The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books Of All Time – Pt. 1

What are the most controversial teen fiction books of all time?

Updated Commentary April 28, 2013: In my original post, I tried to be ‘diplomatic.’ Then I realized, screw it. My updated comments in red.

As a society, we are accepting mature themes at  much younger ages than prior generations. Television shows, movies, and books all geared towards young adults are darker, more violent, and more sexually charged than they were 25 years ago. Back when I was reading teen fiction, vampires and werewolves were the horror stories that made you hide beneath your covers. Now everyone wants to have sex with them. The paradigm of edgy has definitely shifted in my opinion.

I thought in this post, I’d take a look at some of the more “controversial” teen books and examine how they have evolved over time, beginning with the 70s.

70s/80′s

The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: Are You There God? It's Me Margaret

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

By. Judy Blume

The same author who brought you wonderful stories such as ‘Fudgeamania’ and ‘Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing’ examines puberty and growing up in a religious heritage. What was the controversial at the time was the fact that the central character undergoes puberty and wishes for breasts and her first period while developing crushes on boys.  Meanwhile, she is caught at the centre of a religious tug of war — her Christian parents on one side and her Jewish grandmother on the other.

At the time, “Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret” was challenged numerous times by parents and topped the American Library Associations list of most challenged books due to the sensitive issues of adolescent puberty and religious debates.

Are you fucking kidding me? Are parents blind to the fact that kids will eventually grow up, have their periods (daughters only I hope), as well as have their own ideologies when it comes to religion? I’m stunned. I’d rather have them learn a bit about it in a Judy Blume book than googling ‘blood from vagina’ on the interest. Call me a bad parent if you disagree.

However this book doesn’t compare to the challenges of the next book on the list, also written by Judy Blume.

The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: Forever

Forever

By. Judy Blume

Whereas “Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret” dealt with puberty and religion, Forever explored the more mature themes of sexuality and teen pregnancy, which resulted in its banning and censorship. This book details the relationship between Katherine and Michael as they find themselves sexually attracted to each other and explores the physical emotions they felt and how their sexuality affected their relationship.

Because of the description of sex which included: “When I kissed his face it was all sweaty and his eyes were half closed. He took my hand and led it back to Ralph [his penis], showed me how to hold him, moving my hand up and down according to his rhythm. Soon Michael moaned and I felt him come — a pulsating feeling, a throbbing, like the books said — then the wetness. Some of it got on my hand but I didn’t let go of Ralph,”  the book was challenged by parents to be removed from the public libraries and ranked number 2 on American Library Association’s most challenged list of 2005.

Once again, if my kid has to learn about sex, I’d rather it be from Judy Blume. God forbid I discover my daughter learning ‘sex’ from 50 Shades of Grey and thinking that being tied up, handcuffed, and whipped is what normal sex should be like. 

The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice

Written By: Anonymous

Next up on the list is Go Ask Alice, a book that delves into the subject of drugs, sex, rape, and runaways. The premise of the story is a young girl  keeps a diary and explores her troubled life as she finds herself in challenging situations — especially with drugs and sex — and how she reacts to them. Littered with profanity along with scenes of rape and explicit drug use, this book has a long history of being challenged ranking number 23 as one of the American Library Association’s most challenged books of the 90s with a ranking of number 8 in 2001 and number 6 in 2003.

Luckily, the author decided to keep herself anonymous (though there has been much speculation) and avoided direct wrath from concerned parents.

The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War

Written By: Robert Cormier

Last up we have Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War.” Despite the fantastic reviews the Chocolate War received, it topped the list at #3 of the American Library Association’s top challenged books of 2000-2009.

According to a petition online to remove the book from Mobile County Public School system, the first 132 pages contain the following curse words: hell – 20 times, bastard 9 times, God damn 3 times, damn 5 times, shit 1, bullshit 2, son of a bitch 2 times, and ass twice.

Furthermore, the explicit scenes of masturbation including: Archie had pulled open the door to one of the stalls and confronted Janza sitting there, pants dropping on the floor, one hand furiously at work between his legs, along with suggestions of high functional secret societies and bullying had parents in an uproar. Mr. Cormier’s response to the controversy surrounding his book: “kids can absorb my kind of book because they know this kind of thing happens in life.”

I wasn’t aware that ‘hell’ and ‘bastard’ were  bad words. If honestly, the worst words coming out of his book his “hell that damn bastard son-of-a-bitch took a shit from his ass” then I’ll let it slide. I also love Robert Cormier, which is another reason. 

Seriously parents, stop blaming others for trying to create literature and teach your kids that ‘while you may read and hear bad words, that doesn’t mean you should use them.’ That seems like better time spent than writing letters to the library in hopes of banning the books of great authors.

Thanks for reading. Part 2 of the most controversial teen books can be found here.

[Related: Read Part Two of The Most Controversial Teen Book of All Time?]

What are your thoughts on these controversial books? Have you read a book yourself that you thought was waaaaay out of line? Leave a comment below!

Cheers,

-L.