As the end of September approaches, the air in the library feels charged. The rest of the year, students walking through the commons might glance at my window display and smile. In September, they stop and stare. A boy runs his fingers around the red graffitied letters that spell out “Banned Books Week 2012.” A girl lightly touches the cover images of books like The Hunger Games and Ann Brasheres’s Traveling Pants series — staples in our library — that have been challenged or banned elsewhere. I can read their lips through the glass. “This book was banned?” “Why would anyone want to ban that?” Some come in and pore over the list, gleefully grabbing “forbidden” books from the display rack to check out.
I have learned not to be surprised, but I am still saddened when, year after year, ALA’s list of “Books Challenged or Banned” bears an uncanny resemblance to my summer reading list. For the past seven years, at least half of the books on the top ten list have been YA novels — more than the number of adult and children’s books combined. Even more disturbing, a whopping 36 of the 47 challenges detailed on last year’s list originated either in classrooms and school libraries or in the YA section of public libraries. This means that teens are having their right to read threatened more than any other group. So why are people getting so worked up over YA?