Everyone loves a good banned book, right? Lit lovers (unfairly) don’t have much of a badass reputation, so reading something banned lets us feel just a little bit more rebellious. You might be surprised, though, at what exactly has been deemed too scandalous by censors, especially in the case of YA lit. Sure, everyone knows that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is protested constantly, and other school favorites like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye have been kicked off of library shelves time and time again. But what about The Giver? Or Captain Underpants?
Here are 13 of our favorite banned YA novels. Whether deemed too dark, sexual, or violent, these books have kept parents up at night wondering what their kids would do under the influence of the wicked written word. Did any of your favorite YA novels end up on the list, you naughty reader, you?
The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
It doesn’t take a Ravenclaw to figure out why the Harry Potter books have been banned by many since they were first released over 15 years ago. Religious groups concerned about the books’ focus on witchcraft have gone so far as to burn them, while other groups merely think that they’re too scary and set a bad example for children. (In all fairness, Harry isn’t the most amazing role model. Nice kid, but maybe he should think for a minute before throwing himself into whatever dangerous situation presents itself.)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
The book’s sexual content, including discussions of rape, molestation, homosexuality, and teen sex, as well as scenes portraying drug and alcohol use, have had multiple parents up in arms. Luckily, banned book guardian angel Judy Blume has spoken on the book’s behalf against critics.
Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilkey
Captain Underpants—admittedly a kids’ book, not a YA—won the title of most banned book in America in 2012, beating out Fifty Shades of Grey, a book with more scandal and fewer underpants. It’s regularly banned for “offensive language” and “being unsuitable for its intended age group.” Surprisingly, Captain Underpants’ tighty whiteys haven’t come under censorship scrutiny.
His Dark Materials series, by Philip Pullman
A number of Christian organizations, including the Catholic League, have asked that the books be banned because they attack Christianity and the Catholic Church. Well, yeah, duh; Pullman has said in interviews that he has problems with the establishment. But, he’s also been very clear that his problems aren’t with God or religion so much as how people and organizations sometimes use them as an excuse to harm others.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
A high school in North Carolina voted to ban the book in the 1980s because it was “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.” Well…kind of. At least they got the point of it. Complaints about racism, violence, obscene language, and defamatory statements toward God and women (among other things) have also kept this book off of library shelves.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
This award-winning dystopian novel is frequently challenged for being “violent” and “unsuitable for its age group.” Hey, parents and teachers, why not give your students a little credit and at least consider the idea that they can handle a book that’s a little dark and makes them think?
Gossip Girl series, by Cecily von Ziegesar
Where do we even start with Gossip Girl? Between its morally ambiguous, hard-partying characters and its frank descriptions of recreational drug use and sex, it’s no wonder these books make parents want to lock their teens inside until they turn 30. Of course, that’s also exactly why we all wanted to read them when we were 16.
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
In all fairness, this diary-style novel’s protagonist does speak in explicit detail about her drug use and sexual experiences. But just because students read about a girl exchanging sexual favors for hard drugs doesn’t mean they’re all going to start trying it.
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging series, by Louise Rennison
Parents get so weird about a girl referring to the boy she likes as a “Sex God.” Georgia Nicolson’s obsession with bras, boys, and what happens when the two come together has been outraging parents and teachers since 2001.
Forever, by Judy Blume
That darn Blume, always insisting on acknowledging that teenage sexuality is a real thing. She addresses masturbation, virginity loss, and other taboo topics about teens and sex, making her the enemy of every abstinence-pushing curriculum around.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Being an award-winning YA novel doesn’t keep you safe from over-protective parents, apparently. Alexie’s book has been banned from school after parents complained that it contained obscene language and was sexually explicit and even anti-Christian. Alexie has fought back, saying “book banners want to control debate and limit the imagination.”
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Remember that book you loved in elementary school? Bet you didn’t know it regularly gets banned for being occult and promoting Satanism. Will you ever look at Leslie the same way again?
Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Though not quite as risqué as the other “Alice” on this list, this beloved series deals with the very normal issues of growing up, including puberty and sexual experiences. And, once again, a lot of schools and parents really hate books that address the reality of young adult and teenage sexuality, however normal it may actually be.
What’s your favorite banned YA novel?