(Paul Stuart / Patrik Svensson)
College Park High School

Review: ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover conveys growth despite trauma

“Educated” is not only a memoir of change but also one of great determination.

Tara Westover was born to a survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho in 1986. Her father, Gene Westover, harbored a deep distrust of the government and sought a survivalist lifestyle independent from his delusions.

Because of her learned paranoia, Westover was kept in the bubble of her rural upbringing for most of her childhood, working a scrap yard for her father. She was isolated from modern society and education to the extent that she first learned about the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement — both monumental world events — in university.

“Educated” documents Westover’s struggle for self-identity and individuality in the wake of an unconventional childhood, constantly begging the question: “When is it time to choose yourself?”

Despite the cutting notes of grief, abuse, and psychological trauma, “Educated” doesn’t spark pity or sympathy; rather, the theme of growth and gradual healing is echoed throughout the powerful, transformative memoir in striking word choice.

Westover’s intelligent, often reflective narration resonates in the inspiring concept of breaking through circumstantial limitations and finding one’s place in the world.

Her experiences — lack of a proper education, physical and emotional abuse from an older brother, slut-shaming, serious injuries treated without modern medicine — are written in a contemplative voice, providing an acutely gripping backdrop to the memoir.

The stark contrast between her childhood, university, and adult life are written in a distinctively balanced tone that manages to capture both her unique roots and normalized adulthood in surprising clarity, even as she is torn between her past and future. These themes reiterate the fundamental takeaway of the account: that experiences are the building blocks to one’s character, but certainly not restraints.

“Educated” teaches readers that overcoming life’s hurdles are inherently possible. Simplistic, thoughtful effects spin the work into a masterful tapestry woven of independence and individuality, emotion and change, loyalty and forgiveness.

Westover’s intensely compelling transformation of from a naïve young girl to a strong, assertive woman forged of struggle and self-invention creates an unforgettable coming-of-age story that all readers will be sure to enjoy.