Did anyone else start seeing the book Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers, pop up all over their social media yesterday? I saw facebook articles posted about censorship and a plethora of tweets where people said they were buying the book … and then I got curious. Here’s what I found out. Incoming freshmen at a South Carolina high school were given the option of choosing this book or Riker’s High, by Paul Volponi for their summer reading. After one parent complained (that’s right just one parent) that she didn’t want her daughter reading the former, the school ended up pulling the book from the list and adding both Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (a bold choice since it is so frequently banned), and classic A Tree Grows In Brooklyn as options. I’m not a parent and I haven’t read the book so you can definitely take my ramblings with many many grains of salt – but I thought I’d share them anyway.
First, just to catch myself and everyone else up, here is a short description of Some Girls Are, from goodreads: Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first.
It seems to me that by the time a kid is in high school they should have the maturity/ability to pick what books they read. At the same time, I love that my mom was so involved in the media I consumed as a child and teenager. She would often tell me she thought something was too violent or scary for me to watch/read. I almost always listened to her, because I trusted her judgement (I also appreciate that she thought it was more important to shield me from violence than from sexual content). But I don’t remember ever being not allowed to watch/read something if I decided to. If she thought it was controversial then we would usually have a conversation about it afterwards (thank you Corey and Topanga booking a hotel room on prom night, Julia Roberts for smoking cigarettes in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, and Forever Amber for 17th century prostitute). But very little, if anything, was off the table.
I do recognize that not everyone is so lucky to have parents who strike the right mix of staying involved and giving their children the right about of freedom. I feel differently about homophobic parents keeping their potentially LGBTQ kids from reading LGBTQ books or parents who might not don’t know about a child’s assault trying to protect them from books like Speak or Some Girls Are than I do about my mom helping me decide what to read.
I think it’s probably better to air on the side of caution to protect those kids who need to see themselves reflected in books even if their parents don’t want to see them that way or society wants to pretend difference and darkness and things like drinking/sex/bullying/poverty/etc. don’t exist. I think it’s ridiculous that one parent complaining means that the option was taken away from the whole class. I think it’s ridiculous to call a book about bullying and sexual assault trash (which is this parent did).
But I’m also curious to see what other people think. So if you have any thoughts please share them in the comments. And if you want to read more here is an article on BookRiot about the whole incident and here is one of the best things I’ve read about why it’s vital not to censor books for teens written by the great Sherman Alexie.