Free to Read: Books for Kids in Middle School

By Skokie Staff Youth Services

We celebrate the freedom to read by highlighting books that have been banned, censored, or challenged in schools and libraries across the country.

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

    2017 by Alexie, Sherman

    Based on the author's own experiences, this National Book Award winning novel is routinely challenged and banned due to mentions of drugs, alcohol, smoking, offensive language, sexuality, racism, and general unsuitability for children.

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  • Speak

    1999 by Anderson, Laurie Halse

    This award winning New York Times bestseller is an honest and beautifully written book about the journey of a survivor of sexual assault. It was also the fourth-most-banned book in 2020 due to perceived antimale bias, political viewpoints, profanity, and descriptions of sexual violence.

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  • Feed

    2002 by Anderson, M. T.

    A National Book Award finalist about a future in which humans are implanted with computer chips in their heads to control their environment. This book was banned in a Virginia high school in 2012 "because the book is trash and covered with the F-word."

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  • The Hunger Games

    2008 by Collins, Suzanne

    This thrilling, critically acclaimed series has seen astronomical success, including a beloved movie franchise, but "insensitivity, offensive language, violence, anti-family, anti-ethic and occult/satanic” mentions have earned it a consistent place near the top of the American Library Association's Most Banned List.

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  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

    2014 by Kuklin, Susan

    Featuring interviews with six teenagers as they go through the process of gender transition or nonconformity, this book has been banned for its LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content and use of offensive language.

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  • The Giver

    2012 by Lowry, Lois

    A winner of the Newbery Medal in 1994, this book tells the story of a boy named Jonas who is chosen to bear the truths of his community and society at large. It has been challenged for its themes of sexuality, infanticide, and euthanasia.

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  • Monster

    1999 by Myers, Walter Dean

    This multiple honor and award nominee tells the story of a 17-year-old boy awaiting trial for murder. In 2013, a group of families in Oak Park, Illinois, requested that the book be removed from the school district due to its use of explicit language and mature themes.

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  • Now I'll Tell You Everything

    2013 by Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

    This series featuring the character Alice McKinley begins after her mother's death in fourth grade and follows her through girlhood and into college in the final installment. It has been routinely challenged for sexual content.

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  • The Golden Compass

    1996 by Pullman, Philip

    You may have seen The Golden Compass portrayed on the big screen or most recently to great acclaim on HBO, but these gorgeously written fantasy novels about a scrappy girl and her animal companion often show up on banned book lists due to their anti-religious standpoints, politics, and portrayals of violence.

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  • All American Boys

    2015 by Reynolds, Jason

    Told from the perspectives of two boys--one who experiences brutality at the hands of police and one who witnesses it--this powerful book is the recipient of multiple awards and starred reviews. It is also one of the top ten most challenged books of the past year due to "profanity, drug use, and alcoholism," divisive topics, promotion of anti-police views, and, finally, it was deemed by some “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”

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  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

    2020 by Reynolds, Jason

    A "remix" of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's important Stamped from the Beginning, this adaptation provides insight and context for those looking to understand systemic racism. Despite wide critical success, this book has been banned and challenged for “selective storytelling incidents” and claims that its reach is not wide enough, in that it does not cover racism against all people.

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  • Eleanor & Park

    2013 by Rowell, Rainbow

    This award-winning book about two teens in a Nebraska town navigating their first experience of love was challenged in a Virginia school district for being "pornographic" and filled with "vile, nasty language." It has also been criticized for its stereotypical and demeaning descriptions of Asian people.

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