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Should These Books Be In Classrooms? 15 Most Banned Books From America’s School Libraries

Should These Books Be In Classrooms 15 Most Banned Books From America's School Libraries
Image Credit: Josh Edelson / For the Times

Let’s look at the contentious realm of literature censorship within educational settings, spotlighting the 15 books most frequently banned from America’s school libraries.

As we examine the reasons behind their prohibition—from themes considered inappropriate to contentious historical portrayals—this article sheds light on the ongoing debate between protecting youth and fostering an open discussion and critical thinking environment.

Through this lens, we invite readers to ponder the delicate balance between censorship and education.

#15 “Melissa” by Alex Gino

Melissa by Alex Gino
Image Credit: “Melissa” by Alex Gino

“Melissa” by Alex Gino, released in 2015, tells the tale of a transgender fourth-grader named Melissa, who is perceived as a boy named George by those around her. The novel was honored with the ALA’s Stonewall Book Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and a Children’s Choice book award. However, in 2020, individuals opposed to the book attempted to shut down a town library in Kansas simply because it included “Melissa” on its shelves. This resulted in 18 instances of the book being banned.

#14  “Sold” by Patricia McCormick

Sold by Patricia McCormick
Image Credit: “Sold” by Patricia McCormick

“Sold” by Patricia McCormick, published in 2006, chronicles the harrowing journey of a young Nepalese girl who is forced into sexual slavery and her struggle for survival. Despite being a finalist for the National Book Award, the book has faced challenges due to its realistic portrayal of the girl’s ordeal, resulting in 18 instances of being banned.

#13 “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Image Credit: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

In 2012, Jesse Andrews’ novel “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” revolves around two adolescent boys’ attempts to create a film about their female friend who is battling leukemia. However, in 2023, a school district in Missouri removed the book from libraries due to its explicit sexual language, leading to 20 bans and 48 challenges.

#12 “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Image Credit: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

“Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, published in 2007, delves into the reasons behind a teenage girl’s decision to end her life, chronicled on cassette tapes found by a friend. The book was later adapted into a Netflix series in 2017. Despite its popularity, one Colorado school district banned the book, citing concerns that it glorified suicide, as reported by PBS NewsHour, resulting in 20 bans.

#11 “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Image Credit: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” published in 2007, is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young cartoonist coming of age on a reservation in Spokane, Washington. Despite its bestseller status, the book has faced opposition, with detractors citing sexual references and profanity, resulting in 21 bans and 52 challenges.

#10 “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson

This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
Image Credit: “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson’s “This Book Is Gay,” a 2014 best-selling young adult nonfiction work, explores sexuality and gender. The British author, drawing from her experience as a former teacher, expressed concerns about the lack of comprehensive sex education for LGBTQ+ teenagers, particularly regarding safety in relationships. However, the book has faced criticism on social media, with some critics denouncing it as pornography, leading to 21 bans and 48 challenges.

#9 “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
Image Credit: “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins’ 2009 novel “Tricks” portrays the experiences of five troubled teenagers who engage in prostitution across various regions of the country. Known for her provocative works, Hopkins had four books listed among the top 100 banned or challenged books by the ALA between 2010 and 2019. “Tricks” itself has been banned 21 times.

#8 “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Image Credit: “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

Jonathan Evison’s 2018 novel “Lawn Boy” follows the journey of Mike Muñoz, a young biracial gay Chicano from a working-class family in Washington state. Despite receiving high praise from critics and readers for its coming-of-age narrative, the book has also encountered challenges in schools and libraries due to its inclusion of profanity and sexually explicit scenes. As reported by the ALA, “Lawn Boy” has been banned 23 times and faced 54 challenges.

#7 “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Image Credit: “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins’ 2004 novel “Crank” is based on her daughter’s battle with addiction to crystal meth, an experience that aided her in gaining a deeper understanding of addiction. Despite being nearly two decades old, the novel continues to resonate with readers, as highlighted by Maryland librarian Nia Thimakis for the ALA. The book has faced ongoing challenges primarily due to its depictions of drug use and a violent sexual encounter, resulting in 24 bans and 48 challenges.

#6 “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Image Credit: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’ 2017 novel “The Hate U Give,” which centers on a teenage girl witnessing a police officer fatally shoot her childhood best friend, draws inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement. The bestseller was also adapted into a film in 2018. In 2022, an Illinois school board banned the book, citing inappropriate language, while other challenges pointed to violence and an anti-police message. Speaking at the Festival of Books in April, Thomas expressed that books like hers are perceived as dangerous due to their ability to effect change through empathy. As a result, the book has been banned 24 times.

#5 “Flamer” by Mike Curato

Flamer by Mike Curato
Image Credit: “Flamer” by Mike Curato

Mike Curato’s award-winning 2020 novel “Flamer” delves into the journey of a teenage boy as he grapples with comprehending and embracing his sexuality during a 1990s summer camp experience. In an interview with PEN America, Curato portrayed “Flamer” as a book centered around suicide prevention. However, the book has faced objections from critics due to its sexual content, resulting in 25 bans and 62 challenges.

#4 “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Image Credit: “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez

Ashley Hope Perez’s “Out of Darkness,” published in 2015, is a young adult novel set against the backdrop of a 1937 explosion that claimed the lives of nearly 300 students and teachers at a Texas school. The narrative unfolds as a love story between a Black boy and a Mexican American girl. Despite being written by an Ohio State University literature professor, the book encountered challenges in 2021 specifically related to sexual depictions in the story, resulting in 31 bans and 50 challenges.

#3 “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Image Credit: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” initially published in 1970, delves into the experiences of a Black girl coming of age during the Great Depression, serving as a contemplation of America’s white-centric standards of beauty, as noted by New York Times reviewer John Leonard. However, the book’s portrayal of child abuse and sexual violence resulted in it being banned at a Southern California high school and faced similar challenges elsewhere, accumulating 32 bans and 73 challenges.

#2 “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

All Boys Arent Blue by George M. Johnson
Image Credit: “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

George M. Johnson’s 2020 book “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a collection of coming-of-age essays, was inspired by their experience as a young Black queer individual who never encountered representations of themselves in the books they read. Despite being recognized as one of Time magazine’s 100 influencers shaping the next generation in 2022, the book has faced challenges due to its LGBTQ+ content and perceived sexual explicitness, resulting in 38 bans and 86 challenges.

#1 “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Image Credit: “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe

In 2019, Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir” gained popularity as a graphic novel autobiography that candidly explores the experiences of being nonbinary. Despite its acclaim, the book has faced criticism for its explicit portrayal of sexual content, as highlighted by Times columnist Robin Abcarian in 2022. As a result, the debut work of the Santa Rosa illustrator has become the most frequently banned book in the United States, drawing opposition from school boards, conservative figures, religious leaders, and parental organizations who have condemned it as inappropriate for young readers. According to the ALA, the book has been banned in 56 instances and faced 150 challenges.

What Do You Think?

What Do You Think (1)
Image Credit: United Liberty

As we reflect on the censorship of literature in education, one must ask: Where should we draw the line between safeguarding the innocence of youth and stifling their exposure to diverse perspectives and challenging ideas?

Let us know in the comments.

Conor Jameson
Written By



  1. Avatar

    Charles A

    February 18, 2024 at 3:46 am

    People only consider the removal of a book as ‘banning’ if they are not offended by the content. If the removed book is contrary to ones beliefs then the removal of the book is not a banning but a protection of some segment of society. Some schools have banned DR Seus, Huckleberry Fin, Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those that would be offended by the books in this article being banned would probably understand the banning of these 4 books.

  2. Avatar

    Sally Rodriguez

    February 18, 2024 at 10:07 am

    One can choose to read a book. If you object to the content, then don’t read it. Someone else may not object to the content and want to read it. Do not take our choices away.

  3. Avatar


    February 18, 2024 at 3:43 pm


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