Google+ Reading Teen: The Most Challenged YA Books of 2009... by Amy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Most Challenged YA Books of 2009... by Amy

A challenge is defined by a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness. ~ ALA American Library Association

After I wrote my article "Speak the Truth" , about censorship and banning of books, I realized there is so much more to this subject than I ever could imagine. I have been doing some research on this subject and was wondering how a book was challenged. What would be the process. So naturally, I looked it up on the ALA website and found what I was looking for...

 The Freedom To Read Foundation ~ Free people read freely ~ state: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all individuals the right to express their ideas without governmental interference, and to read and listen to the ideas of others. The Freedom to Read Foundation was established to promote and defend this right; to foster libraries and institutions wherein every individual’s First Amendment freedoms are fulfilled; and to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work which they may legally acquire.

FTRF was incorporated in December of 1969. Its charter lists four purposes:

~Promoting and protecting the freedom of speech and of the press;
~Protecting the public's right of access to information and materials stored in the nation's libraries;
~Safeguarding libraries' right to disseminate all materials contained in their collections; and
~Supporting libraries and librarians in their defense of First Amendment rights by supplying them with legal counsel or the means to secure it.

            The Foundation's work has been divided into two primary activities:

~The allocation and disbursement of grants to individuals and groups primarily for the purpose of aiding them in litigation;
~Direct participation in litigation dealing with freedom of speech and of the press.

*To make a donation to the Foundation you may by clicking here. 

I was going to go through the top ten books that were most challenged in 2009. Let's see if we agree or disagree with these challenges. I am going to look at the reasons they were challenged book by book. On the ALA website they gave some information about challenged books between the years of  2001 to 2008...

Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges.

~1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;

~1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”;

~720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;

~458 challenges due to “violence”

~269 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

~Further, 103 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 233 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,176 of these challenges (approximately 31%) were in classrooms; 37% were in school libraries; 24% (or 909) took place in public libraries. There were less than 75 challenges to college classes; and only 36 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups. The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 51%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% and 8% respectively).

These are the top ten challenged books of 2009. Out of 460 challenges as reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom

ttyl (Talk to You Later-Internet Girls)l8r, g8r (Internet Girls)1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive    Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

Intended Age: 13-17

And Tango Makes Three2.“And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

Reasons: Homosexuality 

Intended Age: Preschool - Grade 3

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

Intended Age: 12 and up 
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

The Twilight Saga Collection
5."Twilight" (series) by Stephenie Meyer

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

Intended Age: Grades 9 and up
The Catcher in the Rye

6.“Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult

Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

Intended Age: 16 and up


Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Intended Age: Grade 7-10

The Color Purple9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
The Chocolate War (Readers Circle)10.“The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier

Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age

Intended Age: YA

I am going to continue my journey to find out all the information I can about anything that has to do with banning, challenging and censorship of books. I find this subject very interesting and intriging and most of all - challenging. Even if my rating's idea is a pipedream, I have started my quest. Keep checking back for more of my post on this topic.  

*Answer me this ~ Since The Twilight Saga was the most popular in the YA section, on the top ten challenged list of 2009... Did you think it was age appropriate? Would you challenge this book?

Amy ~ Aaronswoman


  1. I LOATHE book banning! Absolutely LOATHE it! Thanks for this post. I can't answer your question about Twilight, because I haven't read it yet.

  2. Good to know that after all these years Holden Cauifield is still pissing people off. Don't they know that banning a book just makes us more likely to go out of our way to get our mits on it?

    On Twilight - in my opinion it's age appropriate, especially if the topic in question is sexuality. As far as sexuality in books goes - it's pretty tame and very PC - they wait until they're married for peat sake! How is that in any way objectionable to anyone? There are way racier novels out there than Twilight. I can name 2 dozen more sexual expliciet books just off the top of my head.

  3. I've seen this list lately and Twlight does baffle me.

  4. Ban them and they'll be on the top of every one lists!
    That Common Sense Media already pissed me off sticking their noise in Barnes and Noble (and B&N let them do it!). Not a problem, I don't buy from B&N anymore, Amazon is my best friend now! lol
    GREAT POST, tks!

  5. @ham 1299. I disagree with book banning wholeheartedly. I do agree with challenging a book and having it removed from a certain age category in the library and moved to the appropriate category/section in the library. I know if a child wants something out of the adult section it's easily accessible. I believe it's the point. The principle it stands for.
    Just because an author writes a book with a young teen in mind and is completely inappropriate, well, I'm gonna say something.Question that author/book.

  6. @ Megan Hoover-Swicegood ~ The reason I asked the question is that I have never read Twilight. I know, it's an outrage. I was just curious what the reaction would be. I have read numerous YA books with multiple sex scenes. I can think of many books that should have been on that list!
    I can't believe the older books are still being challenged ~ CRAZY!

  7. @Aaronswoman ~ Yeah, I can see your point on that. I think it's more the parents' responsibility to monitor what their kids read, though. I do agree that things should be properly cataloged, but beyond that I'm not sure what more they can do. (Here, I'm talking about public libraries. School libraries are a completely different story.) As my daughter continues to broaden her reading horizons, I plan to be vigilant in monitoring her choice of books.

    Oh, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who hasn't read Twilight! LOL

  8. As a parent and school board member (as well as a writer), I have given this issue a great deal of thought.

    First, the term "banning" is used very loosely by the ALA - a book that is freely available on Amazon and at B&N is not "banned." Please see Iran and other totalitarian governments where girls are banned from school, much less reading Twilight, for a full understanding of the term, as the Founding Fathers knew it.

    Second, it is important to note that these "banned" books are almost always parents objecting to inappropriate material for children - no one is trying to keep salacious material out of the adult section of the library. Note: no one cares when we are talking only about adults. It's just the kids that people get concerned about, and rightly so.

    Third, school classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries are all supported by tax dollars. To me (and many citizens), this means that these institutions should generally reflect the community values, while protecting the rights of the minority against discrimination. No one is suggesting this is a minority rights issue, unless explicit sexual material is now a protected class. The argument is essentially should the community be able to dictate what can or cannot be in the library? Or should all books have a "free speech" right to be there - which is generally the stance of the ALA?

    My opinion is that the library should reflect the community's values, as best they can discern it. A good hint that the community does not like certain sexually explicit books available for teens (or younger) would be parents filing complaints. If the ALA thinks these parents are a vocal minority that does not represent the rest of the community, they can resist - although hoisting the "banning" flag seems antagonistic at best. If the ALA is wrong, and these parents do represent the majority community values - well, library boards (and school boards, who are also arbiters of these things) are elected representatives of the community, and the community can (and should) choose to oust them at the next election.

    This is how our democratic process works.

    Note: this means that some books may not be carried in Alabama, that might have no community objections in NYC. And that is fine, because the citizens of NYC should not be able to dictate the reading material for kids in Alabama, and vice versa.

    BTW, I've read the Twilight books, and the are not sexually explicit - lots of sexual tension, but no sex before marriage, and even that is fade-to-black. And their huge popularity would suggest much of the community agrees that they are acceptable. This is not true for many other books with much more explicit sex, violence, drug use, etc.

    Again, I applaud Reading Teen for getting information into parents' hands, because THEY should be the ultimate arbiters of their own children's reading. Despite the loud protestations of "banning," any parent or teen that wants access to these books can have them (via Amazon) - just not (necessarily) at public expense.

  9. @ Susan Kaye Quinn ~ You are becoming a major supporter of this blog. Thank you so much for your comment. If your not careful, your going to spoil me with all your comments. I'm starting to anticipate what you are going to say.
    I agree with what you say about the local communities. I think the parental involvement in the local library should be kicked up a notch. I see parent's everyday drop their teens off at the library (rightly so, it should be a safe haven for teens) with pretty much no desire to see what they are reading.
    There are so many branches to this issue that all stem back to the parents just getting involved. However, I'm not letting the authors off just yet.

  10. Thank you for your article, definitely something to think about. I do not feel that having a rating system would interfere with our Constitutional right.

  11. Here's a link you may be interested in.

    I do think you're getting into a sticky wicket when you try to tell writers what they can write - that does start to run afoul of First Amendment rights. But just because they write it doesn't mean it had to be published (yes, they have a role to play) and doesn't mean parents need to let kids read it - or libraries stock it.

  12. @Susan Kaye Quinn, No. I'm not thinking to tell the authors what to write would be the answer. I think it's none of my business what they decide to write in the books. My beef with the authors is ~ When they put material in a book just write the intended age accordingly.
    Everyone will agree, it is an opinion on what is appropriate and what isn't. Well, I think most of us would agree on 3o "F" words in a book with multiple sexual related scenes is not entirely appropriate for a 13-15 yrs. of age. And, I see that often in YA books. Sometimes, I wonder if the author is TRYING to push the envelope.

  13. Thank you for the link Susan. Lots of good info!


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