September 23 – 29 is Banned Books week, a week celebrating the freedom to read, drawing attention to banned and challenged books, and highlighting persecuted individuals or groups. Each day this week, I’ll countdown the top ten books most often challenged or removed from schools, universities, or libraries across the United States.
#1 – Thirteen Reasons Why
written by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why tops the Banned Books list for the past year due to increased focus since Netflix picked up the rights for an original series. The Young Adult novel, Asher’s debut, focuses on a high school girl who commits suicide following bullying, betrayal and sexual assault. She details her reasons, thirteen of them, for her choice in an audio diary which she mails to a friend after her death and to the ones named in the diary.
It’s challenged and/or banned most often due to its discussion of suicide but also for the reasons leading up to it. Critically, the reviews have been mixed with some saying it glorifies suicide while others state it does nothing to address the role mental illness plays in many attempts and/or successes. Regardless, it’s won many awards, including the 2008 California Book Award silver medal (Young Adult) and Best Books for Young Adults (2008, YALSA).
Universal Pictures optioned the novel for a movie in 2011 but shelved it in favor of a Netflix original series. It premiered in 2017 with a second season slated for 2018. Several of the names of the characters were changed and the second season occurs after the events in the novel. Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah—the girl who committed suicide, received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series.
And there you have it, the Top Ten Most Banned/Most Challenged Books of 2017. Encourage “problematic” stories. Encourage OwnVoices stories. Encourage reading!