After an outcry from parents led West Ashley High School administrators to remove a young-adult novel from a freshman summer reading list, fans of the book responded by donating nearly 1,000 copies to the Charleston County Public Library.
The book, Courtney Summers' 2010 novel “Some Girls Are,” focuses on themes of bullying, rape and teenage drug use. Reached by email, Summers said she is not aware of any other instances in which her book has been removed from school reading lists.
“If someone chooses not to read my books, whatever their reasons, I respect that,” Summers said. “But I find it very troubling when someone makes that choice for other readers who might feel differently.”
English 1 Honors students at West Ashley were originally assigned “Some Girls Are” as one of two options for summer reading, but when some parents told district and school leaders that they objected to the book's explicit language and references to oral sex and drug use, Principal Lee Runyon replaced the book in late July with Laurie Halse Anderson's 1999 novel “Speak,” another young-adult book that deals with themes of bullying and rape.
Within days of “Some Girls Are” being taken off the reading list, Wisconsin-based blogger and former librarian Kelly Jensen organized a donation drive via the book blog Stacked, asking readers to send in copies of the book for her to ship to Andria Amaral, young adult services manager at the Charleston County Public Library.
“I don't think teens are given enough credit in terms of making their own choices and decisions, and this seemed like a way to say, 'There are people in your community who care about you and who want you to be able to make decisions about what you're reading and thinking about and talking about,' ” Jensen said.
According to Amaral, an initial shipment of about 830 copies started arriving in boxes at the library's main branch on Calhoun Street on Aug. 24. The total has since risen to nearly 1,000 as donors have found the library's address and started mailing copies independently, she said.
The library already had seven copies of the book in circulation before the controversy arose, Amaral said, and the donated copies will be available to take home for free — no library card needed. Some of the donated copies have been sent to the Cynthia Graham Hurd St. Andrews Regional Library, and copies will also be available starting Thursday at the West Ashley branch on Windermere Boulevard.
“I think a lot of parents would like to pretend this isn't happening out there, but it really is,” Amaral said of the book's content. “I don't think there's anything worse in this book than what kids are seeing on TV or talking amongst themselves. It's reality.”
Summers said she is “beyond words” at the response to the donation drive.
“It's been very inspiring to witness so many people coming together to advocate for teen readers and take a stand against censorship in such a positive way,” Summers said. “I'm grateful for the support from and generosity of everyone involved.”