Did you know that September 21-27 is Banned Book Week?
Don’t worry, I didn’t know either, until Amanda told me about it, via Book Journey. Then, I read though some of the lists of books that have been banned over the years, getting angry and also wondering if I had anything to contribute to this conversation that hasn’t already been said a millions times.
Clearly, I write a blog about books, and you are reading this blog about books, so let’s just assume that you and I both are opposed to the idea of banned books, right?
Scrolling through the list, I saw titles of classic works that I know have long histories of controversies, fantasy books that lead to accusations of black magic or something ridiculous, and, god forbid, kid’s books that normalize same-sex relationships. Oh, the humanity!
But you already know that, right?
What did jump out at me though, were a couple books banned because teenagers use drugs, namely Looking For Alaska and Go Ask Alice. I read both of these books as an adult, not a teen, but I don’t remember reading them and thinking that those books really glamorized drinking and drug use. After all, there are dire consequences in both.
And then I thought about a book I did read as an actual impressionable youth – Sweet Valley High, On the Edge – AKA, the book where Regina dies from cocaine. I remember nothing about that book or the circumstances (though I did remember the name Regina just now to Google), but the message came through loud and clear: all it takes is one time to kill you, kids! To this day, I remain terrified of the mere idea of cocaine. Clearly, I am not the only one, as evidenced by this post from Forever YA: Regina Morrow is the reason I never tried cocaine.
I’m pretty sure that reading Go Ask Alice would have a similar effect on teens – “Alice” is a middle-class, regular old teenager who gets caught up in drugs – and she does not have a happy ending. The kids in Looking for Alaska get into trouble at boarding school, and the book ends with a pretty clear warning.
I suppose I understand why someone who thinks banning books is an appropriate thing to do might look at the descriptions and shout “BAN BAN BAN,” but seriously – this is the opposite of logical.
For one thing, is banning books that include kids doing dumb/illegal/dangerous things based on the assumption that anyone who reads about something is going to go out and try it? I mean, how many people read Life of Pi – and how many of those readers then got onto a boat with a tiger, just for kicks?
Second, that’s completely discounting the lesson, or conclusion, found at the end of the book(s). Spoiler alert: sometimes people die from drugs/drinking/stupidity. Isn’t that exactly the lesson you’d want to impart to a young readers, as opposed to teaching them that some ideas are off limits?
And, my final point – don’t use cocaine, guys. Not even once. #terrifiedsince1992