Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Support Hold Still

Oh, Missouri. When will you stop banning books? Today I found out that the novel Hold Still by Nina LaCour is being challenged by parents in Blue Springs Missouri. The book has been removed from the school, despite only having a verbal complaint, and is being challenged for language and eight other books on the list are being challenged for "vulgarity and acts of sex, incest and homosexuality." This banning hurts for several reasons-I hate when books are challenged and banned and this is happening in the state I live in.

But this banning is very personal to me because Hold Still is on the Gateway Reader's Award List for 2011-2012 and I was part of the committee that voted on that list. The Gateway booklist is compiled by Missouri Librarians for high school students to read. If students read four or more titles in the year, they can vote on the list and choose which book they think is the best book that year. The goals of the Gateway Award are simple:
  1. To encourage Missouri young adults in grades nine through twelve to select and read quality literature that appeals to their needs, interests and reading levels.
  2. To recognize and honor outstanding works in young adult literature.
  3. To develop a cooperative relationship among schools, libraries and teens.
  4. To encourage the development of school and public library services to teens.
The Gateway Committee reads and nominates titles throughout the year. There are lots of nominations and two meetings during the nomination process. In August, the committee meets to vote and narrow down the master list of nominees to a list of 25 preliminary titles. Those preliminary titles are then sent to reader selectors, a group of readers that include teachers, librarians, parents and most importantly, teens themselves. In December the reader selectors send in their votes and rankings and the master list is compiled. The teen votes matter and this a teen choice award. Last year's Gateway list had 112,000 votes were cast by students for their favorite titles.

I read Hold Still and felt that it deserved a place on the list. So did the other committee members, reader selectors and teens. In my review of Hold Still, I commented that

"Suicide books can be hard to get right-you don't want them too angsty and angry or too mushy and preachy and I think the author had a nice balance here....Overall this is a beautifully written book about healing and I really hope it makes the list."

One of the points of criteria for the Gateway Award is that "Books should be of literary value which may enrich teenagers' personal lives." Hold Still is a touching novel about grief, friendship, depression, and recovering from loss. Sadly, many teens have to deal with these issues and I found Hold Still to have a hope that it gets better and that you can get through depressing times in life, no matter how hard it may seem at the time.

Is every book on the list going to be for every reader? No. That's why the final list has 15 titles-to give teens a variety of books to choose from. The list is put together by a committee of professional librarians and then given to teen reader selectors for their input before the final list is made. Teens voted on Hold Still, as well as the other titles on the list, and chose what they felt were the books that should make up the final list of 15. I believe that Hold Still deserves a place on the list and I support Hold Still.

Update: The other eight titles they have flagged on the list are:

Fat Cat by Robin Brande
The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
King of the Screwups by K.L. Going
Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff


  1. Missouri has a lot of challenges it seems like. It's so sad because this is such a great book and it deals with the topic in a very delicate but approachable fashion. As usual, I'm sad by the small-mindedness of people.

  2. Oh, Missouri. *sigh*

    I still remember recommending Hold Still for purchase at our library before it was ever nominated as a Gateway. I was immensely excited to see it nominated, and even more confused as to why it was being challenged!

  3. Sarah-Yes, this book is very approachable and I liked that it tackled tough issues without being overly sappy or preachy. What really bothers me is that this school was using the Gateway List as an extra-credit reading list and the parents didn't complain until their daughter had read the entire book. I think parents should be pro-active in their kids reading instead of waiting until the kid has read the entire book to complain.

  4. Jessi-Yes, I know. And if you look at the list of other books they are challenging, it doesn't really make sense. I don't think they've read the books at all, but are challengning them based on the plot summary.

  5. When I heard about this on twitter this morning from someone who lives in Michigan (words travel fast), I wanted to find out more when I got to work!

    What really "busts my buttons" about this situation is that parents who come out and brought this thing public because of an assignment that wasn't even a required read but a "choice"/extra credit assignment. Then I continued to read that the parents read all 15 of the books and question 8 or 9 of the other books on the list! Really, you have that much time to go and read these books and freak out about something as petty as this. I mean gosh they weren't concerned about "Hate List" that is on the list and that is about a school shooting!!!

    When I started book talking these this year at my school, I told all of the kids the books are this list this year have heavy topics so they are not light and fluffy reads. Hold Still is one that I still haven't read (never got to read it over the summer) but my paras in my library have and said that they can't remember anything that someone might be upset about. This book and all of the others are hardly ever on the display and have long waiting lists for them!

    For the 2012-13 list, I am on the reader selector committee for those books so I too would feel offended if I found out one of the books that I liked and wanted to be on the list was being challenged publicly. I really liked what you had to say on your post!

  6. All i can say is for the parents to wake up and get their heads out of the sand. These are topics that concern our kids and we face a terrible lose if we ignore them. As a parent who nearly lost a child to suicide, depression and the care/lack of care that it gets is a continuing topic at our house. The more people who talk about these difficult subjects, the better we will be able to address them. Parents shouldn't be challenging books just because they are uncomfortable with the topic.

  7. Allison-Same at our library-the Gateway books are hardly on the shelf. I love talking to the teens about them throughout the year and they want to read the books with issues because I think it makes them feel less alone as well as gives them an understanding to something they might be struggling with or have heard about. And the fact that they didn't have a problem with Hate List or After-really? I think they were just picking a choosing based on keywords and not reading the books at all.

  8. Heather-Thank you so much for commenting! I agree these are important issues that parents need to talk about with their teens. Sadly, there are many teens who aren't being talked to and I think books can help teens who are dealing with issues and struggling with hard topics and aren't talking to anyone.

  9. If I Stay????? What in the world? Banned for giving someone a paper cut? I can't remember anything questionable in that book.

  10. I haven't read "Hold Still" but heard about the banning and was incredibly surprised.

    I read "Purple Heart" just this week and was blown away by how amazing it was. Loved the book! Very surprised it was being talked about too.

    Fight the good fight Sarah! I completely agree with you.


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