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

Literature
"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
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