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YA Book Reviews by Amy

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YA Book Reviews by Amy: My Favorite Books that have been Banned or Challenged  

Today starts Banned Books Week! From September 27 to October 3, we will be celebrating the freedom to read. During this week, we try to spotlight the historical and current attempts to ban, censor, or challenge different titles.  

Unsurprisingly, Young Adult titles have been challenged throughout the years; sometimes they have been challenged in public libraries, schools, and sometimes in the media. There are various reasons a book has been challenged: offensive language, sexually explicit, LGBTQ+ characters and themes, violence, unsuited for the age group, political and religious viewpoints, occult and witchcraft… just to name a few.  

This is my list of banned or challenged reads that I have proudly read and enjoyed!  

 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson  

Melinda has struggled to find her voice after she is blamed for calling the police during an end of the summer party and she ruins her reputation beginning high school. She had her reasons, but it seems like no one cares about her side of the story. Follow Melinda throughout her freshman year: finding her love of art, trying to make new friends, and finding the strength to finally talk.  

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: “Challenged in the Republic, Mo. schools (2010) because it is “soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex.”  

This book was a very powerful and important book to read. I read this book in high school and thought that many could connect to Melinda: an outcast, someone who was once outgoing and now is shy and unsure of the world and herself. This book is not an easy read—there are emotions and pain, Speak tackles bullying, depression, rape, and family dysfunction, but that is what makes this book so special. This book has stayed with me throughout the years.   

Available on Overdrive. 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

After the suicide of his best and only friend, Charlie begins to write letters about his freshman year. He begins to find his footing befriending his English teacher and two seniors: Patrick and Sam. Patrick and Sam are able to help Charlie come out of his shell: he experiences his first kiss, falling in love with Rocky Horror Picture Show, attending school dances, finding friendship and love, and facing his traumatic past.  

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, suicide, anti-family, drugs/alcohol/smoking 

This book is short and yet meaningful. Stephen Chbosky really explores the painful experiences that many teens either can learn about or unfortunately relate to; this novel is truly heartbreaking at times. I remember reading this book and feeling mentally drained. The book is always better than the movie, but I have to admit the movie is really good.  

Available as an e-audiobook on Overdrive. 

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

For Panem, every year each of the 12 districts must place one girl and one boy into the Hunger Games: a fight to the death. Katniss lives in the rural and poverty-stricken district 12 that has not seen a winner in years. When her sister’s name is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place, knowing that her chances may be better than her sister but are still not good. When the boy from her past, Peeta, is also chosen, they must decide to either work together and feel the pain of eventually losing each other, or become enemies.   

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence 

This book was so addicting; I remember reading it and not being able to put it down. It is a very intense read and is slightly graphic, but I enjoy reading about competitions (particularly with high stakes) and this was fantastic. This is still one of my favorite books of all time and it still makes me think. The movie adaption was also well done.  

Available on Overdrive 

 

Deadline by Chris Crutcher 

When Ben finds out that he only has a year or less to live, he decides to keep it to himself. Ben does not want his last year filled with doctors’ appointments, people feeling sorry for him, and living only half a life. This is the year he will make something of himself. All during his senior year, Ben will challenge his civics teacher, try to rename a street, try out for the football team, and maybe date the girl of his dreams. Ben feels unstoppable and truly he has nothing to lose.  

Reason Why it was banned according to the Illinois Library Association:  sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the book doesn’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college preparatory classes (2010).  

I read this book for the YSU English Festival and found it to be very deep and ultimately sad. Ben is a likable and powerful main character; he is flawed, good-hearted and he tends to have the best intensions. Chris Crutcher tends to write about difficult situations with kind characters; written with both pain and humor.

Available on Overdrive and Hoopla. 

 

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen 

Annabel’s tried so hard to live the perfect life to appease her parents. After a life changing event, she feels like a shade of herself; she lost her friend, her sister has an eating disorder, and she feels so alone. When Annabel has no one to eat lunch with, in comes Owen. Owen is not someone Annabel thought she would ever become friends with, but his insistence of speaking only the truth becomes important to Annabel. When Annabel is faced with having to truthfully express her emotions and say what she is thinking: it becomes freeing. Will she finally find the strength to tell people what happened to her?   

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: sexual themes and language in the book 

Sarah Dessen has written many contemporary YA romances, but many of her stories hit important topics that can be difficult to discuss. Just Listen has always been my favorite of her novels; it was a tough read, but a good read.  

Available as an e-audiobook on Overdrive. 

 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 

Set in the 1980’s, Eleanor moves to Omaha during her sophomore year of high school. When she meets Park on the bus to and from school, they connect by their love of comics, art, and so much more. Both teens have different circumstances surrounding their home lives: Park has a good relationship with his parents, while Eleanor’s family is chaotic with an abusive stepfather. Eleanor must also deal with bullies at school and Park needs to decide whether to get involved or not. This is a story about friendship, family, and being true to one’s self.    

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: challenged for offensive language 

Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author that I have enjoyed reading (ALL of) her books throughout the years. Eleanor and Park are two very different, but both very lovable characters. The situations they are placed in is tough to read about, but like so many books on this list, it is so some readers can learn while others may see themselves within the pages. A lovely read!  

Available as an e-audiobook on Overdrive. 

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas  

Starr lives between two worlds: her home life in a mostly poor neighborhood and her life at a prestigious private school; neither world seems to fit Starr completely. One night when the police break up a party she was at, her childhood friend (and old crush) offers a ride home. That ride turns deadly when Khalil is pulled over and is shot. Starr finds herself dealing with grief and confusion; grief over the lost of her friend and confusion of how they were even placed into that situation in the first place. Things begin to fall apart.    

Reason Why it was banned according to the American Library Association: “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language. 

There is a reason this book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for long after The Hate U Give came out; it broke records. This book, like many on this “banned or challenged list” are powerful and meaningful reads. By the time I read The Hate U Give, it was already receiving many accolades and I think they were all well-deserved. Powerful and cuts you to the bone.   

Available on Overdrive and Hoopla.