in suburbia. Store clerks follow me around even though they only make ten dollars an hour. White privilege don’t have a set economic background.

change is a loaded word

i can’t tell Tasha’s story for her. Only she an do that. I can only tell mine. Even if it doesn’t come with a happy ending.

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About the author

Kristen R. Lee is a native of Memphis Tennessee, whose love of books stems from her grandmother who was a school teacher. After graduating with a bachelor’s in communication from MTSU, she began to draft her first novel which focuses on systemic racism and Black culture. Growing up in Memphis, a majority Black city, writing stories that reflect her upbringing is what she strives to do. When she’s not writing, you can find her on twitter sharing memes about not writing.

Author Website Twitter Instagram Goodreads

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