10 Young Adult Books That Have Been Banned
The YA book genre has been challenged, and often it's by parents who believe the content is too advanced for their teens. The reasons why always vary, but one thing is sure: These books still remain popular anyway, and are being read by people across the country.
All types of YA books have been challenged or banned at one point or another, from supernatural romances such as Stephenie Meyer's 'Twilight' series to the sweetest love stories, like Rainbow Rowell's 'Eleanor & Park.'
Even 'Harry Potter' -- arguably the most popular book series of our time -- has been banned for promoting witchcraft, among other reasons. Our beloved Judy Blume has been banned. It isn't just about banning 'Fifty Shades of Grey' or 'Captain Underpants' -- no author, or book, is safe.
Every year the American Library Association lists the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books, and every year it seems that new YA titles are added on for any number of reasons and tagged with "offensive language," "sexuality explicit," "unsuited to age group" and so on. Not every challenge results in a book being banned, but the challenged list is a pretty good indicator of what books are being taken off the shelves, as these are the books that are challenged most frequently throughout the year.
Many YA novels become a threat once they hit any sort of bestsellers list and gain traction. But often, these banned books are some of the most popular in their genre, and the subsequent banning almost always backfires. Read on for a list of extremely popular YA books that have been challenged and subsequently banned from local libraries, schools and more. How many have you already read?
Suzanne Collins' popular 'Hunger Games' series, which has sparked a very successful film franchise, is No. 5 on this year's list of the American Library Association's Most Frequently Challenged Books. It hit the list at No. 5 in 2010, too, jumping up to the third spot in 2011 before sinking back into the middle of the list. Why, you ask, has this book been challenged? Violence, anti-family themes, supposed insensitivity and a host of other reasons.
In 2012, when the series reached the third spot, Barbara Jones told the Associated Press that challenges had stemmed from the popularity of the film. "For instance, there was complaining about the choice of actors for the film," Jones said. "You had people saying someone was dark-skinned in the book, but not in the film, or dark-skinned in the film and not in the book. In general, a lot more people were aware of the books and that led to more kinds of complaints."
This delightful book started making the ALA list in 2004 and continued on it for 2006-2009, and appeared again in 2013 after the film had come out and revitalized interest. For anyone who hasn't read it, all that can be said is the "sexually explicit" challenge is pretty accurate. Nevertheless, this is a great novel that many people read in high school and adore. It is one of those books people shove into other's hands in true 'Garden State' fashion saying, "It'll change your life, I swear."
Author Judy Blume even has an adoration for Chbosky's hit, as she came to the rescue last spring after a Chicago school district banned the book in it's junior high school per a parent's complaint. Blume's intervention sparked a nearly unanimous vote on the school board to reinstate the book later that year in a Banned Books Miracle.
This older YA book, from 1971, has been banned on and off for quite some time. Its most recent appearance on the Top Ten ALA list was in 2003, but one of its most recent bans was 2008 in South Carolina's Berkeley County School District after a student read an excerpt of the book aloud to her parent. The biggest complaints generally thrown at the book are for language and drug use -- which is a little funny for a book that is actually a testimonial against drug use.
This particular YA novel has been both a popular read for schools and a frequently banned book in those same institutions. While the interesting themes and shorter length make it great for the classroom, certain moments in the dystopian book have caused discomfort, particularly the euthanizing of a baby, which has stirred controversy since its release. However, after a nearly 20-year wait, 'The Giver' has gotten its movie, joining the ranks of dystopian YA books that came far later than it, and potentially giving it the opportunity to make next year's ALA list, if that film stirs enough interest in Lowry's original.
Slate recently made a chart of the Top 5 Reasons 'The Giver' has been challenged, and according to them, the book has only been banned less than a third of the times its been challenged.
Myracle's 'Internet Girls' series has made the list from 2007-2009, and 2011. The series, which is told in the form of instant messaging (nearly a thing of the past now!), follows three high school girls as they go through all the gossip and boys possible in the three books -- often running into trouble along the way. It's this trouble that has gotten it banned, with one of the main causes of complaint being that it is "unsuited to the age group." That, and the use of IM grammar -- aka all those LOLs have given Myracle's books a lot of trouble, as people have trouble seeing it as "real literature."
Myracle isn't worried about the haters, though. In a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast the author said, "I understand why parents worry about books -- they’re worried about their kids. They want to keep their kids safe. But parents aren’t always realistic. One said to me, 'I can’t believe you introduced my 13-year-old daughter to thong underwear.' I’m pretty sure she knows about them already. She probably owns a pair."
Myracle's books have been banned countless times, and she's pretty angry about it, as would be expected. She explained her side of the story in a Reddit AMA earlier this year, and dished on some of the things parents have said to her over the years.
Making the ALA's list in 2006, 2008, and 2011, this popular book series even got its own television show to boot. The show seemed to embrace the story's brash content and dangerous themes.
Quotes from various publications that were featured on the show's promotional images include: "Every parents nightmare," "very bad for you," "a nasty piece of work" and "mind-blowingly inappropriate." The show ran for six seasons before bowing out, featuring all the raciness of a teen drama, and then some.
One of the bannings -- which occurred in Picayune, Miss. -- was brought about when the book was brought to the parent's attention not only by seeing the book cover, but by seeing all the F-bombs within the book itself.
The TV show didn't have to worry about that, but then again, they always say that the book is better than the adaptation.
This award-winning YA novel has been on the top half of the ALA's list every year since 2010 for nearly every offense imaginable. And yet, this story is loved and appreciated by so many for its insight. It even made our list of 10 YA Books We Wish Were Required Reading. But in 2013, it was pulled from a Queens middle school for its graphic content, and was challenged in a tenth grade classroom in Montana for, "shockingly, being written by a Native American who reinforces all the negative stereotypes of his people and does it from the crude, obscene, and unfiltered viewpoint of a ninth-grader growing up on the reservation.”
This John Green novel has been stuck at No. 7 for the past two years on the ALA's list. Along with 'Paper Towns,' this Green novel is often challenged for various reasons, particularly the excessive smoking that is constantly going on, as is evident even from the book's artwork. But don't be too quick to judge a book by its cover! While this is no 'The Fault in Our Stars,' this particular YA book brings a lot to the table, in only the way that Mr. Green can.
Another reason it has been often challenged is for its "gateway sexual activity" (we'll let you figure out what that's supposed to mean) which takes up a whopping two pages in the novel. This, however, got the book removed from a Tennessee county's school curriculum in 2012.
Drug use and language have kept this book consistently challenged since it was released in 2004. However, it only made the list once in 2010. Written mostly in free verse, this book can look quite look very intimidating. Of this list, 'Crank' deals with possibly the darkest demons and is the least surprising book of any to actually be banned. That still doesn't mean that it should be banned. Ellen Hopkins herself was banned (because why ban a book when you can ban the entire author?) from a Texas school district's literary festival in 2010 at which she was meant to speak, causing all the other authors to pull out as well -- and causing the festival to pull in the reigns and a huge controversy to slip out.
The first thing to know about this book is that it is phenomenal. However, it's very upsetting as well, and it's the upsetting part that gets it in trouble. Dealing heavily with suicide, as Hannah Baker leaves behind 13 tapes of stories to each of the people she claims are her "reasons," the book can be seen as influential in a bad way, and glamorizing a tragedy. Even though it absolutely is not, it's understandable that upon first glance it could give that type of impression. It's heartbreaking, while also bringing to light an important understanding of depression.
What it comes down to is that this smart book is almost too smart for its own good, and that's possibly what landed it on ALA's radar in 2012.
Asher had many things to say about censorship and why his book was being threatened off the shelves of libraries and schools alike, but this quote in a CNN interview last year aptly sums up why it should never be challenged again: "The very day I found out 'Thirteen Reasons Why' was the third most-challenged book, I received an e-mail from a reader claiming my book kept her from committing suicide. I dare any censor to tell that girl it was inappropriate for her to read my book."