Banned Books #41- George

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read George by Alex Gino.

Note: This month’s book was supposed to be The Color Of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa but unfortunately we have not been able to get hold of a copy for a reasonable price so we’ve had to make a last minute switch!

George
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I’m really looking forward to hearing Chrissi’s thoughts on George, she said to me she had “a lot to say,” and I’m very intrigued! I found out about this book a while ago through my sister who has already read and done a full length review of it on her blog. I could have already guessed why the book might be challenged but I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be for the reason stated. *Sigh* of course it is. I was really hoping that in 2016, when this book was originally challenged (published in 2015) we were much more enlightened as a species about transgender issues and a book aimed at children about this subject would not be a big deal. Sadly, I was wrong.

CHRISSI: It actually hurt my heart that this book was challenged. It’s aimed at elementary children and in my eyes isn’t inappropriate at all for that age group. It actually makes me mad that it is challenged. The reason why it’s challenged was because ‘the sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.’ I mean WHAT? Many children know from an early age if they feel like they’re in the wrong body that they were born into. It’s told with a child’s voice. How can it be challenged? I really, really don’t get it.

How about now?

BETH: As George is a very recent release, I’m sure attitudes have not changed very much in the year that it was first challenged. I’d be upset to see it appear again when the list for 2017 comes out but you’re always going to get those people that feel uncomfortable with children’s sexuality, particularly if it happens to be a child determined that they are the opposite sex from the body they have been born into. I think this book is entirely appropriate for the elementary level as it is handled in a very intelligent and sensitive way. In fact, I think children definitely shouldn’t be shielded from these things because in a way, isn’t that confirming to them that being transgender might be strange/wrong (when obviously it is not?!). Of course, if it can help a child that is struggling with their gender assignment and can see themselves in George then that can only be a good thing, I think.

CHRISSI: It definitely has a place for elementary aged readers and those beyond. I think it’s such an innocent read about a topic that isn’t talked about enough. I have experienced teaching a child who is absolutely determined that she’s a boy. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was transgender. I know a lot of people think it’s just a ‘stage’ and for some children it is, but we’re devaluing those for which it’s not by challenging a book like this. Argh, it makes me mad. Children should read books like this, so they know they’re not alone and that people are different. Such a valuable lesson.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a sweet, quick and easy to read novel. I loved the characters and the message it conveyed although I was quite cross for a little while with a couple of the characters which you might understand if you’ve read this book yourself!

CHRISSI: I think it’s an inspiring read. I’m really pleased I’ve read it and I’d certainly recommend it to elementary aged children!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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Noah Can’t Even

Noah Can't Even

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos.

Thoughts:

I can totally see the appeal of this book. I can see that so many people would enjoy it. It’s light, it’s quite fun and it’s about identity/finding yourself. Yet, at some points I found myself rolling my eyes at this book. It felt a little ridiculous. Whilst this might work for some people, it didn’t really work for me, however, something about it kept me reading, so surely that says something?

Our main character, Noah, is having a pretty shocking time. His Dad has disappeared and his Mum constantly embarrasses him. Noah’s Gran has dementia which is getting progressively worse. Noah has Harry though, a wonderful friend who has always been there for him. Noah is desperate to be ‘normal’ like everyone else. He strikes a friendship up with Sophie who he wants more from. If they get together maybe he’d been seen differently by his peers. Noah’s situation gets even worse when Harry kisses him at a party. Noah’s life seems to be spiralling out of control!

This really was a quick read, that didn’t take me long to read. I can see why people have mixed feelings about it. Noah is quite an infuriating character. I found the way he dealt with situations incredibly frustrating. The humour is quite immature and can be a little crude in places. I know I’m not the target audience…maybe others wouldn’t find it as cringy as I did. I have to admit that some moments in this story did make me laugh out loud, so it’s not all negative.

If you’re into a dramatic contemporary read then I’d say to definitely try this book out. There’s so much teen drama to get stuck into (which’ll either suck you in or annoy you!) and a lot going on throughout the story.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!- This book is definitely not for everyone and whilst I found it easy enough to read, it wasn’t a memorable read for me.

I wasn’t the target audience for this book. It didn’t quite sit right with me, but I know others would enjoy it!

History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
More Happy Than Not

Synopsis:

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. 

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed More Happy Than Not but this book completely surpassed it in my opinion. It was such a touching read. I knew it was going to be a heart-breaking one as I had heard as much, but I didn’t expect it to have such an impact on me. Adam Silvera is a truly beautifully writer.

History Is All You Left Me centres around Griff who has just lost his first love and ex-boyfriend in a tragic accident. Theo had moved to California for college and started a new relationship with a guy called Jackson. Griffin always thought that Theo would come back to him, but now the future has completely turned around for Griffin. The only person that understands his heartache is Jackson. Even though they begin to open up to one another, Griffin is spiralling out of control. His compulsions are getting worse and secrets are tearing him apart. To move on, Griffin is going to have to face up to his history.

I loved that this story flipped between past and present times. I’m always tentative when I know a book jumps about between time periods, but for this book it really did work. I loved reading about their history and how they were doing in present times. It really made me feel like I could get to know the characters. The characters are so well written. They are absolutely messed up which is understandable considering a very special guy to them has died. I could feel Griffin’s pain through the pages and although I don’t agree with everything he did, I could understand why he had acted in that way.

As for the representation of OCD? A round of applause to Adam Silvera. I don’t have OCD myself, but have several friends who do and the representation was so well done. I could really sympathise with Griffin.

There is romance in this book. A lot of romance. I have mixed feelings about it. I loved Griffin and Theo’s relationship and was rooting for them at the start. Then when he moved away to California everything started to get a little messy. Actually I lie, very, very messy! There was a lot of heartache between many characters and so much hurt. This certainly isn’t an ‘easy’ read.

This book is heartbreaking, but so very worth reading. It’s a beauty that’s for sure and I can’t wait to read Adam Silvera’s most recent book!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A beautiful read. I didn’t expect to like this one as much!

This Is How It Is

This Is How It Always Is

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time – and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.

As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?

Warm, touching and bittersweet, THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a novel about families, love and how we choose to define ourselves. It will make you laugh and cry – and see the world differently.

Thoughts:

This book came into my hands from the book pusher that is Beth. She said she thought I’d really enjoy it, so of course, I pushed it to the top of my TBR. I thought This Is Where It Ends was such a touching read.

It centres around Rosie and Penn who have had many boys. They’re desperate for a baby girl. However, when Claude is born he adds to their group of boys. Claude is different though. Claude wants to be a girl. It starts with him wearing dresses and using ‘girly’ accessories. As time goes on, it’s clear Claude is serious about being a girl. It’s not just a ‘phase’. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever they want to be. Soon problems start to occur at school and in their local community. Rosie and Penn are wondering whether Claude should change or should Claude continue being whoever they want to be. Does the world need to change?

This really is such a touching read. It is easy to fall in love with the family. I loved how Rosie and Penn accepted that Claude wanted to be Poppy. I loved that they embraced his sensitive side. Even though it was clear that Rosie and Penn were struggling with people’s reactions and what the future meant for Poppy, it was lovely that they still gave Poppy the opportunity to be themselves. The ignorance that Poppy and the family encounter, is totally believable. Even in 2017, many people still experience ignorance because of their differences.

I loved how the book didn’t try to pretend that everything was rosy for the family. It really wasn’t. The siblings suffered and struggled, although they did have love for Poppy…life wasn’t easy and isn’t that just right?

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fabulous read, I highly recommend it!

Unboxed

Unboxed

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Unboxed is about four teenagers who come together after several months apart. In previous years, they had put together a time capsule about their best summer with a friend who was dying. Now that their friend has passed, they reunite to open the box.

Thoughts:

Unboxed is such a cute friendship story. It’s less than 200 pages long, but really does pack a punch. It centres around one evening. It’s about a group of friends who have drifted apart as they went separate ways in their lives. One of the group has died recently, and it is her wish that they reunite to retrieve a time capsule that they buried five years previous.

I was so surprised that I grew to love all of the characters, despite it being such a short read. It is so easy to read this book in one sitting. It’s got short, snappy chapters and an interesting story line. Non Pratt is absolutely fantastic at character development. I felt like I’d know the characters for ages! The characters are completely believable and I was desperate to know more about them.

This really is a wonderful story and I’m glad I took the time to read it!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Beautifully written with fantastic characters. Easy to devour in one sitting!

Release

Release

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Chaos Walking Trilogy:

Standalone:

Synopsis:

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Thoughts:

As soon as I hear that Patrick Ness has a new book coming out, I pre-order it straight away. He’s one of my auto-buy authors. I don’t even read the synopsis of the book. It’s going to be mine, without fail. I always wonder if I hype him too much, I mean, I love The Ness, I’ve made no secret of that fact. I always think I’m going to be disappointed by my high expectations for his work. It hasn’t happened to me…until now. However, it’s only a slight disappointment and even though I have my reservations about Release, I have seen so many positive reviews, so if you’re a Patrick Ness fan, don’t despair. His writing is beautiful and story so unique.

Release is similar to The Rest Of Us Just Live Here in the fact that it has two parallel plots that don’t really hit each other. There’s the plot that follows Adam Thorn and his life and then there’s a magical realism type fairy tale. Something you’d think I’d love, given my adoration of fairy tales, right? It’s like reading two separate stories. It worked for me for The Rest Of Us Just Live Here but for some reason, it didn’t work for me with Release. The book covers a lot of issues in a short space of time. There’s teen angst, family issues, love and extremely likeable characters. It’s also got a touch of paranormal.

I absolutely cannot fault Patrick Ness. I am still a huge fan, despite not loving this book in particular. His writing is amazing and the characters he creates are in-depth and extremely well considered. Release’s two plot lines just did not work for me. I wanted more of Adam’s story. I found his story to be powerful and compelling whereas the other plot line just felt a little cold.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Whilst this wasn’t my favourite book by Mr Ness, it was still a good read and one which many’ll enjoy!

As I Descended

As I Descended

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Lies We Tell Ourselves
What We Left Behind

Synopsis:

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

Thoughts:

I absolutely loved Robin Talley’s debut novel, but was a little disappointed by her second release. However, the synopsis of this book had me easily gripped and I knew I had to read it. I also really enjoy retellings and I was intrigued by the modern take on Macbeth.

As I Descended takes place at a boarding school. Our main characters use a Ouija board and that is the catalyst to the madness…Although this story is told from multiple points of view, Maria is the main focus of this story. She is determined to take down Delilah, who is the front runner for the Kingsley Prize, a scholarship for college. It will give her more time with Lily, her girlfriend. Maria and Lily work hard to make sure Maria gets that prize, no matter what it takes. The story definitely takes a turn for the worse when creepy things begin to happen….

I really enjoy Robin Talley’s writing style, she created such a wonderfully chilling atmosphere, I just had to keep turning the pages. I absolutely loved the diversity in the characters. As a reader, you can find LGBT characters and also a character with a physical disability.

If you don’t know much about Macbeth then it really doesn’t matter. I know the plot of Macbeth, but I’ve never read it and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! It’s not quite Lies We Tell Ourselves, but it’s a creepy, intriguing read!