BooksJacket Copy

Florida school nixes John Green's 'Paper Towns,' prompts outcry

"Paper Towns," a John Green mystery, is removed from summer reading list at a Florida middle school
One parent, objecting to "'sexual content," causes removal of John Green novel from school summer reading list

John Green’s novel “Paper Towns” is set in the place he grew up, Orlando, Fla. It’s a murder mystery that won the 2009 Edgar Award for young adult mystery, and a great read, and must have seemed ideal summer reading to the educators at a middle school in Wesley Chapel, about 90 miles northeast of Tampa.

Then one parent began to peruse the book her middle-schooler child had been encouraged to read. Objecting to the book’s "sexual content,” she wrote an email to a member of the school board, who forwarded it to a member of the Pasco County School Board, according to media reports. Although the parent did not ask for the book to be removed from the summer reading list at John Long Middle School, it was removed just a few days later, on June 23.

Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson told Tampa media last week that Long Middle School removed the book from the reading list of its own accord and not by edict from the school district. The book remains on the shelves of libraries at several nearby high schools.

The decision to remove the book earned a response Monday from the National Coalition Against Censorship.

“No sound educational rationale for removing the book has been articulated, nor is it likely that one could be,” the coalition’s leaders wrote in an email to Superintendent Kurt Browning and school board members Monday. “ ‘Paper Towns’ is a highly praised and critically acclaimed novel.” 

The coalition pointed out that Green’s book is often taught in conjunction with Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” which is an important text within the novel.

Hector Tobar tweets about matters literary on Twitter as @TobarWriter

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Authors United takes its case to Amazon's board of directors
    Authors United takes its case to Amazon's board of directors

    More than 1,000 writers acting as Authors United have signed a letter to be delivered to the 10 members of Amazon's corporate board. One of those board members has already gotten a letter from the group -- that's Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, the recipient of the first Authors United...

  • Is Oscar Pistorius writing a memoir?
    Is Oscar Pistorius writing a memoir?

    South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, recently convicted of "culpable homicide" in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, might be writing a book about the model's slaying, according to his manager, Peet van Zyl.

  • National Book Award longlist for young adult books announced

    The longlist for the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature was announced Monday. The books are drawn from many genres: fiction, science fiction and fantasy, memoir, nonfiction and mystery.

  • Air travel, literature and its discontents
    Air travel, literature and its discontents

    Flying from Los Angeles to New York on Sunday, I sat next to a kid not too far from my son’s age who had eight drinks in the course of a five-hour flight. I wasn’t trying to keep count, but after a while, it became impossible not to do so — every time the flight attendant...

  • '10:04' by Ben Lerner is an artful look at Ben Lerner
    '10:04' by Ben Lerner is an artful look at Ben Lerner

    It is a rare skill, crafting prose that reads like stream of consciousness, and Ben Lerner has it. He's as smooth as W.G. Sebald, witnessing the world go by, detouring into elegant loops of memory and self-doubt, then returning, effortlessly.

  • 'Cringe' offers tales of mortification -- in comics form
    'Cringe' offers tales of mortification -- in comics form

    We’ve all been there -- shamed to the point of silence by an unintended revelation or faux pas. Not only that, but these experiences linger; I still buckle at the memory of certain situations, certain interactions, even though they have long since passed.