In the year 2016 it seems completely preposterous that we’re still talking about books that have been banned, challenged or censored. With nudity and profanity on almost every television ad, magazine cover or roadside billboard, literature shouldn’t be what we focus on when trying to shelter our youth from inappropriate content. A 2014 study released by the Office for Intellectual Freedom showed that “offensive language”, “sexually explicit content” and a general “unsuitability for age group” were the top three reasons behind challenged books. All three of these things could be said about any video game, movie, comic book, or music album. Not to mention the things kids hear out of each others’ mouths. Where do we draw the line in what we allow in schools, libraries or on our own shelves?

Among 24 other reasons for being challenged, “homosexual content” was number seven. While we respect every parents decision to monitor what their child reads, the importance of having access to materials that relate to sexuality, at a very integral time in finding who they are, is a big deal. We all remember what it’s like to be in elementary, middle and high school. Not only balancing school work with family and friends, there’s the daunting task of figuring out who you are as an individual.

Sure, we’re a book store, so we’re biased, but we want all readers to find solace and comfort in the pages of a book. When titles go through the process of being challenged and removed from shelves, we lose access to vital content. As we celebrate censorship awareness this month we want to highlight some titles we consider to be the best among challenged Young Adult Fiction, laden with what is classified as “homosexual content.” These are great reads with much more to their stories than same-gender love. They’re coming of age tales that will bring tears to your eyes, let laughter erupt from your lips and bring an understanding to those who are just trying to figure it out.


In no significant order, we chose our favorite five:

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters
This isn’t a “coming out” story; it’s a story of finding your first true love when you least expect it. With the perfect boyfriend, GPA, social life and family, Holland appears to have it all. She’s headed toward an Ivy League college and is the head of student council. Then she meets Cece, the new girl at school and it all comes crumbling down. What follows is a spiral of emotion and secrets as Holland discovers who she is and what truly makes her heart race. This story comes complete with butterflies in your stomach and a subtle ache to the heart.

Make sure to also check out Luna, RAGE, GRL2GRL and Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Ann Peters.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
It all begins at the swimming pool where Dante and Ari, short for Aristotle, meet. We follow the summer from Ari’s perspective as the boys question life, family, friends and themselves. Sáenz does a great job in his portrayal of a fifteen-year-old boy’s life and voice. Throughout the whole story you’ll find yourself wanting more, more, and MORE! While each page will have you flipping to the next, the story itself is like a hammock on a summer day. It’s warm and slow; philosophical and invigorating. The good news: there’s a sequel on its way!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Two boys meet each other with the same name. One gay, one straight. Each chapter changes perspective from one boy to the other so we hear their stories told from unique voices. Dually interesting is the difference in writing between the two different authors, Green and Levithan (both phenomenal authors who also have other queer titles). Full of teen angst and raw emotion we follow the two boys’ completely opposite lives as they meet one another and find what true friendship means.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Levithan is an author of profound proportions. In this unique tale we enter a dream-world high school where the star quarterback is also the homecoming queen. One of the first YA novels to cover transgender issues, Levithan hits it on the head once more. Boy Meets Boy is an escapist story where teens forget what ignorance is and can enjoy high school with acceptance and quirky fun; where the gay-straight alliance is there to help the straight kids learn how to dance, instead of learn how to accept. We challenge any other romance to show us the love that the two main characters, Paul and Noah, struggle to maintain.

Make sure to also check out Two Boys Kissing by Leviathan.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
In this fun and uplifting story we follow the life of Rafe, an openly gay young man who’s been out and proud since a very young age. But what happens when you’re tired of being the token “gay” boy? Rafe quickly learns he doesn’t want to just be recognized just for his sexuality, he wants to be known for more. After transferring to an all-male school Rafe decides to keep his orientation a secret, but it comes at a cost. After falling in love with one of his new friends he must invent a secret girlfriend to escape from expressing his true feelings. With dynamic characters we immediately fall in love with, Openly Straight is a gem of a story about self-identity and love.

Bookmans celebrates censorship awareness in September, but we always celebrate diversity. This month we encourage you to take a moment to consider the impact of banned and challenged material and the effects it has on exploring minds. We encourage you to break barriers and express yourself. In the words of George R.R Martin, “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”