Friday, October 25, 2013

23 Books My Daughter WON'T be Reading in 7th Grade English Class

We take our children's schooling experience one year at a time - if works for us this year, we'll keep going, if not we'll try something different next year. After seven years of homeschooling, we decided to let our oldest daughter have the opportunity to try public school, which she strongly desired to do. I knew that would require my diligent involvement in her schoolwork and continued communication with her teachers to maintain the Christian Worldview and strong work ethic we have worked hard to instill in her.

Monday, she came in the door with, "Mom, I've got a paper you need to sign..." It was titled, "Secondary Reading List Permission Form" (I won't go on the tangents of why this shouldn't be necessary, the problems with Common Core standards, or should we just go back to homeschooling - all of which I have strong opinions about, but that's not the point here.) I was somewhat expecting and hoping for this paper, because as a writer, I want know that my daughter is reading quality literature - however I didn't realize the time involvement it would require from me to do the necessary research.

The form gave two signing options 1. Sure, let her read whatever the teacher assigns or 2. Ok, let her read what the teacher assigns, with the EXCEPTION of... (my paraphrase of the formal language) - not a problem, I can weed out a few inappropriate books, right? However the list has 370 books on it!

 I spent the next three days reading reviews of "Young Adult" literature (because I haven't heard of most of them). It was a lot of work, but worth it for the sake of my daughter and hopefully all my research will be helpful to you as well.

A Couple of Disclaimers about this list:
1. My list of books was based on 4 criteria:
(S) Explicit Sexual References/Scenes;
(V) Extreme Violence, not related to historical events;
(L) Excessive Foul Language;
(T) Very Mature Themes
If a book contained one or more of these criteria, it was added to the list of books that I DO NOT give permission for my daughter to read in 7th Grade English class.
I had to limit my exclusions somehow or I'm sure I could have found something wrong with just about every book on the list.

2. I based my opinions on the book reviews I found on and - the first site gives unbiased ratings based on content plus parent reviews, on Amazon I read 1 star ratings, looking for any obvious objections that met my criteria.

3. My NOT APPROVED list is based on our School District's Suggested Reading List and what I feel  MY fairly mature 12 year old daughter should be reading- I don't feel these books are appropriate at this time in her life.

The List (in no particular order):
  1. Kissing Tennessee by Kathi Appelt (S)
  2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (T)
  3. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (S)
  4. A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich by Alice Childress (T)
  5. The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin (S)
  6. The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (V)
  7. Story Time by Edward Bloor (L)
  8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (T)
  9. Agnus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (S)
  10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (L)
  11. Bless the Beast and the Children by Glendon Swarthout (L)
  12. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (SL)
  13. Blood Red Road by Moira Young (VL)
  14. Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (SLV)
  15. Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep (S)
  16. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (TSV)
  17. Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper (SV)
  18. Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr (S)
  19. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (T)
  20. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (V)
  21. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (SLV)
  22. Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher (TS)
  23. Deathwatch by Robb White (V)
Some final thoughts on what I've learned from this experience:
  • There is a serious lack of good literature for teens.
  • Amazon reviews aren't necessarily thoughtful or constructive critiques.
  •  Most "Young Adult" literature is about the same 5 topics: paranormal, dystopia, the ravages of war, racial issues in America or sappy teen romance.
  • I think books should come with ratings like TV and Movies - navigating appropriate books for teens would be much easier.
  • The written word is powerful to shape young minds - as a parent I must be extremely cautious about what I allow my children to be exposed to.
  • I praise God for the wisdom and discernment that He has given me on this task and pray that He will be honored by the decisions I make for my family.


  1. I'm so glad I found this! Thank you for your time and effort - I will post it to our FB page so others can benefit :)

  2. I agree with many of the books listed above and am encouraged by your commitment to be knowledgeable about the book list your daughter's teacher gave her. I believe that sometimes the books put on these lists are there in the hopes of getting a student to read...anything!

    There is one book that I will respectfully disagree with and hopefully be able to explain my reasons for that. The book in question is "Forged By Fire" written by Sharon M. Draper. This book was tagged for "extreme violence" and "explicit sexual references/scenes." The theme of this book could easily be physical and sexual abuse.

    I will not question the violence or sexual references because they are in this book. However, I do question the "explicit and extreme" tags. The violence starts early, only the second page in, where Gerald is being taught a lesson for playing with his mother's lighter. Draper could have made this sickeningly violent but instead used words that allows us to understand. For example, "a cruel red soldier that made his hand scream" is how Draper describes this scene. Any violence towards a child is extreme, however, she writes it without being graphic.

    The references towards sex is never explicit and only implied. In Chapter Ten it reads, "He touched her back, and she tensed at the roughness of his fingers. Angel wept silently while he explored her body for chicken pox spots." Again in Chapter Twelve right before he is arrested, "He picked her up and placed her gently on the bed. Angel trembled with disgust and fear." While we, as adults know exactly what is going on, it is NEVER written. This is as "explicit" as it gets.

    I commend you for wanting to keep your daughter safe as most parents are, but as hard as we try to protect them, they will see the ugly side of this world. What better way than for you and her to read this book together so you can answer questions as they come up? There are even questions in the back of the book if you are in need of a conversation starter.

    By allowing her to read this book, she will obtain real world background knowledge that she will have access too. With this knowledge, if someone from school (high school or college) trusts her enough to share, she will have the wisdom to know what they are saying and what to do. Wisdom is a gift we can share with our children but only they can learn and use it.

    These are just my thoughts. I think your daughter is a very lucky young lady to have you in her corner.