Skip to main content

UnBan a Book Week

When a stranger appeared at Meg Murry’s door on a dark and stormy night, her entire life changed. In turn, Madeleine L’Engle’s 1963 classic A WRINKLE IN TIME changed thousands of readers' of lives, as well. Praised for its fantastical plot, rife with tesseracts and the lovable Mrs. W's, its realistic characters and its delicate balance of whimsy and heart, A WRINKLE OF TIME is not free from criticism. It comes in at #90 on the American Library Association’s 2000-2009 list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books and has been cited for everything from offensive language to “Satanic undertones.” Below, YA author Leila Sales (THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, TONIGHT THE STREETS ARE OURS) and Teen Board member Alison S. challenge the challengers, explaining why they love A WRINKLE IN TIME and would recommend it to readers everywhere.
Sure, teens talk in the hallways at school and at the back of the classroom, but there’s a lot more gabbing that happens after the bell rings, whether it’s on the phone, through text messages or online. Lauren Myracle decided to explore all of the conversations that happen when friends aren’t in the same place at the same time, and her 2004 novel, TTYL, is the first that’s written entirely in text message format. While the book has been called “revealing and innovative” and explores some real issues like friendship, dating and underage drinking, it has also appeared on the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books list time and again since it’s been published (in 2011, it came in at number one). Below YA author Linas Alsenas (BEYOND CLUELESS) and Teen Board member Alyssa L. talk about why they loved the book and give all of those book-banners a piece of their minds.
When Clay finds a package of cassette tapes on his doorstep in Jay Asher’s debut novel THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, he never imagines they’re from Hannah, his late classmate who recently committed suicide. As Clay listens to Hannah outline the 13 people and events that led to her death, you feel the pain, enlightenment, shock and sorrow cutting to his very core. The award-winning THIRTEEN REASONS WHY has been praised for being “compelling”, “remarkable” and having “dizzying emotion” and it was an international bestseller, but people have attempted to ban the book time and time again; it was the third most banned book in 2012. Below, YA author Patty Blount (SOME BOYS, NOTHING LEFT TO BURN) and Teen Board member Leanna R. talk about their own connection to THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and what they would say to those trying to challenge the book.
One of the best-selling teen books of all time (and the inspiration for a smash hit on the silver screen), THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins transports readers to a dystopian society with a legendary tradition to stop rebellion: teens from each district must fight to the death until one victor remains. It’s dark. It’s violent. And it pulls at your heartstrings and makes you cry, think and cheer more than most YA books out there. Despite the book’s wild reception across the globe, it has frequently appeared on the American Library Association’s list of Top Ten Challenged Books since it was first published, generally for violence and because dissenters thought it was unsuited to the YA age group. Below, YA author Katie Coyle (VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, VIVIAN APPLE NEEDS A MIRACLE) and Teen Board member Hafsah K. talk about their own love of THE HUNGER GAMES and why think banning this modern classic is, in the kindest of terms, “unreasonable.”
Even though it was written in 1975, the teen protagonists in Judy Blume’s FOREVER…are undergoing the same issues that adolescents experience today --- first love, first sexual encounters, fidelity and grappling with sexual preference. While FOREVER... has a huge fan base --- it was a runner-up for the Best Book of the Year Award by the National Council of Teachers of English and has been praised for candidly portraying teen life --- it has been repeatedly challenged by parents, teachers and abstinence groups across the country. Below, author Hilary Badger (STATE OF GRACE) and Teen Board member Aliza M. talk about why they enjoyed FOREVER..., and exactly how they’d respond to those pesky book-banners.
The anonymous diarist in the 1971 book GO ASK ALICE is just a normal 15-year-old girl dealing with crushes, friendships, a new move and body image. But when she attends a party and drinks a soda laced with LSD, she begins a drawn-out addiction to drugs that slowly but brutally takes over her life. While not a feel-good story, GO ASK ALICE has been praised for its candid portrayal of addiction and realistic teen voice. It has also been banned time and time again, generally because of its depictions of drug use and sex and for using “offensive” language. Author Stacie Ramey (THE SISTER PACT) and Teen Board member Linnea P. discuss these claims below, and talk about why they found reading GO ASK ALICE such a meaningful experience.
Eleanor and Park, the protagonists of Rainbow Rowell’s best-selling first YA novel ELEANOR & PARK, don’t blend in very well at their Omaha, Nebraska high school; Eleanor is mocked for her weight, huge red hair and unique fashion sense, and Park stands out because of his half-Korean heritage. And while even they are hesitant when they first meet on the school bus, they slowly uncover each other’s dry wit, unbeatable music taste and obsession with comic books and fall into a deep, unforgettable first love. Although ELEANOR & PARK was named a Michael L. Printz Award Honor book in 2014 --- as well as an Indie’s Choice Young Adult Book of the Year, an Amazon Young Adult Book of the Year and part of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Top Teen Best Fiction for Young Adults --- it has received some backlash, too, for “vile profanity.” Below, author Lindsay Smith (DREAMSTRIDER, Sekret series) and Teen Board members Grace P. and Lauren H. explain why they love ELEANOR & PARK, and exactly what they would say if any book-banners came knocking on their doors.
SPEAK may be the name of Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning novel, but that is exactly what Melinda Sordino doesn’t do after she’s raped at an end-of-summer party. She slowly retreats into silence, using art as her only solace, and only later truly learns the power of voice, expression and sticking up for oneself. SPEAK is often considered a “problem novel,” and that’s exactly what makes it so powerful --- it has been praised for utter realism and intelligence, and the way it tactfully tackles a difficult and important subject. But it’s banned for these reasons too, and even called “soft porn.” Author YA Katelyn Detweiler (IMMACULATE) and Teen Board member Isabel C. talk about their own perceptions of SPEAK, and what they would say to people trying to ban it.
Even before the press surrounding the recent release of its long-lost “sequel,” GO SET A WATCHMAN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of those books that has been part of America’s collective consciousness since it was first published in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, and in a 2008 survey conducted by Renaissance Learning, was found to be the most widely read book of students between 9th and 12th grades.   Although its candid explorations of race, childhood innocence and courage in the face of injustice has given this seminal book serious staying power, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is not free from being challenged in schools and libraries.   Below, YA author Courtney Sheinmel (EDGEWATER) and Teen Board member Kate F. talk about what this legendary work means to them on a personal level and how they’d respond to those who want to ban it.  
What do you get when you mix Raina Telgemeier’s simple, bold illustrations with a middle school story that takes us behind-the-scenes of the upcoming production Moon Over Mississippi? The much-praised graphic novel DRAMA, of course!  Called “smart” and “enlightening,” Telgemeier’s 2012 work explores creative fulfillment, friendships, crushes and young love as it follows Callie on her set-design adventures. However, DRAMA has recently experienced a bit of “drama” of its own --- it is the latest addition to the American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books list, coming in at #10 for being “sexually explicit.” However, another well-known graphic novelist, Jenni Holm (Babymouse series, THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, SUNNY SIDE UP and more), and Teen Board member Megan B. disagree. Below they talk about what DRAMA means to them and why it shouldn’t be banned.