Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

I read this book over a month ago for Banned Books Week. I have tried many times–unsuccessfully–to get my thoughts about it down on paper. Here is my latest attempt.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Boy Meets Boy by David LevithanThis is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it.
The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy, meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy, wonderful world.

David Levithan mentioned he specifically wrote this book in a way that would make it difficult to challenge, and I think he was successful He does depicts two romantic relationships; however, neither of them engage in behavior racier than that found in a Disney cartoon. Despite this fact, the book has still been challenged by a Wisconsin mother. Her challenge is based solely on the fact that one of the couples is of the same gender. The description of two boys engaging in the simple act of kissing was enough for this person to ask for Boy Meets Boy to be removed from the library shelves. I am appalled at this.

Boy Meets Boy was an enjoyable book in many ways. Unfortunately there was one thing about this story that lessened my enjoyment. I could not find the world the main character Paul lived in believable. This world featured a drag queen as the star quarterback and the Gay-Straight Alliance as the “must join” club. It’s not that I don’t want to see this type of world exist someday; but that from what I’ve seen, that day isn’t here yet. The unaccepting world in which Paul’s friend Tony lives is much more the norm in terms of high school environments. The sharp contrast between the two worlds–accepting and not–felt too rigid. I could not conceive that these two towns could exist side by side. Perhaps the lack of believability was the author’s aim. This bit of the story just didn’t work for me.

Review: Despite the one issue I had with the plot, I still found the book very enjoyable. The author was able to successfully capture the awkwardness of different types of teenage relationships. Tony’s tense relationship with his parents reminded me of many of the fights I had with my own parents during my senior year of high school. Paul’s clumsy attempts to start a new relationship were realistic and truthful. Even the relationships Levithan depicted between best friends reflect the changes many go through during high school. This book had me thinking that a world where people are accepted despite their differences is within reach.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

During Banned Books Week I was able to read 3 banned or challenged books. First up for review is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.

From goodreads.com

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitch perfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.

Usually I start a review post by discussing my thoughts on the book. I feel it is best to take a slightly different approach this time. For this book, my thoughts are closely related to some of the points made by those challenging it. As a result, I think it is best that I start off with some information on that topic.

From Marshall.edu

Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County (KY) High School, but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained have complained [sic] about five novels that contain foul language and cover topics – including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse – deemed unsuited to discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college prepetory classes. The superintendent removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission.

I gathered three main points from the above quote about why this book has been challenged. The first is for foul language. The second is the age appropriateness of the topics–sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse–covered in the book. The third is the fact that parents don’t find Twisted intellectually-challenging enough at a college preparatory level.

I have very little to say on the first point. In my opinion, the book contained language no harsher than anything you would hear in a typical high school. It is silly to pretend high school students have never heard these words.

I don’t feel qualified to discuss the third point. With no background in education, I am ill-equipped to talk about what is or isn’t rigorous enough for a high school honors class. If anything the “2” I received on my AP English test shows that I’m probably less qualified than most to discuss the topic.

The second point is the one I would like to focus on in this post. My first impression on completing of this book was how realistic it was. I have read many YA stories in which teenagers engage in dangerous situations–such as underage drinking–with little to no consequences. Often the worst that happens to these teens is that they get caught and grounded. To the young adult, this punishment is brutal, but in reality it is far from harsh. Watching the news on any weekend can show you the real impact of underage drinking. Often the teens discussed in these news stories are left facing criminal charges. Anderson could go the route that many other YA authors travel and skip discussing these real-life consequences. Instead she created a book that addresses these issues in a way that makes it a powerful read for teens.

The situations discussed in this book are ones that could happen to any teenager; the consequences are just as real. At some times the truthfulness of the book can make the reader uncomfortable. That fact just contributes to a realistic story. Some parents feel that it is best to protect their children from the events in Twisted by not allowing them to read the book. Adults think it will ensure these things do not happen to their kids. This could end up having the opposite effect than desired. When parents keep their children in the dark about the topics covered in this book–and therefore their consequences–children won’t know what do when faced with those situations. A teen that has been educated on such scenarios will know to avoid them.

Anderson herself talks about why shielding a high school student from the negative things in life can be harmful.

Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.

She also goes on to discuss the feedback she has gotten from many teenage readers. These letters all talk about how this book helped them through situations similar to those the characters in Twisted encountered. To me, this demonstrates the real-world applicability of this novel. Students in high school are at the age when this subject matter may be most relevant. As a result, parents should be encouraging students to read this book, not stopping them.

Review: Anderson does a great job telling the story of Tyler Miller. I felt as if I was living his live along side him. His journey of ups and downs made the book far from predictable. I was always interested to see what happened next. This lead to a book that was very enjoyable and hard to put down.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

This weekend I read my first book for Banned Books Month. Here is my review for Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

From Goodreads.com

Book cover of Coraline by Neil GaimanWhen Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own – except that things aren’t quite as they seem. There’s another mother and another father in this house and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home… but will she escape and will life ever be the same again?

Elsewhere in this collection, a sinister jack-in-the-box haunts the lives of all the children who ever owned it, a stray cat does nightly battle to protect his adopted family, and a boy raised in a graveyard confronts the much more troubled world of the living. From the scary to the whimsical, the fantastical to the humorous, Coraline and Other Stories is a journey into the the dark, magical world of Neil Gaiman.

I first heard of Coraline when the movie was released I was excited to find out that the movie was based on the book by the same name. I never ended up seeing the movie, but the book made it to my to-read list. I have picked it up several times in the bookstore, but never ended up purchasing it. I was inspired to finally make the purchase when I found out it was a challenged book.

This story is geared towards a much younger audience–ages 8 and up–than the books I usually read. I was concerned this would make the story feel childish, but this was not the case. Gaiman created a suspenseful tale that I enjoyed very much. He depicted a rich world that I felt like I was traveling in. The quirkiness of the characters added to the story instead of serving as a distraction. Everything worked well together to create a book I didn’t want to put down.

This book has been challenged due to questions of its “age appropriateness.” It appears that parents have found the book “scary for younger children.” I know as a 20-something I found parts of this book to be on the scary side. I can see how someone twenty years younger than me would be scared by these passages. However, these bits of the book only added to the suspense. Any fear I experienced was for Coraline, and not for myself. Anything that was scary was written to advance the plot, and not for the sole purpose of scaring someone. The end result is a great tale that I would love to share with my child someday.

Review: I am glad that I finally found the time to read this story. It was a riveting book that I didn’t want to put down. A great book for children and those just young at heart. I can’t wait to read more of Gaiman’s work!

Banned Books To Read

Banned Books IconEver since signing up for Banned Books Month, I have been trying to decided which books to read. While I decided fairly quickly to read four books to celebrate the cause–one a week–it has been harder for me to select which four to read. Thanks to links from Steph Su Reads, I’ve been able to find great resources to find banned & challenged books.

The first thing I noticed when browsing the lists is how many of these books I had already read. For example both Looking For Alaska by John Green and The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson have been banned or challenged. I was not surprised to find the Harry Potter series on the list of top 100 challenged books of the decade. The number of banned or challenged books I had previously read as required reading was unexpected. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous–which I read in middle school English–was listed. Also on the list was The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which I read in AP English my senior year of High School. After seeing so many books that I had read, I began to worry that I would have trouble finding new ones to enjoy.

Book Cover of Coraline by Neil Gaiman Eventually I began to find some possibilities that would make interesting blogs for Banned Books Month . I was excited when I noticed Coraline by Neil Gaiman was listed as challenged. This book has been sitting on my “to-read” list for months, waiting for me to purchase it. This challenge would be a great opportunity for me to finally read it.

Book Cover of Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan Boy Meets Boy The second book I added to my list is Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. While I have read and enjoyed several of the books he has co-written–most recently Will Grayson, Will Grayson–I have yet to read any of his solo efforts. Reading this book for Banned Books month allows me to read a challenged book while checking out some more of his great work.

Book Cover of Twisted by Laurie Halse AndersonLaurie Halse Anderson is an author whose books I have frequently seen mentioned on banned or challenged book lists. Many of my friends have talked about how much they have enjoyed her books. I figured this would be a great chance to check out her work while also reading a banned book. I looked up several of her banned or challenged books on goodreads.com in an attempt to help choose which to read. I decided to add Twisted to my to-read list.

I was pretty successful at picking my first three books. Picking a fourth book has not been as easy. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a possibility. Out of all the books I read during my time in school, I somehow missed this classic. I could read it now and cross it off my “to-read” list, while also reading a banned book. I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block is another option. This book caught my eye several times as I read different banned/challenged book lists and inspired me to put it on my list. Another alternative is the ttyl Internet Girls Series by Lauren Myracle. The series caught my attention due to the fact it is among the top 10 challenged books of the past few years.

So while I am pretty solid on three of my choices, I’m still wavering on my fourth. I would love some suggestions of what banned books people think I should check out. I know you guys have some great banned book recommendations for me!

I Read Banned Books

I Read Banned Books LogoI first became aware of Banned Books Week after reading about it on Leakynews.com. This week is a great way to raise awareness of the many banned or challenged books throughout the world. The more I have learned about this week, the more I realize that this is a cause that needs more attention.

Although the official week is September 25th – October 2nd, several bloggers are hoping to bring attention to this cause with a Banned Books Month. I think this is a great idea and hope to do my part to raise awareness. How? One idea is to read several banned books and write reviews for them. Another is to discuss some of the challenged books I have previously read and enjoyed. I hope that this effort will lead to some great blog posts and discussion on the topic.

ALA Banned Books Week posterI want to give a big “Thank You” to Steph of Steph Su Reads for giving me the idea to blog for Banned Books Month. She is organizing a bunch of bloggers for this effort. If you want more info feel free to check it out her post here.