The YA fiction choices of my generation were fewer and tamer. Judy Blume was the author who took on tough topics for teens, and I believe there was some scandal surrounding the reading of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
My parents rarely censored my reading. As a latchkey GenX kid, I had free reign of their adult library, as well as Grandma’s closet of harlequin romance novels, and I read everything. Early in the book, Stephen King’s Cujo has a pretty graphic adult scene, so Judy Blume’s Forever was not as shocking for me as it might have been. But this lack of oversight is not the reason why I hate censorship.
Today’s youth have outstanding choices in YA fiction and a whole section of their own in the bookstore, so they don’t have to pillage their parents’ shelves for good reading material. Some critics argue that dark themes in YA literature are contributing to the violence in schools, ranging from bullying to gang violence, and therefore we should censor the books that teens read for their own good.
Here's why I hate censorship.
1. Books Are Not Bad
I never want to be afraid to read books—any books, not even books whose content I might disagree with. Words and ideas are information that a thinking person can use to make better decisions. I want to always be free to choose for myself whether or not to read a particular book. Shouldn’t young adults also be able to make up their minds about what to read, particularly 15-18-year-olds who are developing their intellect?
2. The Digital Age Makes Banning Books Silly
My parents had the ability to block my reading habits. They could have restricted my library access, and I didn’t have money to buy books on my own. There wasn’t an Internet or eBooks.
But today, banning books just seems silly. Students have phones with unlimited access to the Internet and the ability to download anything they want. If some school or library decides that Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why or Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian should be banned from the school library, students can simply download the books on their phones. Who can stop this? What is the point of restricting access to these books? It seems like a silly protest.
3. Banning Books Doesn’t Erase Teen Problems
Okay, so parents censor the books that their fragile children are reading, and now nothing bad will happen to them, right? Wrong. The bullies are still in their schools, as well as the drugs. Guess what? Girls still get raped at parties, and girls still cut themselves and drink too much, and kids die from driving while under the influence. Banning books about these things doesn’t stop them from happening.
4. It’s about Power, Not Helping
Maybe people who want to censor the reading material of others truly believe their motives are well-intentioned and good. Their concern comes from a well-intentioned place. Maybe. My perception is that those who want to control others, like the book-banners in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, really want power.
I know what’s best for you.
I know what you can handle (and what you can’t)
I know what you need (and you don’t)
The only good thing to come from banning books is that it drives popularity. What’s better than forbidden fruit, right? If it’s banned, it must be good. If you’ll look at the Banned Books that Shaped America, you’ll see some titles that have become some of our literary staples:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Do you hate censorship too? Start today by reading some contemporary YA novels that tackle tough topics.
Khristina Chess is the author of several YA novels about troubled teens turning corners. Sometimes adults widen their eyes and cover young children’s ears when she describes the topics of her books—gasp, teen pregnancy! A banning is in her near future.