The parent of a Galileo STEM Academy student complained to administrators of the West Ada School District about the bestselling young adult novel Looking for Alaska (Speak, 2005) being available in the school library. When officials received the complaint, they launched an administrative review instead of following district policy, which requires "reconsideration of supplemental learning and library resources," including input from other parents. An assistant superintendent, along with library, curriculum and language arts coordinators, made the decision to pull Looking for Alaska from all Meridian middle school library shelves.
"What's hard is that the age range in the YA genre is really wide. It's 12 to 20 years old," said West Ada District Chief Communication Officer Eric Exline. "What was the concern? In this case, there's description of pornography, there's smoking, and the book ends with a kind of question about a possible suicide. Even the author says it's really intended for high school students."
Rediscovered Books co-owner Laura DeLaney said author John Green, who won the Printz Award for Looking for Alaska and also penned the bestseller The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012), has "an enormous impact" on youth.
"His books do an incredibly good job at thoughtfully looking at what challenges face a young person," said DeLaney. "The thing I treasure about John Green's writing is he's great at connecting with kids, and can put words to situations that are almost impossible to describe."
DeLaney wasn't pleased when she heard Looking for Alaska had been pulled from Meridian middle school library shelves.
"Bookstores and libraries create true discovery," she said. "When we take choice away, we don't honor that individual's own experience. I'm an enormous believer in the power of choice and that moment when people discover things that they didn't expect."
While Looking for Alaska is no longer available in Meridian middle school libraries, it's still a big seller at Rediscovered.
"Do want to hear something ironic? I just sold [a] copy to a woman who's a librarian in Meridian," said DeLaney.