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Banned Books You NEED to Read

Do you remember that moment in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Umbridge prohibits Hogwarts students from possessing copies of The Quibbler after Harry gave an interview to Rita Skeeter? As Hermione wisely points out to a disgruntled Harry, “If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in the school will read your interview, it was banning it!” Book bans are silly. You know this. I know this. We ALL know this. But do you know the best way to fight book bans? The answer is simple: BY READING THE BOOKS! Need somewhere to start? Look no further—below are just a few of my favorites.

This Book Won’t Burn

by Samira Ahmed

While this book hasn’t been banned anywhere as of today (the day I’m writing this blog post), bestselling author Samira Ahmed’s newest novel This Book Won’t Burn calls attention to the book-banning crisis in a gripping story of activism that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

After her dad abruptly abandons her family and her mom moves them a million miles from their Chicago home, Noor Khan is forced to start the last quarter of her senior year at a new school, away from everything and everyone she knows and loves.

Reeling from being uprooted and deserted, Noor is certain the key to survival is to keep her head down and make it to graduation.

But things aren’t so simple. At school, Noor discovers hundreds of books have been labeled “obscene” or “pornographic” and are being removed from the library in accordance with a new school board policy. Even worse, virtually all the banned books are by queer and BIPOC authors.

Noor can’t sit back and do nothing, because that goes against everything she believes in, but challenging the status quo just might put a target on her back. Can she effect change by speaking up? Or will small-town politics—and small-town love—be her downfall?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

by Laini Taylor

This is one of my favorite reads, possibly ever. Laini Taylor’s masterful worldbuilding will suck you in from the very first page, and the characters will stay with you long after you complete the full trilogy.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Where I End and You Begin

by Preston Norton

Stories that encourage you to love yourself and to express yourself authentically should be celebrated, not banned. The heartfelt novel will leave you smiling ear to ear.

Ezra Slevin is an anxious, neurotic insomniac who spends his nights questioning his place in the universe and his days obsessing over Imogen, a nerdy girl with gigantic eyebrows and a heart of gold. For weeks, Ezra has been working up the courage to invite Imogen to prom. The only problem is Imogen’s protective best friend, Wynonna Jones. Wynonna has blue hair, jams to ’80s rock, and has made a career out of tormenting Ezra for as long as he can remember.

Then, on the night of a total solar eclipse, something strange happens to Ezra and Wynonna, and they wake up in each other’s bodies. Not only that, they begin randomly swapping back and forth every day! Ezra soon discovers Wynonna’s huge crush on his best friend, Holden, a five-foot-nothing girl magnet with anger management problems. With no end to their curse in sight, Ezra makes Wynonna a proposition: While swapping bodies, he will help her win Holden’s heart, but only if she helps him woo Imogen.

Forming an uneasy alliance, Ezra and Wynonna embark on a collision course of mistaken identity, hurt feaelings, embarrassing bodily functions, and a positively byzantine production of Twelfth Night. Ezra wishes he could be more like Wynonna’s badass version of Ezra — but he also realizes he feels more like himself while being Wynonna than he has in a long time.

The Skin I’m In

by Sharon Flake

As all of us at The NOVL and LBYR say over and over again, books serve as both mirrors and windows, reflecting readers’ lived experiences and shedding light on lives far different than our own. This Coretta Scott King award-winning debut novel by Sharon Flake is a powerful story everyone should read.

Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they’re not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it’s about her dark, black skin.

When a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher’s attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she’s in. Can Maleeka learn to do the same?

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard

by Alex Bertie

I can’t think of many things braver than Alex Bertie’s candid account of life as a transgender teen and the ups and downs of his transition journey. Whether you’re going through a similar experience and would like a guidebook you can count on, or you’re looking for an eye-opening memoir, Trans Mission is a winner!

Long before he became known for his YouTube videos, Alex Bertie was an isolated, often-afraid transgender teenager looking for answers. In this revolutionary memoir and valuable resource, Alex recounts his life, struggles, and victories as a young trans man. Along the way, he provides readers with accessible, highly researched explanations of gender, sexuality, and transitions. He explores without judgment how complicated all these things can be, and how many equally authentic ways there are to live as yourself and find happiness.

It can be hard for questioning teens to believe in a brighter future, let alone find any sense of community. Here, with clarity and compassion, Alex writes as a supportive older brother for transitioning teens, their allies, their parents, and anyone looking to better understand others — and themselves.

Gossip Girl

by Cecily Von Ziegesar

So many of our teenage years have been shaped by Gossip Girl, so excuse me if I’m upset that there are people trying to keep this book out of libraries. This book is funny and addictive. If you read one, you’ll have to read them all!

Welcome to New York City’s Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep – sometimes with each other. 

S is back from boarding school, and if we aren’t careful, she’s going to win over our teachers, wear that dress we couldn’t fit into, steal our boyfriends’ hearts, and basically ruin our lives in a major way. I’ll be watching closely…

Dear Evan Hansen

by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Yes, this is the novel inspired by the Broadway show. You know, the show that people everywhere flock to see? The show that has everyone crying and cheering? Well the book has been banned. What are we going to do about it? We’re going to go pick up a copy and proudly read it anyway.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore– even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.