Lisa Burstein: “On Banning Books”

Posted October 4, 2012 by Sara | Novel Novice 2 Comments

Today, we are thrilled to welcome author Lisa Burstein, with a special guest blog relating to Banned Books Week.

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Books are banned in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it is a school denying a book to their students. Sometimes it is a library refusing to shelve it. Sometimes it is a media outlet refusing to review a book because of content.

The latter is what happened to my book, PRETTY AMY.

A couple of months ago a national teen magazine (the kind in grocery stores) was supposed to write a review for PRETTY AMY. A copy of the book had been sent to both their east and west coast offices. We were assured that even if the review didn’t make it into their print magazine, it would definitely be on their website.

I’m not sure how much you all know about getting reviews from major publications, but it is damn hard, and I was ecstatic that an actual in-print magazine liked PRETTY AMY enough to want to review it. My publicist worked her butt-off for it and it was a real win for PRETTY AMY.

I don’t know exactly what went down or how it did, but a few months ago we were told they were passing on their review because “the book contained drug use and they didn’t want to promote it to their readers.”

I was shocked. Sure there is nothing in the description that overtly mentions “drug use”, but “drug use” encompasses about two pages of the book. They smoke some pot. The book is not about using drugs. It does not glorify it, or promote it.

PRETTY AMY has been described as, “a must read if you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong or don’t know what you want to do with your life.” Ironically that review is from the website for Girls Life magazine — another national teen magazine that was able to look past the “drugs” and see what PRETTY AMY is really about. A book about a girl struggling to find her place in the world, which if you know a teenager can sometimes mean “using drugs.”

Since then, there are teens who have *gasp* read and reviewed PRETTY AMY favorably and I asked a few of them why they think teens should read PRETTY AMY. Why they think it is wrong to block information about a book like this away from teens.

Below are their quotes:

“PRETTY AMY is real life. A lot of teens go through things that Amy went through, we can’t keep this book away from teens that are dealing with what Amy went through. This book may save their lives.”

Madison, Age 17

“Let’s face facts. We’re not the saints you see us to be in books. To be very Cassie-like: Get over it. Most of us are going to do drugs. Most of us are going to drink. My eighth grade class is already doing it. A refreshing tale diving into the story of teen angst, Pretty Amy is a fantastic coming-of-age story that doesn’t gloss over the harsh realities of teen-hood.”

Eileen, Age 13

“Pretty Amy is much more than a book about a teenager involved with drugs and the police.  It is about a teenage girl trying to discover herself past the peer pressure and impressions made by her past.  Yes, there is cussing, drugs, and sex, all of which are temptations that high schoolers and college students face daily!  Teenagers should be allowed to read this book, because it shows that regardless of your past, you can still be who you always aspired to be if you start to care for yourself instead of caring for other people’s opinion of you.”

– Amanda, Age 17

“As a book blogger, I read an awful lot of books. It takes a lot for me to really form a deep connection with a book. PRETTY AMY was so emotional and powerful that it truly left a permanent mark on me. Amy is every teen. She’s shy. She’s troubled. She wants attention. Amy isn’t the first teenage girl to feel like that, and she won’t be the last. Amy truly captures the spirit of being a young and terrified teenage girl. I loved it to pieces, and I can say with absolute confidence that I think nearly all teenagers can read this and walk away with something beautiful.”

Annabelle,  Age 17

“What I loved most about PRETTY AMY was that it was honest–at times, brutally so. The plot follows problems that every high schooler has: disagreements with parents, looking for love, and all of the angst of friendships and betrayals. And, of course, there’s the whole “arrested after prom” twist, something that many teenagers are secretely afraid of (um, after-prom is no way innocent. Ever). The characters are so alive–I could see Amy, Cassie, and Lila so clearly as I read, could imagine walking through the halls of my own high school. As an agented writer and a teenager myself, I think that PRETTY AMY is a book that every teenage girl should read.”

– Amy, Age 16

To help get my book and other banned books into the hands of teens and well everyone, I am running a contest for $175 worth of book buying gift cards and Manuscript Critiques for participating in donation drive for High School and public libraries. See details here !

Sara | Novel Novice
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