The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books of All Time – Pt 2.

Welcome to part 2 of the most controversial teen fiction books. This week, we’ll take a look at the 90s and the books that parents found too despicable for their teenage kids.

Updated Comments In Red: April 30, 2013

[Related: The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books of All Time Pt. 1]


Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: The Giver

The Giver

By. Lois Lowry

The Giver deals with a boy named Jonas and his life in an Utopian society where everyone has their freedom of choice removed and emotions suppressed. When the youths comes of a certain age, they are assigned professions that the society believes best suits them, and Jonas is tasked with the role as Receiver. This profession allows Jonas to unlock many of the emotions buried deep within him and he soon discovers that this “Utopia” may not be what it seems.

Despite being one of the most challenged books of the 90s, the Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal Award for its underlying theme of life without choice (and also social commentary on communism) with a lot of the challenges directed at its presentation of euthanasia and sexual situations.

One of the challenges included a parent in Franklin County, Kansas, on the grounds that the book dealt with “suicide, murder, and the degradation of motherhood and adolescence.”

Here is Lois Lowry’s response during a speech at Richmond University:

One of the reasons they have been debating The Giver in Kansas City (where, incidentally, the school board finally voted unanimously to retain the book in the schools) is because of what it says about the story on the inside of the book jacket:

In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.

Why, I wonder, are people so afraid to do that?

I feel very strongly that we should question our own beliefs and rethink our values every single day, with open minds and open hearts.

We should ask ourselves again and again how we are connected to each other. 

And we should teach our children to do so, and not to turn away.”

I commend Lois for taking a stance on this against parental censorship. Creating silos around your children will only hurt them in the long run. 

[Related: Author Spotlight – L.W. Patricks and the Art of Writing Controversy]

The Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark

By. Alvin Schwartz

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark is a collection of folk tales and spooky stories written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Just look at the cover. It screams controversial teen fiction all over it.

This book was one of the top challenged books by the American Library Association in the 90s. Let’s face it, kids like reading about death and what boy or girl doesn’t like experiencing the sensation of artificial fear? Of course having their kids reading about death, ghosts, and the supernatural in addition to the sadistic ending each tale provides made parents nervous and at the edge of their seats.

Check out this article found HERE, from a Librarian’s experience with this book, and how she successfully stood up to the pressure of having this book removed from her library.

I loved these stories as a kid. Yes, the book was controversial and had it’s fair share of violence and gore, but it was my gateway into the genre of horror. And guess what, I didn’t turn out to be a psychopath or serial killer. 

Most Controversial Teen Fiction Books: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter Series

By. J.K. Rowling

And last but not least, we have Harry Potter, one of the most controversial teen fiction books ever written. I’m sure most of you know this wonderful tale by now so I’ll skip the synopsis.

Harry Potter has successfully made the American Library Association’s most banned book of America. Despite this, the book managed to sell 450 million copies, spawn a successful movie franchise, and continues to be one of the most endearing YA books of our time.

The number one challenge of this book was over the controversial topic of religion and the accusations that the book dealt with witchcraft and satanic undertones. Many religious organizations fought to have this book removed from the library. Interesting enough, witchcraft was recognized as a religion by the libraries which led to many intense and widely publicized legal challenges. Our current Pope had this to say about the series:

“(The series is) subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”

Luckily those who actually read the book understood the true story behind Harry Potter and the themes of good vs evil, sacrifice, and love.

What do you think of parents censoring controversial teen fiction books?

– L.