...I give you the ALA's list of the most frequently challenged books last year.
A few observations:
It's not an entirely comfortable list. It's easy to expect that books only get challenged for being too progressive, too sexy, too full of bad words, and in those cases, the counterarguments flow smoothly. Kids (and adults) have the right to think for themselves and to explore new ideas in a safe environment, they're seeing it all on the Internet anyway, et cetera, et cetera. But three books in the top ten were challenged for racism. A book in question may aim to show that racism is wrong, but who am I to say that no one should feel uncomfortable with the way a race is discussed or portrayed, for any purpose?
But that's sort of the point of Banned Books Week and the movement against censorship. Books get to be here even if someone doesn't like them, no matter who that someone is. Censorship is not always a neat liberal/conservative issue, and defending the right to write and to read can mean defending books we don't agree with. Yes, this might mean defending Gossip Girl or something like it. (Defending does not necessarily mean praising.)
Item 3, the Hunger Games trilogy, highlights for me how individual these cases are, and how silly it is to ask whether a book is appropriate for an audience at large. I've been asked pretty frequently whether these books are appropriate for a(n) [eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen]-year-old, and my response is to explain the premise and then say, "You probably know better than I do whether that's something (s)he can handle." (Interestingly, when I add, "There is a lot of violence, but there's no sexual content," a lot of these parents seem reassured enough to seriously consider the books.)
I haven't read any of the ttyl books, but now I want to. In the meantime, Alice in the Know has been on my to-read shelf for a good while; thanks, would-be censors, for the excuse to read it between September 30 and October 6.
I'll be at the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, still blown away by Code Name Verity. Hope I'll see some of you there!