On this page, you will find more detailed information regarding 5 young adult novels listed on ALA's challenged/banned book list. The reflections and opinions regarding these books are posted by local teachers of various grade levels and content areas. The purpose of this page is to promote awareness of the trends and issues portrayed in YA novels and to facilitate dialogue on the trends and issues parents, teachers, students, and others face when reading and/or teaching challenged/banned books.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Further information on this novel:

Please visit this website to read more about the novel.

Trends and Issues associated with this novel:

  • Violence
    When we root for a winner, we simultaneously "root" for some other child to die.
    Children are not only dying but also doing the killing.
    When is violence justified. Is it ever justified. Violence and self-defense/survival.
  • Deceit
  • Lying. The compromise of honesty. Manipulation.
  • The effects of war
  • Government control and when to question authority
  • Human rights
  • Poverty versus wealth
  • Social differences
    Broken families
    Growing up with a single parent
  • Danger of reality television shows
  • Individual accountability and responsibility
    Why did the children not all refuse to play the games?
    Are we a generation that stands up for what is right?
    How much would it take until people are "uncomfortable enough" to stand up for what is right?


Teachers' Opinions:

The Hunger Games take place in future America where 12 districts are ruled by the "capital". Every year, two children out of every district are fighting, in a televised event, against each other - only one can survive. Even though the aspect of violence contributed to the banning of the novel, we believe the author manages to describe the situation in a rather subtle way that is suitable for an audience 12 years of age and older. We believe the book, which is filled with action, suspense and teenage romance is a great read for this age group and recommendable for use in a classroom setting. It touches various interesting and thought-provoking subjects of our time, such as poverty, individual accountability, a critical evaluation of authority/government, the effects of war, as well as the influences of reality television. The author portrays the main character as a strong-willed, self efficient teenager that is dealing with conflicting situations and emotions in a not so fair world. In order for the main character to survive and return home to her family, she has to face the idea of killing another human being.
Teachable moments present themselves moreover through reflection and when the reader considers the relevance of certain elements in his/her own life.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Further information on this novel:

Please visit this website to read more about the novel.

Trends and Issues associated with this novel:

  • teen pregnancy/abortion
  • suicide
  • alcohol/ drug use
  • sexual abuse
  • domestic violence
  • social awkwardness
  • psychological issues

Teachers' Opinions:


Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" offers some beneficial elements to an English curriculum because it presents a first-person account of a freshman and the issues he faces with peers, family, relationships, sexuality, among several other common adolescent problems. It sets a great instructive foundation for discussing "controversial" topics among students while providing an interesting voice to which they can still relate. The stylistic factors that Chbosky includes such as the main characters anonymously writing to a girl makes the reading easier for those students who have difficulty with reading comprehension.
Our personal testimonies towards the book are as follows:
  • Jenny: I found this book to be an easy and interesting read. Charlie's story is something that many of us can relate to and the issues he faces are very common in schools today. Chbosky does a great job of describing the characters so that readers can really visualize them. This book had an emotional impact on me. When Charlie has a win, the reader feels like they do too. Overall, I think this would be a great read for high school students. Because of the types of issues addressed I think it is important for the teacher to make a judgement on whether their students are ready for this book based off the maturity level of the particular class they are teaching.
  • Erin: Chbosky’s engaging character Charlie pulls the reader into the novel and opens up many issues for discussion. This book will enable class discussion of many important issues that the target readers face or will face in their lives. However, instructors may want to alert parents to the issues within the book and get permission from them to teach it to their children. There are some very touchy issues spoken about within the novel that parents may or may not want their children to read about.
  • Carrie: This book moved me as an adult reader who often finds herself displaced from typical young adult novels. Most YA books are too concise, stereotyical of characters, etc, but Cbosky created a memorable book and characters because he basically recreates my teenage years. The issues he establishes are common and prevalent among teens nowadays; however, the only criticism I hold as far as instructive material is that many students in high school may not be able to relate to the time period. Since the story is set in the 1990s, most young students were not born yet so they cannot identify with some of the "superficial" elements (cassettes, popular culture references, etc"
  • Chris:





Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Further information on this novel:

Please visit this website to read more about the novel.

Trends and Issues associated with this novel:

-Alcoholism -
Drunkenness is a common stereotype associated with Indians throughout American history and this novel being from the viewpoint of an Indian epitomizes and reinforces this stereotype.
His father alcoholism was a repeated theme/issue throughout the book.

-Racism –
When Junior was on the rez there weren’t many white people, and those that were present were portrayed in a negative manner, e.g. the white teacher, the men from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
When Junior went to the white school he was called Chief, Red Skin, Sitting Bull, Squaw Boy

-bullying -
Rowdy is considered a bully, but is for the first part of the story his best friend.
The Andruss brothers that beat him up at the powwow.
When Junior first arrived at Reardan he was emotionally bullied with many racist names.


-adolescence -
Arnold explains his awkwardness in detail, including dealing with girls, body image issues, and showing appreciation for his friends.

-poverty on Indian reservations –
Arnold explains the point of view of the people on the reservation, including how rare it is to have disposable income, how they spend their money, and what they dream of having.

Teachers' Opinions:

This novel is a very graphic depiction of adolescent sexuality and bullying, laced with profanity. These elements are a central part of the story, however they are not as prevalent as it is portrayed by opponents of the book. Had the author ommitted these elements then the story might not have lost its appeal. In other words, some of the language and sexual references felt as if they were included simply to shock the reader as opposed to advancing the story. Some parents may find some of the sexual situations inappropriate. These include references to masturbation and teenage lust. There is some offensive language, including name calling and profanity, most of which occurs at the beginning of the novel.

Despite these reservations, this book is an effective teaching tool and is appropriate for classroom usage. Students will be able to gain a perspective of adolescence from a different culture and explore commonalities of the human experience.




Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher



Further information on this novel:

Please visit this website to read more about this novel.

Trends and Issues associated with this novel:

  • Bullying
  • Child abuse
  • One parent homes
  • Parent Abandonment
  • Abortion
  • Body Image
  • Mental institutions
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Suicide
  • Lying
  • Disfigurement
  • Loyalty
  • Kidnapping
  • Running away
  • Vigilantly Justice

Teachers' Opinions:


Nea Zavicar: This is a very entertaining book that is clearly geared towards high school students. Though it touches on topics some may feel are taboo, but I do not feel that it should be banned from school libraries. If I were to try and teach this book I feel the minimum grade of understanding and maturity would be 9th grade (high school) but I would favor teaching it to 11th grade students. I feel at that grade the students are more capable of discussion without devolving into pandemonium when heavy topics are presented. I think the book would be intriguing and interesting to this grade level and that the students would not drudge through it like they might a more classical piece. This work prompts thought and spirited conversation and I could see an number of individual lessons that could easily be built off it.

Carrie E. Blankenship: “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes” is a depiction of teen age life through the eyes of Eric Callhoune. Callhoune is a graduating senior developing under the critical eye of teenage acceptance. He finds solace in his friend Sarah Byrnes. Sarah Byrnes although is not your typical teenage girl or motivational support system for Callhoune. She is not only physically scared but mentally from years of neglect. Together Byrnes and Callhoune team up to face the cruel world one smart comment at a time. They often times are faced with difficulties due to their personal perspectives and developing opinions. As a future educator in the secondary classroom I would love to use this book. This book recognizes and emphasizes the emotions and struggles of teenagers during their high school years. It doesn’t shy away from non political correct topics or discussions. This type of sentiment will produce its self through discussion present in your own classroom. Teachers using this book must be aware that many parents and administrators may find issues with the heavily covered topics of religion and abortion coupled with crass language. Do not let these challenges hamper you from using the piece of material. Your students will love it and thank you for it.

Matthew Moore: This book encourages students to self-reflect not only on their own behavior but also on the behavior of others. For example, readers are presented with two characters who are essentially bullies, and while one of them is more likeable than the other, they both use their behavior to cover up their anguish. Additionally, different viewpoints are encouraged throughout, yet many of the issues addressed (e.g. abortion and religion) are controversial. What’s more, student rebellion is glorified and violence is portrayed as a solution to one’s problems. Therefore, there are both pros and cons to integrating this book into the curriculum. Ultimately though, I recommend teachers implement this book with caution and limit its use to upperclassmen in high school.


One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones


Further information on this novel:

Please visit this website to read more about this novel.

Trends and Issues associated with this novel:

  • Death of a parent/death
  • Struggle to fit in into a new environment
  • Growing up in a single-parent household
  • Staying true to who you are
  • SEX! (Teenaged sex!)
  • Parent involvement/abandonment
  • Betrayal
  • Homosexuality
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Secrets

Teachers' Opinions:

K-Renaé "This story had me in tears by the end. It definitely shows the path of a journey to the good things in life. We all have a story and we choose our own paths but people hardly know what we did or what we had to endure to get fo where we are in our lives. I understand Ruby and to know that Sones kept all of her journals from when she was in high school was also enlightening. I think those journal entries helped her tap into this 15-year old girl's frame of mind and share a brilliant story. I'm glad I still have all of my journals too because when I re-read them, they tell a story and a journey with some similarities to that of Ruby's. This is a must read!!! It may be banned from schools but I can always "assign" fun reading outside the classroom with a mentoring group. :)"

Tiffani "I like this book. It's absolutely wonderful and it touches on so many issues that teens struggle with today. There were moments that Ruby experienced in which I could relate to when I was a teenager. It is great how the protagonist experiences so many new things! She is forced into a new lifestyle and though it is glamorous, she misses her old life. Also, I love the use of poetry in this novel. I feel that this would be a great book to introduce students to poetry. This book is deeply moving, but also funny. "

Meghan "This novel is a great and effective way to introduce poetry into the classroom, as well introduce the idea of challenged and/or banned books. Ruby struggles with the death of her mother while having to cope with being uprooted from the only home she has ever known. The newness of "Caliphonya" and the striking differences between everything from her new classmates to her new neighborhood are almost too much for Ruby to handle, but somehow she navigates her way through, while staying true to herself. With elements of sexual exploration along with some off-color language, Sonya Sones captures the voice of 15 year-old Ruby naturally, effortlessly, and a bit controversially. This beautiful, tragic, poetic novel encompasses several universal truths as well as situation-specific issues, that are all handled with a delicate grace from the mind of a sassy 15 year old."

All: We really enjoyed this story and think it would be an avenue to introduce students to poetry while encompassing on specific issues which plague our youth today.