'Twilight,' 'ttyl,' among books deemed most 'offensive' and 'inappropriate' for kids

Stephenie-MeyerImage Credit: David StoneWhat do Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, Alice Walker and Stephenie Meyer (pictured left) have in common?

They’re all authors of works on the ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009 list, released yesterday by the American Library Association. According to the ALA, a challenge is defined as a “formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness.”

New to the list, Meyer’s über-popular Twilight series came in at number five, due to it being “sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and [having] offensive language.”

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which explores teenage sexuality and drug use, among other topics, is number three. Coming in at number two, it’s And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, a children’s book based on the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo that became a couple and raised an egg together.

The number one challenged book for 2009? The ttyl series by Lauren Myracle, due to “nudity, sexual explicitness, offensive language and drugs.” While the thought of reading hundreds of pages in text/IM speak is rather offensive, there’s no need to keep these books off the shelves. As the fans might say, GTFO, wannabe banners.

There were several books on the list that seem to always be there, including Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which challengers claim incites racism. (Way to completely miss the point, guys!) After a year off the list, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and Walker’s The Color Purple return, due to both being “sexually explicit” and “unsuited to the age group.”

Let’s hear from you, Shelf Life readers. Are you surprised by the list? How should libraries and schools handle these challenges?


Comments (128 total) Add your comment
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  • Wickeddoll

    TKAM? Good grief – that was a groundbreaking work, that, if anything, *helped* the Civil Rights Movement. Morons.

    • CDT

      Who was the last prominent group of people that I can think of that banned books (and burned them)? Oh that’s right, the NAZIS. It’s called the First Amendment, and if you don’t like the books, then don’t read them.

      • Ally

        If you think that is the last group, then I’ve got some news for you…

      • jS

        I had no interest in watching the news at present…. My boyfriend thinks the same with me. He is eight years older than me, lol. We met online at ~A gelover.com~ a nice and free place for younger women and older men, or older women and younger men, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

      • CDT

        @Ally: Oh I don’t doubt you at all, it’s just that I don’t know them specifically – which, to be honest, is something that I’m kind of happy about.

      • andi

        totally agree with you!

    • Dala

      I loved TKAM, I just read it in my English book and it was so powerful. Just an incredible book

  • TheObserver

    If Twilight is sexually explicit ten I’m white (I’m black by the way….as far as I know

    • TheObserver

      *then

      • Celia

        Agreed. I laughed when I read this yesterday. The only reason twilight should be banned is because the writing is so bad, the characters are so boring, and the storyline is just pointless. There’s nothing in those books that would warrant it being on this list except that.
        But this list is a joke, none of those books deserved to be banned. The same can be said for books like Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, and others that constantly used to end up on banned lists. It’s dumb.

      • Lola

        Celia- Totally agree. When I saw the title of the article I thought that they were going to go on to say that Twilight is deemed offensive and inappropriate because the writing is so awful! After reading the article, I’m horrified to find out that all the hullabaloo is over sexual content. Ridiculous!

      • Darwin

        Lola and Celia, you guys read my mind.

    • Jane

      Its not sexually explicit, but at the Same time,bella’s always thinking about sex… :) LOL

    • Elizabeth

      Maybe it isn’t suitable because parents aren’t saying no and keeping an eye on what is appropriate for their children? I mean, I wouldn’t want to be that ‘square parent’ who said no. Can I get an Amen?

      • Em

        *crickets*

    • Em

      Agreed. No sex in Twilight series until last book. In fact, I think one of the reasons the books are so popular is that they let girls fantasize about a relationship in which they’re not pressured to have sex.

      Funny how these people are ‘protecting’ their children from the message that sex doesn’t have to be a part of a loving teenage relationship…

    • Kelly

      I’m not surprised that the whole Twilight series is challenged. It just shows how many ignorant people who rarely pick up a book live in this country.

      I don’t like the books. I think the writing is inane and awful, especially Breaking Dawn. That one reads like fan fiction.

      I know part of the appeal is Meyer’s PG version of the vampire story. Her treatment of sex and abstinence in particular is suited perfectly for the tween audience.

      Her female characters, especially Bella are terrible role models for girls. Teenage girls don’t need as a heroine a girl who is prepared to kill herself over a guy. Edward seems so dreamy and perfect but comes across as a condescending jerk much of the time.

  • crispy

    Some of these I can very very slightly understand, however it seems someone always has to complain for attention when there is no reason to. AND PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK.. A TANGO MAKES THREE?! What was wrong with that book? Sounds interesting and educational. Oh yeah let me guess.. they figure by children reading a book about two male penguins sharing a life it will corrupt and change their precious children and make them gay? Yeah people keep burying your heads under the sand people, maybe someday you will suffocate ;)

    • Keira

      Don’t you see? Gay penguins are destroying our society! My god, imagine if children were to read a book about gay humans! They might grow up to be accepting of other people.

    • Kim

      Do you think hoping people suffocate is any better than banning the book? You are part of the problem, just the other side of the argument.

      • goodness

        Lord…you obviously missed the point there…unless you were joking, but I highly doubt that.

      • CDT

        @Kim: I’m sorry, but I’m not following your logic. What’s that about suffocation?

      • Are you for real

        You didn’t get it did you. Always funny when people on your side get on their high horse and yet miss the point totally

      • dumb@$$

        @Kim You are an idiot.

  • Caitlin

    I love To Kill A Mockingbird and The Color Purple. I still haven’t read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I don’t think Twilight is offensive. Well, at least not for the reasons that people said in the article. It’s not sexually explicit. I’m not a fan of Twilight, but I’m against banning books from libraries and all that.

  • Brian

    People who try to get books banned are bloodfarts.

    • Celia

      I like that word, “bloodfarts” it’s both disgusting and awesome. I completely agree. They’re bloodfarts.

  • booksonfilm

    What’s ‘offensive” is how poorly the Twilight series are written. Meyer has a great imagination, but she is such a poor writer. These books should be used in English classes as workbooks – “What’s wrong with this sentence structure?”. Unfortunately – sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and [having] offensive language – is apart of the everyday life of kids. Parents need to step up and have discussions and stop letting Pop Culture raise their children.

    • Brian

      The issue here isn’t “Pop Culture” raising anyone’s children. It’s people trying to construct a world in which certain things don’t exist by banning books that refer to those things. Who’s raising kids is irrelevant here. What’s relevant is an attempt by some to raise their kids by making them ignorant or over-sheltered.

      • Melissa

        When I first read this comment, I took “certain things don’t exist” to mean vampires and werewolves! The critics may be verbally trying to point to sex, but don’t we all know it’s really that Christian fundamentalist disapproval for anything supernatural, and in the same spirit (couldn’t resist the pun) as their challenges of Harry Potter?

  • megan

    I think most of the books that impacted me the most and that I read in high school were always apart of this list. To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being A Wallflower,…while I agree there are multiple reasons why are youth shouldn’t read the Twilight series (how about a complete distruction of the written word…her writing is atrocious) being unsuited to the age group is not one of them. In fact it’s more appropriate for teenage girls to read those books than it is for adults. I just always go by the rule…if it’s on this list…more than likely it’s a good book.

    • Jazz

      I agree with everything you said, except twilight is not a good book. I think it was added just for publicity purposes.
      But most banned books are usually the classics. There’s another list of the 100 most banned books of the decade (2000-2009) and this is the top 10:

      1 Harry Potter (series)-by J.K. Rowling
      2 Alice series-by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
      3 The Chocolate War-by Robert Cormier
      4 And Tango Makes Three-by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
      5 Of Mice and Men-by John Steinbeck
      6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings-by Maya Angelou
      7 Scary Stories (series)-by Alvin Schwartz
      8 His Dark Materials (series)-by Philip Pullman
      9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series)-by Myracle, Lauren
      10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower-by Stephen Chbosky

      • noggster

        Wait a minute, Of Mice and Men is on that list? I love that book! It’s such a great story. I read it as a senior in high school and thought it was awesome.

      • Celia

        I’m more shocked by Why the Cage Bird Sings, why the heck is that on this list??

      • Daisy

        why an earth did harry potter get on that list!? For gods sake is there ANYTHING people won’t complain about!?

      • @Daisy

        Were you seriously blind to all the religious opposition to Harry Potter for the past 13 years? According to Christians, it promotes witchcraft. There are even documentaries that show them burning hundreds of Harry Potter books. I had friends who’s parents wouldn’t let them read them when our 10th English teacher made them required reading. But most people have come to their senses and actually read the Potter books. They realized the books do not promote witchcraft, but they promote very positive themes.

    • TarrahKD

      “multiple reasons why ARE youth shouldn’t read the Twilight series” Really? If you’re going to rag on someone else’s writing, maybe you should make sure yours is up to par.

      • TarrahKD

        Also: “how about a complete DISTRUCTION of the written word…her writing is atrocious” Seriously?!

  • Marie

    i don’t have a problem with the first three books in the Twilight series when it comes to kids reading them. but Breaking Dawn is not a children’s book.
    you have a situation where a Bella is going through rough sex, then begging for sex, a horrid death scene, and after which Bella and Edward have sex that first night in there new place. now, i’m not saying the book is bad (and believe me, that’s a whole nother conversation), but what i am saying is that this is not the book that i would pick for a child to read.

  • susanmarie

    Whenever there is a book list made up on what books to ban, I find that usually they are books that go against whatever political or moral standards that the people that put out the list out want. In other words, if you were to ask the pope you would have a different list, if you were to ask the President, you would have a different list. These lists mean nothing to me but are dangerous because they censer.

  • Marie

    i also think this article doesn’t specify the distinction between children’s books and books for teenagers.
    many of these books on the list are things that teenagers should be able to handle, but not elementary school kids.

  • Kim

    What’s the purpose of this list? Not only is it a joke, but To Kill a Mockingbird? I am not a lit major or anything like that, but I see the good it did. And do they even mention the rape/father beating aspect of it? Nope. Morons.

    • Kim

      I can read just fine. I meant to answer my own question with “censorship” but forgot to put it in there.

      • Ally

        Gosh, I wish I would have had that inrfoamiton earlier!

  • Jenny

    I’ve read the Twilight books, but am not a huge fun. However, I find the fact that someone is challenging them, silly. Twilight’s vampires are pretty tame as far as vampires go and the main characters save themselves for marriage for goodness sake. How many romances do that anymore?

    • Andrew

      I think the issue here is not the fact that sex is put off until marriage (which is a good message) but the fact that all Bella thinks about is sex. I read the books – hated them, but read them to see what the fuss was about.
      Like Meyer, I am also a Mormon, but I was indeed surprised at the amount of sexual elements in the books. Granted, it is not near as explicit as many other books, but in our religion, we are held to a higher standard on sex, so it’s surprising that Meyer would write about this stuff so openly. My main concern about the books is the focus on sex, knowing that little girls are reading these books, and Meyer cannot say that she didn’t realize she would have an influence on younger girls when she read these books. This whole argument that at least they waited until marriage is pretty ridiculous – the only reason they waited was because if they had sex, Edward would kill her from all his pent-up sexual frustrations and vampire anger!
      One thing I don’t get is the complaint on the ALA website that Twilight is offensive for “religious reasons”. So, people don’t like these books just because a Mormon wrote them? Sounds like a stretch to me….

      • Sean

        maybe by “offensive for religious reasons” they mean that Mormons like yourself found the material offensive exactly how you just said you did and not because the author is Mormon.

      • Andrew

        Good point Sean. Didn’t think of that.

      • wondering

        You read all of the books even though you didn’t enjoy them? Wow, that’s a lot of reading “just to see what the fuss was about”! I think you might have enjoyed them a little bit.

  • tvgirl48

    I tried to read lots of the books that were commonly banned in high school, because those were the most complex and fascinating books that really said something. No one is forcing kids to read them, you have a choice. Censorship sweeps unpleasant things under the rug, rather than allowing discourse and education about such topics.

  • Monty

    So the “Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs” didn’t make the list?!? and neither did “the Poop that Took a Pee”?!?

    • Darwin

      When do the paperbacks come out?

    • Celia

      Lmao. I need to read these books asap.

  • Dysthymia83

    I also find “Twilight” offensive…for being shoddily written Mormon-conservative propaganda which is highly misogynistic…but it shouldn’t be banned. It’s not Scroty McBoogerballs or anything…

    • Kathryn

      It’s so interesting that whenever anything obnoxious is written by someone who is of a highly scrutinized religion like Mormonism, people always make sure to include “Mormon!” in their negative comments. Why don’t we ever hear “That Harper Lee was spreading her Methodist propaganda!!!!” I’m pretty sure there are millions of conservatives out there who aren’t Mormon, so could you even make the tiniest effort to limit your generalizations? As a practicing Mormon, I personally think that the Twilight books are ridiculous, and a fantastic example of horrible writing. However, I don’t attribute it to her religion – I attribute it to the fact that she must have ignored every single writing teacher or professor she ever had.

      • MsSuniDaze

        I agree Kathryn. I’m not LDS but I have many LDS friends and it’s not fair to attach her religon to her writing when it’s not done for other authors. Apparently Mormons are fair game.

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