There are plenty of times throughout the year that I feel that it’s just my time. I get all of my red, white and blue, my stars and stripes and my sparklers ready for Fourth of July like it’s 1776 all over again. I am obsessed with the purple and green combo of Halloween and the copious amounts of candy at my disposal at any given time. But when I really shine, when I really get to put myself out there and show my true colors is during Banned Books Week.
Yes, that’s right, my fine friends. I absolutely love Banned Books. Call me a rebel, a misfit or just a reader in general, but I just find that these books, these precious stories, are the kind of literature we should be embracing with open arms. After all, the best stories are the ones that a certain group of individuals want out of the hands of our youth; the most easily influenced humans in the world.
For me, banned books explore the most important parts of life. They discuss the awkwardness, the confusion, sexuality and sadness, embarrassment and true blue feelings about the world around and inside of us. They are, in short, the most important books that we have.
That’s why I’m here to tell you about some of my favorite banned books! Trust me, you’ll want to read some of these. I promise!
Ask The Passengers-A.S. King
Listen, I’m a colossal fangirl for A.S. King. I have read every book and loved every one of them. She lends herself heavily to the surreal and magical realism, but I think that’s part of what makes her such a unique author: the madness is still grounded in reality. And this is by far my favorite. I recommend this first to literally every person that ever asks me for a book suggestion. It tells the story of Astrid, a girl who is fighting with her sexuality and wondering if she’s fully gay and if she is, how to merge that part of her life with the rest of it in her small, upper-class town as she sends messages to passengers in planes passing by. It’s absolutely stunning and explores sexuality in such a way that really moves you. I cannot recommend this book enough and really hate that it’s challenged for those themes as that confusion is so often an issue for teenagers. It’s a book that reminds them, or any reader struggling with that aspect of their lives, that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to take time figuring things out.
The Perks of Being A wallflower-Stephen Chbosky
Oh, boy. This book is challenged for a number of reasons. Language, sex, illicit and underage drug use, different forms of abuse, abortion, having LGBTQ characters. I mean, the list is extensive, but this book is honestly so important. This book has had such a profound effect on me and many of its devoted readers that I frequently read it and find something different in it every time. It’s a tough read at times, sure, but it’s an important read. There’s so much going on that you wonder how it can all be happening to one person, but then you think back to how intense everything felt as an adolescent and you think, “Is this really that different?” Sure, it tackles extremely heavy topics, but Charlie is just a kid who is trying to find a way to be okay with everything that’s going on around him and understand that finding hope in the darkness, finding friendship and love can truly save you. His letters to the anonymous reader will move you in ways you cannot imagine and you will, without a doubt, find yourself within those letters. This is a must read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
The Hate U Give-Angie Thomas
This is obviously a fairly new addition to the band books list, but why it’s being challenged misses the entire point of the story. There is a school district that believes the language and drug use is an issue and that Starr’s story as she watches her best friend Kahlil get gunned down by a police officer creates an “indoctrination of distrust of police.” Which is absurd. The story isn’t perpetuating the idea that police are all bad but rather showcasing the inherent bias and recent fatal attacks, often for made up reasons, on African Americans. It’s challenged, in essence, for exposing the harsh truths that America would rather sweep under the rug or pretend don’t exist. This is one of the most incredible books I’ve read in the last five years and cannot believe this is even challenged.
This was the very first Sarah Dessen book that I read and am so grateful that it was. Thankfully, the description doesn’t give much away, so when the big shift in the narrative happened, I screamed and threw the book because I was so surprised. It truly did not occur to me that this story would be about domestic violence. It’s also partially why this book is banned. It features domestic violence, underage drinking and drug use. Look, teenagers are going to drink and experiment with drugs. That’s totally normal. But what happens when someone starts getting hit and they don’t know what to do? Without books like these, they create an inability to leave because they don’t know that it can get better. They’re oftentimes trapped and need stories like these to help them. This is so good I can’t even rave enough about it.
Harry Potter-JK Rowling
It absolutely blows my mind that anyone can take a fictional book so seriously that they challenge it simply because they use magic. For the millennial generation, this is hands down one of the most important series we’ve had. The series spanned a huge portion of our adolescence and continues to be near and dear to us still today. I mean, I have an expecto patronum tattoo on my wrist, guys. Pushing the magic aside, Harry and his cohorts teach readers about love, hope, sorrow, loss, the battle between good and evil and the grey area in between, friendship and family, heartache and sacrifice. It’s pretty much never lead me to want to summon Satan, you know? There’s so much more than magic within those pages and it’s sad that parents who haven’t even cracked the cover are willing to overlook the absolutely necessary lessons inside simply because of it. They will always be a cornerstone of my literary life.
I didn’t get in on the Judy Blume craze until maybe five years ago, but I blitzed through almost all of them in one summer. While most of her books are challenged, Forever is challenged for the main character, Katherine, hoping to lose her virginity to her then boyfriend Michael. Katherine takes precaution by looking into taking birth control, both of which leads to a “lack of moral tone.” At least half of teenagers will lose their virginity during those years and while I understand the time period in which this was written and originally challenged, the concept of teens taking birth control is still a taboo subject for some reason. What’s fascinating to me is that kids are literally riddled with hormones and they have no idea what’s going on, so is this really that bad?
Unwind Dystology-Neal Shusterman
This is one of the most insane dystopians I’ve ever read. Not because it has a future that’s unfathomable to us at this time, but because with the advances in medical technology, I fully believe this could happen. In Unwind, kids between a certain age who are abandoned, orphaned, bad or often just going through the motions of adolescence, as well as those looking to become martyrs for their religion, can be sent to be “unwound” which means they are essentially sold for scrap and give parts of their bodies to those who need them. This is challenged first and foremost for not being a challenging enough read, which I find preposterous, but also because of sex, child abuse, suicide and drug abuse. I think that each of the four books depicts how easily we dispose of something or someone when it or they are a problem for us. I think it teaches readers to stand up for themselves and fight the hand that’s been dealt to them. These are engaging and scary in a real way.
Norwegian Wood-Haruki Murakami
This was the first Murakami that I read and I was very surprised by the immense pain and sorrow that filled its pages. I had no idea from reading the synopsis that it would be this heavy, but it was still a really beautifully written novel. It follows Toru and Naoko as they fall deeply in love and fall into themselves over the death of their friend, who happened to die by suicide which is one of the reasons why it’s challenged. It also depicts a scene involving underage sex which is generally a big no-no. I still think this is one of the best coming of age stories I’ve read and that while it’s heavy, it’s still really extraordinary. All of his work is!
The Catcher in the Rye-J.D. Salinger
Obviously one of the most common banned books is The Catcher in the Rye. It’s banned for its profanity and sexual situations, but honestly? I think it’s challenger because at the time of its release, it wasn’t the norm for a teenager to have a voice in the way that Salinger gave readers with Holden. Stories weren’t really written about adolescents at the time and I think knowing that kids are confused and unsure of things and just want to find where they fit into the world was sort of scary for a lot of adults. However, it’s for that exact reason that Holden’s story holds up over time.
The Witches-Roald Dahl
I was honestly shocked to learn that this was challenged because I wasn’t sure what was so bad about it. Was it that the women wanted to eat the children? No, it was challenged because it was seen as misogynistic as only women could be witches. I don’t know why that made me laugh, but it did. Also, this story is just super fun. All of the Roald Dahl books are!
Eleanor & Park-Rainbow Rowell
Okay, this story is just fantastic. It’s about a girl who moves to a new town and meets a boy named Park on the schoolbus. Over time, the two grow to care for one another, but she still keeps Park at a distance. Eleanor has a lot going on at home and just wants to keep that separate from the special, stolen moments she shares with Park. It’s challenged due to its profanity and treatment of sexuality, but walk around any high school today and kids say far worse things than the occasional F bomb. Similarly, with sexuality, kids these days have so many outlets easily at their disposal and are shown that sexuality can be fluid which therefore renders these reasons absurd. It’s a really special story and I think everyone should read it.
An Abundance of Katherines-John Green
This is my favorite John Green book, yet it feels like the one that barely registers on most people’s radar. Which is absurd because this book about a guy who only falls in love with girls named Katherine is fantastic. (There’s a book called We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist that is basically a real life version of this book and is also great.) But, like all John Green books, his books are challenged due to “sexual situations.” It doesn’t even have to be full blown sex! Looking for Alaska was banned because of a blowjob that wasn’t even really a blowjob! It’s just silly. Teenagers are sexual beings in whatever capacity they are comfortable with and we shouldn’t let kids thing that it’s not okay. Plain and simple.
So, that’s that! These are just twelve of my favorite banned books to celebrate this wonderful week in literature! Which books have you read? Which one is your favorite? Which ones are we missing?
Let us know in the comments!