Challenge This!

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Challenge This!

Teen and Young Adult books with Controversial Themes

Banned Books Week (September 24-30, 2017) is a very popular time for readers everywhere. As our society continues to wrestle with ideas concerning sexuality, violence, social issues, and language within literature, many authors will continue to challenge longstanding opinions about these topics. The following books have been challenged by schools, libraries, and media outlets, drawing controversial attention nationwide.  

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Levithan explores the realm of a hate crime against a gay teen and follows the path of two young men who also identify as gay. Craig and Henry, the lead protagonists in this story, are high school students and a former couple. In an effort to show solidarity toward their victimized friend, Craig and Henry, among other gay teens, participate in a protest at school that involves kissing each other to illustrate a united front in their community. This book has been challenged for homosexual themes among adolescents and for picturing Craig and Henry kissing on the front cover. 

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
Police brutality: it is without question a very sensitive topic which is difficult to discuss, yet necessary to acknowledge as real. In this book, Reynolds presents to the reader Rashad (black) and Quinn (white) as two friends conveying a familiar story of how police encounters with black males can escalate to excessive force. Quinn bears witness to Rashad being victimized by an officer over a mistaken theft, and the story is pushed forward from this point. This book has been challenged due to some people perceiving the subject matter as anti-police. 

Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings
At the time of this book's release, Jazz Jennings (age 15) had been in the news because her parents allowed her to transition at a very early age - far too soon from many people's perspective. This memoir shows an openly transgendered young lady navigate adolescence like any other teen; however, with a national spotlight underscoring transphobic viewpoints. This book has been challenged due to objections about young people being allowed to switch sex. 

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miles Halter is a 16-year-old getting ready to ditch his boring life in Florida en route to an Alabama boarding school. He seems excited about this transition and quickly makes new friends upon arrival. Chip, his roommate, loves to orchestrate pranks, drink, and smoke, which are certainly fine by Miles. Alaska is a free-spirited bookworm who enjoys similar pursuits and the joys of sex--again, all things perfectly fine by Miles. The book has been challenged on the premise of sexually explicit language and a scene which some parents believe could encourage sexual experimentation among teens. However, the book is not defined by this element, as a major event occurs which greatly impacts the dynamic of the three characters.   

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Arnold Spirit is a 14-year-old grappling with self-identity as a Native American living on a reservation. When he gets an opportunity to attend a new school that is known for being affluent and white, the adults around him understand the quality of education is worth making the transition. But in his new setting, he begins to experience the true essence of looking, sounding, and being different from most of the student body. This is a book in which the main protagonist endures bullying and cultural insensitivity; the title has been challenged with regard to these themes in addition to supposed anti-family undertones, prejudice, and racism.