Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Five Banned Books You Should Read

Today's post is from my friend Jennifer Dee from Fictionally Yours. She lives in Austin, Texas and recently graduated from Texas State University majoring in Creative Writing and Film. She loves all things film and book related. Here is her post:

Disclaimer: I am only including books that I have personally read. I am, by no means, excluding other books; I do not believe in any kind of censorship.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Reasons challenged: drugs, homosexuality, sex and suicide

I read this book as a senior in high school on a recommendation from a friend, and simply loved it. It’s an epistolary-style novel written from introvert Charlie’s point of view—it captures his indifference, and the world around him, in a way that makes the book not something dirty, but rather a very realistic look at teenage life.

The Giver
Reasons challenged: violent and sexually explicit, offensive language, portrays infanticide and euthanasia--it was also described as being “lewd” and “twisted.”

While this edges on being a kids’ book, I read it in 8th grade; it was the first dystopian novel I ever read. With its impactful themes and ending, it’s a book that is not easily forgotten. Dystopian novels have always been a controversial subject, but this novel subtly encourages personal and emotional freedom while introducing kids’ minds to the idea that the real world is not always what it seems.

Weetzie Bat
Reasons challenged: sex, homosexuality and blended families

I actually read this in my adolescent literature class in college as it was the first wave of adolescent literature in the late 80s. This novel is magical realism at its finest, and easily breezes over subjects such as AIDS, threesomes, children out of wedlock, abortion, homosexuality and drug abuse. However, because of the fairytale/dreamlike qualities, it’s not the least bit graphic. This extremely short novel is worth a read.

Looking for Alaska
Reasons challenged: graphic language and sexual content

I also read this in my Adolescent literature class, and was blown away. I first want to dismiss the charges above in their entirety. Cussing? Not a big deal…teens do it. Sexual content? Unless I’m mistaken, the only real sexual part is when a girl demonstrates how to give a blow job with a tube of toothpaste, and it gets all of about one sentence. Other than that, it’s awkward teen moments. The story is still amazingly well crafted with
probably one of the biggest plot twists I have ever seen in literature. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read it, but if you want something that will blow your mind, check it out.

Deal With It!
Reasons challenged: being a book on puberty

I wanted to include a non-fiction book on my list just to show how ridiculously books are being banned. This is not just any puberty book--my mother gave it to me when I was thirteen, and for the next few years, it served as the Bible for me and my group of friends (my mother was slightly mortified that I shared it so liberally). This is a no-nonsense guide to everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Not only are there chapters about periods, zits, boobs, sex and sexuality, but also boys, masturbation, money and religion! Puberty is awful and terrifying, and this book, with its little drawn smiling tampons, makes it a little less scary! If I had the money, I’d put this book in the hands of every 13-year-old girl.

With the recent firestorm over Speak, I felt as though I needed to address it. Think of this as a bonus book.

I read Speak in 10th grade on a standardized test day purely out of boredom; it ended up being another one of those ‘stuck with me forever’ books. Yes, it addresses rape. No, there is nothing sexual about it. Rape is violent and nothing else. What I found most endearing about the book was the bitter humor and emotional expression that takes place after such a horrifying experience--a must read.


  1. I've read and loved all but two of the books on this list so I'm going to have to read the ones I haven't read yet. Weetzie Bat sounds particularly intriguing.

  2. Awesome selections here, Jen! THE GIVER changed my life! LOOKING FOR ALASKA saved my life. Can't believe someone would ban those or ANY books! :)

  3. I've only read two out of this list (and that makes me sad). The Giver and Speak were amazing -- I read both yeeeears ago when I was still a little kid. I'd re-read them every year or so - they stuck with me so much.

    I won The Perks of Being a Wallflower, so I'm going to read that soon, and Looking for Alaska's been on my TBR for a while. Never heard of Weetzie Bat, though. I'll definitely look into that one!

  4. Agreed. All are great books! And, the great thing about a challenge to a book is that kids and adults nationwide (worldwide?) suddenly want to read them! Thanks for the list.

  5. I've only read Speak but I will check out the other books on your list.

  6. THE GIVER, which I love and hate all at the same time...great list!