September 27 – October 3, 2015 is Banned Books Week, a yearly celebration drawing attention to books and graphic novels that have been banned or challenged in schools, libraries or by the government. Banned Books Week is about the freedom to read and open access to information. To celebrate Banned Books Week 2015 check out six of my favourite banned or challenged books:
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1. Crank – Ellen Hopkins
The problem with resolutions is they’re only as solid as the person making them.
– Ellen Hopkins, Crank
This is one of the books I can honestly say changed my life. I read Go Ask Alice, another banned book when I was in the fourth grade and it introduced me to the world of psychology, mental illness and addiction. After reading that book, I was constantly hunting for any and all books I could possibly get my hands on that involved mental illness or addiction, and Crank by Ellen Hopkins was one of the first ones I found targeted at Young Adults. I don’t know if it’s her style of writing, or the story itself but honestly, this book changed my life. It propelled me in the direction that’s lead me to where I am now – working towards Addictions Counselling certification, with a B.A. Honours degree in Psychology. The fact that many of Ellen Hopkins’ books are challenged or banned isn’t surprising to me, but it is upsetting. Her accounts of mental illness, addiction, grief…are important topics, especially when they’re related to teens and young adults. If I’m going to recommend any book on this list…it will always be Crank.
2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.
– Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Perks was first introduced to me in high school by one of my best friends. In my opinion, it remains one of the best modern coming-of-age stories. Perks has very real characters dealing with very real teenage issues and I think that’s why it has maintained its importance to teens and young adults for the last 16 years. As a teenager you are constantly searching for peers, movies, books, media, ANYTHING that you can relate to, anything that can validate what you’re going through and what you’re feeling and it’s books like this that do that. They’re not a threat, they’re a comfort – they’re a sanctuary.
3. Looking for Alaska – John Green
Thomas Edison’s last words were: “It’s very beautiful over there.” I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.
– John Green, Looking for Alaska
I’ve only recently read Looking for Alaska and I loved it; even as someone in their twenties, but I know I would have appreciated it even more as a teenager. Does it deal with sexuality and drug use and other issues that teenagers face constantly in everyday life, yes, but banning it because of these topics ignores the major take away from the novel. The realization of the true meaning of unconditional love and just how important it is to LIVE – two things I personally believe to be important lessons for teens who often struggle to varying degrees with both (heck, most of use struggle to varying degrees with these lessons).
4. Gossip Girl – Cecily von Ziegesar
No matter the truth, people see what they want to see..
― Cecily von Ziegesar,
These books were my not-so-guilty-pleasure from the ages of 11 until whenever it is the series eventually ended. I’m not going to make some profound statement about their importance or anything…because I’m sure you’ve all seen the TV show but yeah. I liked them, they’re not bad when it comes to “chick-lit” and that’s about it.
5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power, power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become.
– Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
I first read this in high school English and absolutely loved it. I love the fairly-accurate depiction of the mental institutions of the time, and of course I love that there’s a character like McMurphy that comes in and causes chaos in the otherwise strict, and orderly way things are done – bringing insight into “insanity” in the process. I will always appreciate having the opportunity to read a novel like this in high school.
6. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I don’t really need to write anything about The Lord of the Rings do I? I grew up on these books and movies, thanks to the giant nerd that is my dad. I owe a lot to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and I even know people who owe their ability to read to The Lord of the Rings. It’s sad to think that anyone may not have access to the amazing work of Tolkien.
There are so many more banned or challenged books that I own, love, or grew up reading over and over again (it seems most of the books I own have been challenged at some point, actually). I also chose not to include graphic novels as many of the banned or challenged graphic novels that I enjoy have been mentioned in previous posts (Saga, This One Summer, Persepolis, Maus). If you’re interested in learning more or want to see what books are frequently challenged check out the ALA website here.
Let me know in the comments what banned or challenged books you love and if were you surprised by any of the books included on the lists.