YA Wednesday: I *Heart* Banned Books

When you check out the lists of young adult books that have been banned over the years, it's almost like a who's who of some of my favorite YA novels and authors. Which might be funny if it didn't also mean books are still being censored and pulled from library shelves. Ugh. The antidote to that? Turning Banned Books Week into a celebration of reading. 

Earlier this week, my fellow editors each chose a book from the list to defend, from classics like Fahrenheit 451 to the graphic novel Persepolis.  Since there are so many YA books that have been challenged, I decided to choose three for my own mini list:

Thirteen Reasons Why

Banned Book: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Suicide, sex, drugs.  Okay, I get why Thirteen Reasons Why might make some parents uncomfortable, but these are topics that frequent teenage minds and hallways.  The story is intriguing: Clay Jensen receives a box of audiotapes recorded by Hannah--a classmate and love interest who recently committed suicide.  The tapes take him on a journey of the 13 incidents--and the people who perpetrated them--that led to her decision to end her life.  Some are big things, like a date rape. Most, however, seem mean or hurtful but individually not enough to push someone over the edge. That is one of the great things about this book--you see the effects of individual acts of unkindness and how devastating rumors, lies, and staying silent can be. I also appreciate that rather than glorifying suicide as revenge or martyrdom, it was obvious that Hannah's stubbornness and pride ultimately decided her ending, which was a waste and a regret. 

The Call of the Wild

Banned Book: The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins

I won’t argue that The Hunger Games isn’t violent, because it is. These are, after all, kids being forced to kill each other in a death match, while the rest of the country watches and bets on the outcome.  But I would argue that the ends justify the violent means.  Besides exploring important themes of oppression and sacrifice, the Games satirizes our obsession with reality television which has only gotten more obnoxious since the book released in 2008.  Teens (and adults for that matter) who were not readers came to the party for The Hunger Games and then returned for the next book, and the next.  In my opinion, a  book that demonstrates the entertainment value of a great story, and gets kids reading, deserves a place on the shelf.

To Kill a Mockingbird Banned Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I don't even know what to say here. REALLY? But yes, as recently as 2011, To Kill a Mockingbird made the list of ten most challenged titles. And yet, this novel is frequently listed as a favorite book of all time. People name their children (and I’ve met several personally) Harper, after the author, and Scout, for the young protagonist. Obviously, this is a book that touches many readers in a deeply profound way. The themes of racism and inequality, seen clearly through the eyes, and innocence, of an eight-year-old, are every bit as powerful--and relevant--today as when the book was first published in 1960. In this age of unprecedented bullying, we need to encourage kids to stand up for what they know is right, even if it's unpopular. And I can't think of a better role model than Atticus Finch.

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Comments (1)

To Kill A Mockingbird as a banned book? Knowing that my daughter may not be urged to read this book is so bizarre. At what point do we stop and respect the writing based on its social location. Either everyone's feelings deserve pedestal treatment or no one does.

Posted by: Rashawn | Wednesday October 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM

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