Communities across the country have challenged, banned or attempted to ban popular books for kids and teens. A challenge is not just a person expressing a point of view, but it is an attempt to remove books from a curriculum or library. Due to the vigilance of librarians, teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful. To further raise awareness, on April 22, 2015, Banned Books Week (BBW, September 27 to October 3) announced it will celebrate books written for teens since YA books are frequently challenged or banned.
Six MG/YA titles appear on the list of the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014. That list includes Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award–winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007), which took the first spot. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying.”
In 2013 and 2012, the kid’s book, Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey was the book most people wanted to ban—even more than Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.
From the Barnes & Noble website, which lists its 13 favorite banned YA books. “Whether deemed too dark, sexual, or violent, these books have kept parents up at night wondering what their kids would do under the influence of the wicked written word.” http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/13-banned-ya-novels-we-love/
In addition to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Captain Underpants, the other 11 books on B&N’s favorite banned YA books list are:
The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling: It doesn’t take a Ravenclaw to figure out why the Harry Potter books have been banned by many since they were first released over 15 years ago. Religious groups concerned about the books’ focus on witchcraft have gone so far as to burn them, while other groups merely think that they’re too scary and set a bad example for children.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky: The book’s sexual content, including discussions of rape, molestation, homosexuality, and teen sex, as well as scenes portraying drug and alcohol use, have had multiple parents up in arms. Luckily, banned book guardian angel Judy Blume has spoken on the book’s behalf against critics.
His Dark Materials series, by Philip Pullman: A number of Christian organizations, including the Catholic League, have asked that the books be banned because they attack Christianity and the Catholic Church. Well, yeah, Pullman has said in interviews that he has problems with the establishment. But, he’s also been very clear that his problems aren’t with God or religion so much as how people and organizations sometimes use them as an excuse to harm others.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding: A high school in North Carolina voted to ban the book in the 1980s because it was “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.” Well…kind of. At least they got the point of it. Complaints about racism, violence, obscene language, and defamatory statements toward God and women (among other things) have also kept this book off of library shelves.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry: This award-winning dystopian novel is frequently challenged for being “violent” and “unsuitable for its age group.” Hey, parents and teachers, why not give your students a little credit and at least consider the idea that they can handle a book that’s a little dark and makes them think?
Gossip Girl series, by Cecily von Ziegesar: Where do we even start with Gossip Girl? Between its morally ambiguous, hard-partying characters and its frank descriptions of recreational drug use and sex, it’s no wonder these books make parents want to lock their teens inside until they turn 30.
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous: In all fairness, this diary-style novel’s protagonist does speak in explicit detail about her drug use and sexual experiences. But just because students read about a girl exchanging sexual favors for hard drugs doesn’t mean they’re all going to start trying it.
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging series, by Louise Rennison: Parents get so weird about a girl referring to the boy she likes as a “Sex God.” Georgia Nicolson’s obsession with bras, boys, and what happens when the two come together has been outraging parents and teachers since 2001.
Forever, by Judy Blume: That darn Blume, always insisting on acknowledging that teenage sexuality is a real thing. She addresses masturbation, virginity loss, and other taboo topics about teens and sex, making her the enemy of every abstinence-pushing curriculum around.
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson: Remember that book you loved in elementary school? Bet you didn’t know it regularly gets banned for being occult and promoting Satanism. Will you ever look at Leslie the same way again?
Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: Though not quite as risqué as the other “Alice” on this list, this beloved series deals with the very normal issues of growing up, including puberty and sexual experiences. And, once again, a lot of schools and parents really hate books that address the reality of young adult and teenage sexuality, however normal it may actually be.