Is This Really Controversial?

Petworth LibraryStaff Picks

Is This Really Controversial?

Books about teens that have been challenged by parents, schools or libraries.

Banned Books Week 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 feature teens and have been challenged by parents, schools or libraries drawing nationwide attention.

by Patricia McCormick
--Challenged because it involves a teen cutting herself
Thirteen-year-old Callie is a mental health patient at a psychiatric hospital who is now coming to terms with her self-mutilation.
Through flashbacks and anecdotal accounts, the teen describes her experiences in group therapy and dealing with anger management which often led to cutting behavior. In addition, her troubled backstory is another element that adds depth and adversity to the overall controversial plot.

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
--Challenged because of suicide theme
High school senior Clay Jensen receives seven audiotapes in the mail which contain the story of Hannah Baker, a girl he adored who unfortunately committed suicide. Hannah's story represents deep depression and the perspective of people who may have contributed to the suicide. Although controversial in subject matter, readers have credited the book for helping teens cope with long standing depression. 

by Ellen Hopkins

--Challenged for teens engaging in drug use
Crank begins with Kristina Snow giving a full detail of her alter ego, Bree. Kristina believes “she” has always existed within her in a dormant state only to emerge in the presence of “crank” - crystal meth. Her drug use and subsequent addiction does not stem from a traumatic experience; however, Kristina does come from a home where her dad abuses drugs and is currently estranged from the family because of it. 

All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds

--Challenged for being perceived as anti-police
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. 

Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult
--Challenged for depicting a school shooting 
In the aftermath of a small-town school shooting, an attorney has accepted the duty of defending a student who now requires legal representation. Picoult portrays the story from the lens of 19 minutes which resulted in a total of 29 dead or wounded. Using several different points of view, which includes the school shooter himself, this book communicates a real life scenario that is all too familiar in the United States. 

Being Jazz 
by Jazz Jennings

--Challenged for societal views regarding transgender youth
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. 

Looking for Alaska 
by John Green

--Challenged for sex, profanity and homosexuality
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. This is defined by a major event which greatly impacts the dynamic of all three characters.   

Two Boys Kissing 
by David Levithan

--Challenged for homosexuality 
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. 

by Laurie Halse Anderson
--Challenged for being perceived as encouraging girls to consider unhealthy eating habits
Wintergirls is a title that thoroughly illustrates how destructive eating disorders can be, and why anorexia and bulimia should be taken with great concern in our society. Due to the subject matter, the book created some controversy among parents who believed this type of literature could plant unhealthy ideas into young girls' minds.