You guys! This week (Sept. 26-Oct. 3) is Banned Books Week in libraries across the nation. Or, if you prefer, Freedom To Read Week. How awesome is it that we can read WHATEVER we want, even if it’s YA books and we’re grownups? And that the first amendment gives us ALL the freedom to read?
In the introduction to the new graphic novel version of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury issued this challenge:
Finally, may I suggest that anyone reading this introduction should take the time to name the one book that he or she would most want to memorize and protect from any censors or firemen. And not only name the book, but give the reasons why they would wish to memorize it and why it would be a valuable asset to be recited and remembered in the future. I think this would make for a lively session when my readers meet and tell the books they named and memorized, and why.
Although I don’t really consider it a YA book, Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books I read as a teen that profoundly affected me (and still does), so in honor of freedom to read/banned books week, I’m passing along Ray Bradbury’s challenge, with one modification — what YA book would you choose, and why?
This is a tough one — there are so many great books out there. Of course, The Hunger Games is right at the top, but I’ll leave it for Sarah. Books that tackle those serious issues of coming of age, from Luna by Julie Anne Peters to Judy Blume’s Forever, and books that tackle the seriousness of the world through a young person’s eyes, like The Book Thief, and then those books that are just delightful, like The Princess Diaries (Meg Cabot, I love you!!!!!!!!). But after thinking about this for weeks (srsly), I’ve decided on The Traveling Pants series. If I can’t do all 4 (and I think Mr. Bradbury would congratulate me for choosing to preserve the series instead of just being one book), at least the first two (the best, IMO). Srsly — few books are a better example of YA-ness than these. Tough issues, from parental unit drama to bad boy decisions to self-actualization PLUS dishy dishy gossip and kissy (and more!) scenes. The books always leave me in a puddle of tears on the couch — in fact, my husband came home from work one day horrified to find me sobbing, thinking something was wrong. When I tried to explain, he just looked confused, and said, “Wait, you’re crying over a book about pants??” Now, whenever I read one (the incident here was Book 2) or mention wanting to see the movies, he just shakes his head and says, “Not those damn pants books again.”
And it’s not about the pants. The pants are kitschy, and if you focus on the magical pants you miss the point. It’s about how four people who have no ties other than almost the same birthday and parents who used to be friends but now feel awkward around each other can be best friends no matter what. It’s about how in a group of four, you always have shifting confidences and alliances, and that’s ok. you have fallings out, and you have secrets. I read an article once criticizing it as the new wave of Prince Charming myths — not only are we setting up women for unrealistic romantic dreams, we are setting our daughters up to have unrealistic expectations of female friendship — but I think that’s just coming from a jaded person who doesn’t have her Sex and the City group (or Golden Girls…) because she didn’t read YA books about friends like that. Maybe they’re just role models instead. They go their own way, stay true to themselves and each other, and life isn’t easy but it’s worthwhile — and that’s something I think is worth preserving. Especially if, you know, we end up living in Panem and need a reminder of how important other people are to our survival as humans instead of animals.
Some well-known banned or challenged YA books LAST YEAR include:
- The TTYL Series by Lauren Myracle (OMG)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
- The Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (OMG THIS BOOK IS AWESOME)
- Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (i SOBBED over this book in 6th grade)
For more deets on Banned Books Week, check out the American Library Association’s Banned Books page! And go read a banned book today!