According to the American Library Association, in 2015, a book set in Alabama endured the most “challenges” — or attempts to have it banned from public schools or libraries.
“Looking for Alaska,” written by John Green in 2005, is set at the fictional Culver Creek Preparatory School outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Culver Creek is a fictionalization of Indian Springs School in Shelby County, where Green actually attended high school. “Alaska” won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
The story follows Miles Halter as he begins school at Culver Creek and becomes friends with an interesting group of students, including the mysterious Alaska Young. Miles’ relationship with Alaska is one of the main focal points of the book.
According to the American Library Association, “Looking for Alaska” has been challenged repeatedly this year because it contains “offensive language,” is “sexually explicit” and is “unsuited” for its target age group.
2016 is not the first year “Alaska” has found itself in the spotlight for being controversial or inappropriate. In 2008, two eleventh-grade English teachers in Buffalo, New York wanted to use the novel as part of their curriculum. While parental consent letters were sent home and an alternative reading selection was provided, many parents opposed the book because it was “pornographic” and “disgusting.” The school board ultimately voted to keep “Alaska” in its curriculum and compelled Green to defended his novel on his YouTube page.
“Looking for Alaska” has been challenged a few more times over the years, and now, eleven years after it was first published, it has risen to the top of the most challenged books list.
Green, who now lives in Indiana, has gone on to have a successful writing career, authoring or co-authoring six novels, including the 2012 bestseller, “The Fault in Our Stars.” He also makes weekly videos on his YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers, that he shares with his brother, Hank.
Two of Green’s novels, “The Fault in Our Stars” and 2008’s “Paper Towns” have both been adapted into successful films.
This week Green offered a video response to “Looking for Alaska” being the number one most challenged book this year:
Other books included on this year’s most challenged list include E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and the Bible. According to James LaRue, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association, some people challenge the Bible by arguing that it violates church and state, while others challenge it in retaliation against religious groups that challenge other novels.
Check out the top ten list of 2016’s most challenged books below:
1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
6. The Holy Bible
7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan