Banned Books Awareness Week begins tomorrow, September 24, and to celebrate this week, here are my top 5 Banned Books for Young Adults.
First, what is a banned book? A banned book is any book that has ever been removed from the shelves of a library, bookstore or classroom because of its controversial content. This does not mean that the book has been removed from all libraries, bookstores or classroom, or that it is no longer available to readers. What it does mean is that at one time someone has stopped others in their country, state or community from reading these books. Although some banned books have been burned or even refused publication, most books are banned because someone has decided that the content of a certain book is not suitable for another person or group of people to read, and they are taken off the shelves of classrooms or school libraries in the area where the book is banned.
1. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (first published in English 1952)
This true-life story of a young Jewish girl living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II explores Anne’s true thoughts and feelings about herself, her family, boys, and the war. Anne receives a diary for her 13th birthday. Less than a month later, she and her family are in hiding as the Nazis continue to round up all the Jews in Holland and send them to labor camps. Reading this book, you would assume it was banned because of its difficult subject matter. I mean, how do you explain anti-Semitism or the Holocaust to a young American teen? Another reason you might think this book would be banned is for Anne’s honesty about her feelings toward her changing body and the emotional issues that plague every teen. And though the book has been banned in certain areas because certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” the most common reason The Diary of a Young Girl has been banned is because it was “a real downer.” Only happy books for these people it seems.
2. The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (published 1967)
I have to admit that this novel, which tells the story of a sensitive fourteen-year-old boy from the wrong side of town, was my favorite book when I was twelve and thirteen. The main character, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny get into a fight with two of the social set, called “Socs.” During this fight, Johnny kills one of the “Socs.” After that, Ponyboy and Johnny run away to escape persecution. Again, the reasons for banning this book are not always what you would expect. You would assume the book would be banned because of violence (there is also a big “rumble” at the end of the book), but the actual reasons for banning this book include “drug and alcohol use ” and the fact that “virtually all the characters are from broken homes.” Ironically, this story was based on a real life situation, as one of Hinton’s friends had been “jumped” for being a “Greaser.” The event upset Hinton so much that she went home and started writing The Outsiders. She was fifteen years old when she wrote the book.
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (published 1974)
Trinity High School, a boys’ Catholic school, sells chocolate every year, but this year the chocolate sales are more important than ever. The goals have doubled and so has the price. Though the group of school bullies known as the Vigils have promised to support the chocolate sale, they give the assignment to fourteen-year-old Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates. And so, Jerry finds himself at war against the biggest bully of them all, his teacher. The Chocolate War is a book about standing up to bullies and the sometimes futility behind it. However, according to some critics, the book’s “vulgar language” and “sexual content” seem to overshadow its anti-bullying message. Personally, I thought the anti-bullying message was not overshadowed, and the book adequately portrayed the thoughts and feelings of the bullies as well as the bullied.
4. ttyl, by Lauren Myracle (published 2004)
This interesting book, the first of three by author Lauren Myracle, is written solely in Instant Messenger and follows the messages of three fifteen-year-old girls as they face the daily struggles of high school. While Angela (SnowAngel) faces constant boy trouble, and Maddie (mad maddie) is singled out by a mean girl causing total school-wide humiliation, Zoe (zoegirl) gets in over her head with a flirty teacher. The book’s theme is friendship, and although it does cover topics that some may consider controversial, it never promotes negative behavior as a way to deal with those topics. Lauren Myracle’s entire series has been banned and challenged in many schools because of “sexually explicit content” and “foul language.” Of course, it doesn’t help that it is “grammatically incorrect.”
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (published 2008)
Set in the ruins of what was once known as North America, this dystopian novel follows sixteen-year-old Katniss as she is forced to participate in what is known as the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between twenty-four boys and girls, ages twelve through eighteen. The games are a way for the Capitol to keep the twelve districts in line by forcing each district to send one boy and one girl to fight to the death each year. When Katniss’ sister is chosen to participate in the game, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place. In the games, Katniss’s pride and perseverance, along with her hunting skills, make her a contender, and she and Peeta, her male counterpart, end up breaking the rules and changing the game. Needless to say the book is banned because of “excessive violence,” and author Suzanne Collins admits the Hunger Game trilogy is violent. “It’s a war trilogy,” she says. However, it is also banned for “sexual content,” which is odd since although it has a bit of a love story, the most they do is kiss, and though they do share a sleeping bag for a few days, it’s more about keeping warm than anything else. It does make me wonder what the movie is going to make of that scene though. The Hunger Games movie is scheduled for release in March 2012.
For more about banned books and why they are banned, check out deletecensorship.org.
So what is your favorite banned book, and why is it banned?