Reviewed by William Platt
Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
As a kid, I was very much into reading; you could often find me lounging about the house with a book in my hand. Most of my friends, as well as my brothers and sisters, however, were not as enamored with literature as I was. Harry Potter changed that. Rowling's first novel, The Sorcerer’s Stone, opened the door for many around the world; it captured their attention with a tale of magic, adventure, and coming of age. The following releases in the series were met with excitement and eagerness; bookstores became flooded with readers who wanted to continue the journey with Harry Potter. To learn that some schools have banned this book, then, surprises me. The reasons vary from logical to the absurd. Some schools debate that the subject matter, especially as the series continues, grows progressively darker and more violent, and presents an unethical model for children to be exposed to. Other schools claim that themes of devilment and witchcraft will warp and twist the minds of children. To these detractors I would ask: why are you afraid to allow children to experience the complexity and uncertainty of life? Isn't there more benefit from allowing them to read and discuss these themes and philosophies, especially as they struggle with their own growth? There is more to be learned by embracing the difficulties these book portray so vividly than by denying children the chance to learn from them.
Reviewed by J. D. Salingercath
The Catcher In The Rye
Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has long been considered a controversial book, especially in educational settings. It is a novel filled with vulgar language, teenage angst, and questionable themes. It is also a novel absolutely appropriate to the questioning minds of young adults experiencing similar angst as the book's protagonist, Holden Caulfield. High school is a setting for teenagers to explore themselves and their philosophies; it is a period that should be embraced as an opportunity to teach these children about these themes. The Catcher In The Rye presents itself as just such an opportunity. After all, teenagers are going to explore these themes on their own anyway; isn't it a better idea to to provide them with appropriate guidance as they grow?
Reviewed by Hannah Griffin
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was banned due to sexual content, since it includes the rape scene. It is a story about a girl named Melinda who was a victim of date rape during the summer before her ninth grade year. The boy who raped her is an upperclassman at her high school, and the story recounts her journey of dealing with the psychological trauma of rape as well as confronting her rapist. This book brings up a difficult issue that is difficult for adults to talk about, but students need to hear. Speak encourages victims of sexual violence to speak up and lets them know that they are not alone.
Reviewed by Sadonna Gunder
The Color Purple
My favorite banned book would have to be The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. It has been challenged and banned due to lesbian content, and sexual and offensive language. I connected with The Color Purple’s main character Celie Johnson because I am a queer woman of color who knows what it is like to be less fortunate. Celie Johnson is probably the only character that I can so closely identify with on all of these levels. I also identified with Celie’s character because I witnessed separation from my sisters at an early age. Reading The Color Purple not only gave me a character to relate to, but it also gave me a sense of who I am.
Reviewed by Caroline Scales
Candide, by Voltaire, published in 1759, was banned by the Catholic Church because the book, a satire, poked fun at numerous religious and political figures. I honestly was not surprised to see that it was a banned book because it playfully mocked numerous powerful people. Obviously those people would do everything in their power to keep the public from reading it. I really love this book because the satire of the church and government in the 1700's can be compared to that of the church and government today, with a very clear overlap. On the news now, we hear similar stories of corrupt power heads, which is exactly what Voltaire was satirizing.
Reviewed by Mccall Reeder
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is one of my favorite novels of all time. As a middle schooler, I connected with Scout's coming of age story set in the South. It resonated with me as a story that taught about bravery, judgment, and innocence. So when I discovered it on the banned book list, I was dumbfounded. It is apparently challenged due to the racism, profanity, as well as the trial about the rape of a young woman. I understand wanting to protect our youth, but aren't those things found in real life every day? How can we expect to learn from terrible things if we can't teach, talk, or read about the terrible things?
Reviewed by Amber Younce
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, to this day, is one of my favorite adolescent readings. It surprises me to see that this book is part of the banned book list because it is both realistic and relatable for readers of all ages. The reader is able to connect with the characters. There are lessons to be learned about survival, maturity and friendship in this book, to name just a few. So why is it on the banned book list? Well, parents and teachers once argued that it is “demoralizing,” lacking a definite distinction between the animals and the kids. I remember while reading this book in middle school we were also learning about the Charles Darwin Theory at the same time. Forget the “demoralizing” content; it’s an admirable novel. Survival of the fittest!
Reviewed by Anthony Nastasi
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, is considered to be controversial for a handful of reasons. However I believe its value as a Young Adult novel is unquestionably profound in providing young readers dark themes in a manner that is relatable as well as insightful. The novel is written and illustrated in the first person by the protagonist, Arnold, who is exposed to the extreme realities of living on an impoverished Native American Reservation in Washington state. In this coming of age story, the reader experiences the trials and tribulations of our protagonist that include a struggle with duality, alcoholism, poverty, family issues and death to name a few. Alexie's use of brash humor is successful in reaching his intended audience, desensitizing subjects that are usually too taboo to be divulged in a school setting
Reviewed by Arianna Fogus
The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, was one of the most moving books I read in high school and now it’s on my list of favorites. It creates a very accurate portrait of what the Vietnam War was like and when I read it I felt like I was actually there with the characters. The Things They Carried was not banned for its gruesomely realistic description of war but for its use of profanity. This reasoning doesn’t make sense to me because there were much more powerful moments that could have caused people to react negatively. This book, and many like it, isn’t just about the words on the page, but the way you feel when you read them.
Reviewed by Christopher Brewster
Looking for Alaska
Looking for Alaska, by John Green, is an excellent coming of age tale filled with mystery and teenage mischief turned dark by a prank war between friends. The pranksters are then faced with a death of a close friend on their hands. This 2006 publication is a quick read with many lessons to be learned. It has become a favorite of mine for many years, having been banned for being sexually explicit and inappropriate for the age group.