‘Perks’ removal and Chicago books

I have so much to write about today. First of all, my post over at The Hub is up. This month I’m writing about new YA short story anthologies. If love YA books and you’re not reading The Hub, you’re really missing out!

I also wanted to speak briefly about a maddening story coming out a Glen Ellyn, IL which is near where my family lives and where I will be this next week. An 8th grade independent reading group in a middle school selected the book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, that was available in the classroom to read. Some students brought copies of their own. Then a student complained to her parents and the school board decided to remove copies of the book from the classroom saying it was more appropriate for high school. 8th grade is one grade away from high school and whether or not people want to admit it, those 8th graders are dealing with some of the same content.


The article says that, “The novel often has appeared on the American Library Association’s annual list of the most frequently challenged books. In 2009, it reached No. 3 on the list, with critics arguing the novel was unsuitable for young readers due in part to its references to drugs, suicide, masturbation, bestiality and homosexuality.” Yes, they do a lot of drugs but it’s not necessarily glorified since the main character almost dies after wandering outside in the winter on acid. Suicide is mentioned because Charlie’s friend killed himself. Masturbation is there and so is homosexuality. I’m getting a little tired of things being banned because of homosexuality! People are gay! Books probably aren’t going to turn people gay. Being gay turns people gay. What books can do is tell that isolated, struggling gay kid that’s it’s ok and he’s not alone.

Finally, there’s bestiality? I think I missed that part.

The student that complained about the book told her parents, and then they went all crazy with it:

“Bradfield said her daughter started reading the book but made it only to page 31 when she brought it to her parents’ attention.

‘She gave me the book and she said, “You wouldn’t want me to read this. I’m uncomfortable and it’s really inappropriate,'” Bradfield said.’

Now, this girl seems like a nice, good, sweet person, and I’m glad that she’s aware enough to realize that a book is making her uncomfortable. But I think if she’s mature enough to realize it’s not for her, she probably doesn’t need a parental approval. But it’s not this girl’s fault. Why the parents had to decide that if their daughter wasn’t going to read the book, no one else was going to either is beyond me. I really don’t understand this impulse that drives parents to want to parent other people’s children. Make the decision with your own family about the books and media you’re going to consume,  but then leave everyone else alone.

A final quote from the story made me laugh: “The Bradfields want the school board to adopt a policy for books as they currently have for questionable movies. The school sends parents a permission slip when a teacher is planning to show a film that might not be age-appropriate, and if parents don’t sign it, their child goes to the library while the class is viewing the film.”


Send the kids to the LIBRARY where all the sexy, corrupt books live! I seriously suspect that the irony of this situation is totally lost on the Bradfields.

Sort of "meh."
Sort of “meh.”

OK, enough ranting. Now onto my timely reading of Divergent, the latest YA dystopia trilogy that will be made into a movie. The book is set in a future, somewhat abandoned Chicago where Lake Michigan has dried to a mucky marsh, the L trains run without doors, and there’s a zip line from the top of the John Hancock building to the street. Five factions that exemplify certain virtues rule the city: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Tris switches factions from Abnegation to Dauntless just in time for a war to break out.

I liked it and I’d be interested in reading the next books, but I don’t feel the crazy need to find out what happens like I did with The Hunger Games.

It did make me think about books set in Chicago especially since I’m headed to there on Saturday: The Time Traveler’s Wife which gets double points in my book for being set in Chicago and libraries; and The Devil in the White City is another fascinating and obviously Chicago-set book. If you’re in the city, going to see the last buildings from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago! There’s this list from GoodReads that lists other books set in Chicago. What else am I missing?
When I’m home I hope to post but be nice to me if I don’t because I’m playing with my niece and nephews and eating lots of Portillo’s hotdogs!

2 thoughts on “‘Perks’ removal and Chicago books

  1. Book banning really gets under my skin. I can make decisions for my own children, but I will not tolerate other parents who impose their views on my family. Under 31-year-old Supreme Court case law (a plurality opinion), school boards can’t remove books simply because they don’t like the ideas contained in those books, but the law does permit a lot of discretion and lower courts have allowed school boards to run away with it (I’m thinking of the 11th Circuit’s opinion in Miami Dade).

    1. Yeah, it’s so frustrating! I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that one person’s idea of what is “appropriate” is not another person’s. And that taking responsibility for yourself/your family is just that. Just you. (I also think that reading things that are maybe outside of your opinions/views is not the worst thing for people. It’s actually great since that’s how people learn to think creatively!)
      Sigh. Maybe someday people will learn.

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