This semester, I just so happen to be taking a course dedicated to young adult (YA) literature taught by Banned Books Week read-in speaker Dr. Aronson. In our class, we critically analyze books and the effect they have on a young reader. We have already read quite a few banned or challenged books. As we can see from ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books of the decade, a large number of banned or challenged books fall into the genre of children’s or young adult fiction. Many of these books received critical acclaim and became bestselling novels, such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. These books are frequently banned or challenged because they deal with difficult topics. However, they also become bestselling books because they resonate with their audience.
Books are challenged when they do harm. Some might suggest that young adults are not ready to deal with certain topics such as mental health, violence, or racism. It is a natural instinct to shield young adults from topics such as these, topics which might cause them emotional distress. But banning these books doesn’t erase these problems from existence. Many young adults will have to deal with these issues at one point or another, or it may already be a part of their daily lives. These books can serve as a form of bibliotherapy. They provide readers with the tools to see their own problem in context, offering catharsis and insight into a solution. For this reason, it is best to have these books on-hand for when a young reader comes searching for them.
Are you looking for a new read? Check out ALA’s list of frequently challenged YA books. This list includes Flowers for Algernon, the novelization of a short story by the same name Tales We Read will discuss in late October.