Book Review: “Educated” by Tara Westover

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Educated took the book-loving world by storm when it was published in 2018. It’s also been consistently checked out from the library since we ordered it. In this powerful memoir, Tara Westover describes her unconventional upbringing and how finally gaining access to formal education changed her life.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Educated does right: Westover’s story is heartbreaking, but it needs to be told. You’ll learn about the horrors of family violence, abuse, undiagnosed mental illness, and willful ignorance in this book. However, you’ll also learn about the power of education and the hope for a better tomorrow. The times I teared up from the book were not because of the sad situations (although there were many), but because of how proud I was of Westover for doing well in school, in spite of all odds.

What Educated gets wrong: This is not a critique of the book (it’s hard to critique memoirs from a content standpoint anyway), but more of a warning for readers: this one will hurt you. My student assistant, Mya, warned me that I would be angry while reading this book, and she was 100% right. There’s a lot of misinformation and injustice regarding Tara Westover’s family and upbringing.

For example (spoiler): the Westovers survive a bad car wreck but don’t go to the hospital due to their distrust of the “medical establishment,” which results in serious trauma and long-term injuries. So what do they do the next time they’re driving on a long trip? They let the dad take the wheel; he drives super fast to prove a dumb point; and then they have ANOTHER deadly car wreck in which, guess what, they don’t seek medical attention AGAIN. It’s infuriating to read this through the lens of a brainwashed child who knows something isn’t quite right, but who can’t articulate what it is and defends her father even though he constantly endangers her life. It’s even sadder when she’s old enough and educated enough to know that her family is not treating her the way they should, but she still reaches out to them and tries to help them even as they destroy her.

Who should read Educated: Fans of true stories. Family members who have lived with and understand serious mental illnesses. Teachers of rural children. Anyone who wants to know how NOT to raise your child (like, living in a rural area is totally fine, but throwing scrap metal at your child is not).

Who shouldn’t read Educated: If your blood pressure goes up every time you read about children in danger (like mine does), think twice before picking this one up. The negligent and downright abusive way that these children were raised is mind-blowing.

What Should I Read Next? (Summer Edition)

What Should I Read Next_

It can be overwhelming trying to find new books to read. There are new stories released daily, and, if you already have a teetering to-be-read pile, adding yet another book can be intimidating. Still, there’s something exhilarating about finding your new favorite read! In this blog series, the library staff will recommend books to you based on your genre preferences. We do a lot of reading when we’re off work, and we enjoy testing out the new books that we get for the library! If you would like to get a personalized recommendation from us, please use the library chat function on our website.

So, what should you read next?

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  • If you like mysterious origin stories, North Carolina, and interesting character development: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Many of the librarians have given rave reviews to this bestselling book, which was released in August 2018, and all of them have different opinions about the ending!

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  • For fans of intense real-life experiences, teaching and teachers, and survival techniques: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Library director Melissa Moore said that she couldn’t put this book down and highly recommends it.

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  • If you’re looking a lesser-known classic novella and a unique vampire tale: Carmilla by J.S. Le Fanu. This short, easy read has a gothic setting, mysterious illnesses, and a young female antagonist. Carmilla is also widely considered to be one of the first recorded vampire stories.

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