School Books That Can No Longer Be Taught

By molly atherton 4 months ago
Welcome to the forbidden library of knowledge! Imagine a world where textbooks are contraband, where the most innocent-looking school books have been banished from classrooms. These are not the tales of scandalous novels or forbidden spells but the unsuspecting pages that once held the keys to education. Join me on a journey through the controversial, the outdated, and the shockingly banned school books that can no longer grace the desks of our curious minds.

1. Gender Queer: A Memoir

Gender Queer is a book written by Maja Kobabe in 2022. It revolves around issues regarding gender, and sexuality and it focuses on her own struggles as a child and teen as a non-binary person and how growing up as non-binary in society affected her.
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It's an extremely topical book but the American Library Association deemed Gender Queer: A Memoir inappropriate for schools and it became the most challenged book of the year 2022. It was challenged on 151 different occasions and raised a huge amount of controversy.Original content sourced from

2. To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is considered one of the literary classics and greats. It was written by Harper Lee and it is set in the 1980s. It was banned from schools in the USA, particularly in Tennessee, due to its use of racial slurs and talks of sexual abuse.
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These themes are included in the novel as it is set in the 80s and portrays topics that were happening at the time. But despite it being a reflection of attitudes and social issues at the time (such as racism and sexism), it was one of the books which made it into the top 10 most challenged books.

3. Harry Potter

It may sound shocking that even books such as Harry Potter were deemed inappropriate. In Tennessee, it was banned from many schools. One parent wrote in to board members to complain about Harry Potter being read out in class.
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He claimed that these were real-life curses which he didn't want to happen in real life when they were read aloud. It was also deemed anti-family and violent. And so Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone because of one of the most controversial and banned books in the USA.

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic novel that had been taught in schools for many years, until recently when it was banned. It was deemed inappropriate to be taught in schools, mainly due to its representation of African Americans.
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Again, the book demonstrated views of the time which are deemed totally unacceptable now. But, the book has actually been banned ever since it was published for a variety of reasons. And so it has always remained controversial for different reasons over the years.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank is an amazing display of strength and historic importance, it is a diary written by Anne Frank who was a teenager hiding with her family in a secret annex during the holocaust. The diary has been banned in schools in the USA
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to some sections of the diary talking quite explicitly about Anne Frank's exploration of the female body as a teenage girl. Parents and board members deemed it not suitable to be taught in schools and so it was one of many books to make the banned list.

6. Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck and it is set during The Great Depression in the USA. It is one of those books which has been taught in schools for a very long time. Yet, in many schools in the USA, it is banned from being taught.
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Some of the reasons were because it included 'profanity' and inappropriate themes. Alabama was amongst some of the states which were vehement about Of Mice and Men not being taught in schools and it was banned across all school literary specifications.

7. Thirteen Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why is a book written in modern times (by Jay Asher) about a schoolgirl who takes her own life and leaves tapes to different people. The tapes discuss how she felt and different emotions which may have contributed to her death.
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But many teachers and parents were concerned about 13 Reasons Why being taught in schools due to the extreme content of the book. In 2017 it was challenged and then banned in many USA schools as it was overruled that it was not suitable and it was thought that it could affect students negatively.

8. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

An even greater surprise may be that a dictionary has been banned by many schools in the state. In fact, it has been banned in a lot of state schools since 1982 for giving definitions of words that are deemed inappropriate. For example, words of a sexual nature, taboo words, or cuss words seemed unsuitable for young readers.
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Parents and teachers also didn't like the descriptions of these words. Yet, for the very purpose of a contains all words unless a new and censored version is created, by the very nature of a dictionary some words are going to be unpleasant to read!

9. The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give is a modern novel written by Angie Thomas. It regards a very topical and important topic regarding police brutality against a black teenager. Amidst the crisis we have faced in recent times, the book was very relevant. But, that didn't mean that it was any less controversial amongst parents and school board members.
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In Texas, The Hate U Give has been banned from being taught in schools. And in other states, there is a constant battle between banning it and reinstating it due to the fact that it includes themes regarding violence, racism, and police brutality.

10. The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye was written by J.D. Salinger. Again, it is considered a novel of literary excellence and has made the list of classics that are read worldwide. Yet, it has been removed from the reading list in many schools because it contains 'obscenities and profanities'.
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The book has been appealed in many cases, but in many schools, the novel remains banned. There is contention between those who are passionate about the book being taught, and those who think it contains certain things that aren't appropriate for younger readers.

11. The Color Purple

The Color Purple is another novel written in the 1980s that has found itself on the list of banned books from schools. Some parents complained that the book was X rated. The book explores themes of race, religion, and God as well as the history of Africa.
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It also explores topics around human sexuality. These themes raised controversy amongst teachers and parents and the majority deemed it a book that should no longer be taught in schools, despite it covering super important issues in society both then and now.

12. Animal Farm

Animal Farm is one of the best-known novels all around the world. It was written by George Orwell and published in 1945. It was written as a social commentary on the Russian Revolution and it was written in a metaphorical style with the animals and the farm
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representing different historical figures and events at the time. Animal Farm was banned in many schools in the USA, however, this ban was overturned in some states and it remains taught in some classrooms around the world still as an important historical commentary.

13. The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and set in the 1920s. In the plot of the novel, Jay Gatsby falls in love with Daisy Buchanan however it is much more complex than a love story of unrequited love. It comments on the struggles of the class system,
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as well as the American dream. The reason that it has been banned in many of the States schools is that it features huge parties filled with alcohol which was viewed as hedonistic. In fact, it was banned in some schools back in banned in 1987.

14. Looking For Alaska

Looking For Alaska is a novel written by John Green. It was published in 2005 and became challenged in 2015 and banned in some schools throughout the USA and the world for containing offensive language, as well as explicit sexual constant.
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The book has been praised for its excellence, yet parents and some school board members have found that it is too controversial for their liking. The characters navigate their personal lives and face tragedies as they struggle to find their place amongst the complex world.

15. Maus

Maus is a graphic novel that was written by Art Spiegelman. It was initially released in two parts, one in 1986 and the second part in 1991. It was a memoir about her father's life as a survivor of the Holocaust. But, in Tennessee, it was banned despite being...
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... a very important novel regarding historical events. It was deemed by some to have graphic content as well as being deemed inappropriate due to references to nudity. Despite schools banning the book, it was widely celebrated as a literary success and it won many awards.

16. Charlotte's Web

It's hard to believe that Charlotte's Web, a famous tale written for children could have been offensive to many. The story was written by E.B White and it became, and still is to this day, a hugely popular and loved children's story. But, it was banned in 2006
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in a school in Kansas and currently remains on the 'banned list'. The reason was that people did not agree with talking animals and some parents deemed it 'unnatural'; and it was even called blasphemous by some for displaying unnatural behavior.

17. Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak wrote Where the Wild Things Are as a children's picture book. It was published in 1962 and quickly captivated the minds of children and parents. It sold 19 million copies which pays homage to the fact it was so widely loved and popular.
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But, in certain areas, parents were concerned that it was 'offensive' and it has been banned in some schools since the 1960s. One of the main reasons that were listed is because Max is sent to bed without supper, which parents found too upsetting for their children to read about.

18. The Outsiders

The Outsiders written by S.E Hinton is a novel aimed at young adults. It was published in 1967 and the story revolved around two gangs that are made up of groups of rivaling teenagers. The book raises issues about social classes and people who have been marginalized by society.
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But, the novel was banned in many schools due to the themes it raised, such as fighting and crime, which many parents raised as a concern as they did not want the novel influencing their children into joining gangs in the future.

19. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

This book, 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?' is one of the books on the list which should definitely not have been banned due to the reasons given, given that the reason was actually totally false. The book was written for children by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle.
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But the author Martin Jr. shares a name with a famous Marxist theorist called Bill Martin. Some people confused the two, and mistaking one for the other, the book was banned in 2010 do potential Marxist views - despite the fact that it was a different man entirely.

20. Lolita

Lolita is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov about a a professor of middle-aged who falls in love with one of his students who is very young, just 12 years old. It's hugely controversial as it is meant to be, it was intended to spark debate and that is exactly what the author succeeded in doing.
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Yet, it also got banned from the school book list across the USA and many other countries due to the nature of the book. Because if the sensitive content it was considered potentially harmful for young readers to read the book.

21. The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (published in 1995) has become even more popular and talked about recently due to the screen adaptation. In the novel, the author has created a dystopian world called 'Gilead' which features themes of sexism, oppression,
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social control, and religion in what she views as a potential for the near future. Many parents in particular did not agree with the way the novel depicted religion and so the book was banned in schools, despite its very thought-provoking message and plot.

22. 1984

George Orwell's 1984 is one of THE most world-renowned novels ever. Orwell created a story that became known for its depiction of the future of American politics. The novel highlights the dangers of totalitarianism and being watched and controlled continuously
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which Orwell is warning us is the potential in the future of the modern world. The novel was first banned by Kansas and then many other states also did the same. But, the novel is super effective in raising concerns about control and power and false agendas.

23. Dr Seuss

Dr. Seuss has had MANY novels banned. One of the reasons for banning The Lorax in particular was cited as portraying what was deemed as racist imagery. For example, there were images of an Asian person holding chopsticks. And, in the book,
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the character is speaking for the trees which some board members and parents claimed it was portraying the forestry industry in a negative light which could be detrimental if they allowed children to read it. There were endless reasons given by parents which is why many novels became banned.

24. Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts is a novel written by Gennifer Choldenko in 2006. It was immediately nominated for awards for being a success and a powerful story. The plot was set in the 1930s and it is about a boy named Moose who lives on Alcatraz island
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with his little sister named Natalie and the two of them live with Al Capone. The novel was banned in many states, and it was first banned in New York. One of the reasons that was given was because it was stereotyping, as well as glorifying Al Capone and his behavior.

25. Dead Poets Society

The novel, Dead Poets Society was written by N.H. Kleinbaum and it was so popular with readers and sold so many copies that it was adapted into a movie too. In the book the poet named John Keaton took his students on a trip and tried to encourage them
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to take part of the poet group - Dead Poets Society. But, a pastor who comes from Illinois deemed the book to contain sexual content and he even used the term 'disturbing' to describe the book. And so, it was put straight on the banned list for many schools.

26. In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood is a novel written by Truman Capote in 1966. It is a true crime novel and the storyline revolves around a murder mystery plot where they try to work out who murdered the Clutter family, and it was based on real evidence from the case.
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He worked on this particular novel with Harper Lee (author of the fellow banned book To Kill A Mockingbird). In Cold Blood was banned in schools in Savannah for containing themes of a sexual nature as well as violence which was thought to be potentially psychologically harmful to children.

27. Death and the Maiden

Ariel Dorfman wrote Death and the Maiden which is actually a play, published as a book. It follows the lives of three main characters who have each faced their own form of tragedy or dramatic life. The book Death and the Maiden is an intense storyline
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as it regards important themes of justice and betrayal as well as suffering, and it won awards for its literary excellence. But, New Jersey High School put the book on the banned list in 2016 and it has not managed to be removed from that list as of yet.

28. Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run was written by John Updike and published in the 1960s. The novel's story surrounded a character Harry Armstrong also nicknamed 'Rabbit' is a 26-year-old and there were many more books published around the life of this same character.
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Harry Armstrong is a man who is struggling with his life in an unhappy marriage and his job and the novel raises concerns about the American Dream and post-war America. There are explicit scenes of a sexual nature which is the reason it became banned from many school book lists in the states.

29. Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut wrote Cat's Cradle which is set in the 1960s. It is a sci-fi novel with satirical tones. But, it was banned in many states due to it critiquing themes of religion, science, and also politics which some people voted was blasphemous and could potentially corrupt the minds of young people,
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despite just being intended as a kind of social commentary by the author who raises various social issues in a satirical way. The novel talks about an atomic bomb that can potentially destroy all life, it is done so in a satirical way but it revolved around important issues.

30. Brave New World

Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley about a dystopian society. The plot raised issues about a world in which everything was controlled and there were no freedoms, not even the freedom to display emotion. Consumerism and immediate gratification...
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were the ways in which social order was maintained. In Delaware High School the novel was banned due to explicit content, racism, as well as featuring parties fuelled with illegal substances. The novel was a commentary on a world solely focused on enjoyment and hedonism

31. And Tango Makes Three

Looking at this adorable cover for this children's book, you might think why on earth a book about penguins caring for a penguin baby would be banned. This book was actually inspired by a real life event of two male penguins who became close at the Central Park Zoo in New York City and bonded.
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The pair of male penguins in this story bonded and were looking after a rock as though it was their baby egg. After seeing this, zookeepers then gave them a real egg to look after and raise, with Tango the chick being born. People thought the book was inappropriate because of its "homosexual overtones".

32. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You

This book by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds was a children's book written and published to explore the issue of racism. It was then controversial simply because it was a book that spoke of racism that was deemed inappropriate for children in school's to read,
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despite the fact it's an important topic. The book was even used and seen being held by Senator Ted Cruz when he attended a hearing of Supreme Court Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson to discuss what she thought about critical race theory. The book has been banned five times.

33. The Infinite Moment of Us

This book by Lauren Myracle was actually successfully adapted into a movie version with a different name, 'Let It Snow'. The topic of the book was important enough to be made into a movie with an audience who can enjoy the story and characters -
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namely, the exploration of what love and s*x is like for a group of teenagers. The young adult novel didn't find the same success in schools, though, as before it was made into a movie, it remained a banned book - due to the discussions of s*x within such a young age group.

34. Two Boys Kissing

The name of this book alone should be enough to give you an indication of why it became so controversial. The novel, by David Leviathan, was released back in 2013, and it was faced with five different bans during one school year.
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The plot, which focuses on two boys that decide to try and create a new world record for kissing for 32 hours straight, was the cause of the controversy, as some people seemed to have a problem with the idea of two boys kissing. Another reason was because some parents deemed the cover artwork, that specifically shows boys kissing, as inappropriate.

35. How to Be Antiracist

You would think a book titled 'How to be Racist' would be the problem in terms of banned books, but apparently the opposite of how not to be racist is the issue. This book, a nonfiction work by Ibram X. Kendi, came out in 2019 and did help to put the word 'antiracist' on the map.
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Unfortunately, it was banned five times during a school year, adding to the list of banned reads. The book was written as part memoir, and discussed social issues of racism and ethnicity, which some people thought weren't appropriate for schools.

36. I Am Jazz

This book, written by Jazz Jennings (shown here with the dark hair) and Jessica Herthel, focuses on the real life story of Jazz Jennings, who was assigned male at birth but realized she was a girl very early on in life. As she grew older, she worked to become a voice for children
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who realize they are trans at a very young age, and this book was written about her experience. It was then banned on five separate lists during one school year. Jazz later wrote a follow up book (which was also banned) 'Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen'.

37. We Are the Ants

This work of fiction was in the genre of science fiction, written by author Shaun David Hutchinson, but unfortunately was quite a controversial topic where school books were concerned. The book focused on the main character of Henry, who had a boyfriend that died by suicide.
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The book was on a ton of 'best of' lists for books you need to read, while also being banned five times during one school year due to its topic of both suicide, and the fact that the main characters were two males in a relationship. Outside of schools, it's been labelled as an LGBTIQA+ must-read.

38. Killing Mr Griffin

This book by Lois Duncan was published in 1978, but its problematic themes meant it ended up on more than one school book banned list during the course of one school year - five bans in total, in fact. The book is a suspense novel which deals with teenage students
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deciding to kidnap and murder a teacher they don't like. While in general the book is appreciated for its horror tropes and its suspenseful writing, it didn't sit well with schools. To be fair, dealing with a teacher who is kidnapped is probably a rough topic for schools!

39. Lucky

One of author Alice Sebold's best known works is Lovely Bones, which was adapted into a movie, and one of her other books that garnered attention was also Lucky. The book was actually a memoir rather than a work of fiction, and it detailed the author's own experience of when she was r*ped in college - an ordeal she luckily survived.
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The book not only explains the experience, but includes graphic depictions of it - enough for schools to want to place it on the banned list. The book had further controversy because Sebold identified the wrong man as her attacker, with the innocent man himself being imprisoned.

40. The Truth About Alice

We all know about "sl*t shaming" in our modern society, and it's something that happens a lot with younger people, too. This book actually explores the idea of sl*t shaming amongst a group of teenagers. Unfortunately, the topic meant that it was banned in schools, and in total was part of six book bans in a whole year.
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The main character of the book is a girl in high school who becomes the victim of a rumor by a football player, claiming she had s*x with him and another guy. One of the reasons the book was controversial was that people claimed it was part p*rnography.

41. Real Live Boyfriends

The full title of this book, which is very long, is actually: Real Live Boyfriends*: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver". Written by E Lockhart, and one of the four books which make up the Ruby Oliver series by this author,
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this one is actually the most controversial of the series, and for that reason was banned a total of six times during one school year back in 2021/2022. The book contains both s*xual content and sl*t shaming, and tackles a lot of issues that teenagers face today.

42. Almost Perfect

This book by author Brian Katcher follows the story of an American high school student named Logan, who gets a crush - nothing new there in terms of high school drama, but the problem some people found with this book was that the person he developed a crush on was a trans teenager named Sage.
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It made its way into the top 50 banned books in America, due to the fact it dealt with gender identity issues and s*xual orientation. It was also controversial due to its depictions of nudity and depictions of s*xual activities.

43. Speak

This book by author Laurie Halse Anderson deals with a very difficult topic, but even more so because it was based on her own life experience. The book follows a girl named Melinda who, after being r*ped, calls the police, but rather than finding justice, she becomes selectively mute after she is shunned by society.
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It then became one of the topped banned books in America, and it was taken out of school libraries and classrooms on six separate occasions. While you might think it was banned due to the topic of r*pe, the main issues were actually things like cursing and s*x before marriage.

44. Dear Martin

This book was written by Nic Stone, a story that tells of a black student in high school that has a dangerous confrontation with some white police officers. The student then writes to Martin Luther King Jr to ask him for advice on what he would do in this situation.
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Author Nic Stone originally started writing the story after the real life murder of black teenager Jordan Davis by a white man, and the murder of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer. It was banned a total of seven times in schools during one year.

45. The 57 Bus

"The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives", as its full title, is a book by Dashka Slater, and included on the top 50 books banned in America, including schools. The book tells of two teenagers, one of which is a black high school student,
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and the other a white transgender person, who ride the bus together every day. The book was subsequently banned because of its discussions about the criminal justice system, the race issues and also gender identity due to one of the characters being transgender.

46. Sold

Patricia McCormick's book, Sold, tells the story of a girl from Nepal who is sold into slavery for the purpose of s*x. The book was powerful enough to be made into a movie, which was released in 2014, but it was also controversial enough to be banned a total of seven different occasions in schools.
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This was mainly due to the book's depictions of violent and its s*xual content which is described graphically and in a detailed way. Some people believed this wasn't an appropriate topic to be included in libraries in schools.

47. A Court of Mist and Fury

Fans of Sarah J. Maas's fantasy series that all began with a Court of Thorns and Roses may be surprised to learn that one of the young adult novels was actually banned in schools. If you've read the series, though, you'll know that A Court of Mist and Fury in particular has a lot more s*xual content than the other books.
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It was purely this s*xual content that found the book being banned seven times from schools in a year. It was so controversial that even the state legislator in Virginia, Tim Anderson, tried to sue the bookseller Barnes & Noble for selling the book.

48. Monday's Not Coming

Monday's Not Coming by author Tiffany D. Jackson is a story that's relevant now more than ever, depicting the case of a black teenage girl who goes missing, only for her case and disappearance never to be looked into, or solved. It was based on the real life story,
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not of just one missing black girl, but the many who have not received enough attention by the media - or the police. The book was banned in schools, and one of the top 50 banned books in America, due to its subject matter of racism and justice. It was taken out of classrooms and school libraries.

49. It's Perfectly Normal

"It's Perfectly Normal" apparently wasn't normal enough for it not to be controversial, and included on school shelves. Its full title being "It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health", this book by Robie Harrie was supposed to be a way for growing children to understand puberty,
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the ways their bodies are changing and what to understand about s*x. The reason for most of its controversy came from the pictures and descriptions included in the book, which were scientifically accurate. It was then banned in schools.

50. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Another controversial book on the banned list has been "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book details the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and inevitably deals with difficult themes of grief and death, as well as trauma.
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The book, which has been considered one of the most influential, as well as being turned into a movie, has been banned on more than one occasion in school libraries and classrooms. There was one year alone it was banned seven times.