I struggled to write this post. I started. I stopped. More times than you can imagine and very nearly deleted the whole damn thing and gave up. But in the end I didn't.
Being a writer is hard. Really, really hard.
It's especially hard when you've written something only for others to come out and tear not only what you have written apart but who you are as a person.
And I'm not speaking about a critical review (which is probably hard enough to take if you get a bad one) but about the furore that Into the River has created by winning the NZ Post Children's book of the year award.
The kind of furore where people are asking for the the book and the author to be stripped of the award, to be banned from shops and schools and basically where people seem to want the author's head on a platter.
Ted Dawe is a brave, brave man.
I've never met him or talked to him. He does, though, have my utmost respect for writing something that was important to him and putting it out there for others to read.
And that's a good thing.
We might wish that the world was one of fluffy bunnies and kittens but the reality is quite different. And we need to know this.
Because only by knowing this can we have respect, acceptance and understanding for ourselves and for others.
Should children and young adults be encouraged to look at the positive aspects of life? Most definitely yes.
Should they be blocked, banned and prevented from knowing about the hard aspects of life? Most definitely not.
Because without the bad, how do we hope to create a better place, a better world for everyone and everything that lives in it?
Surely that is the greatest thing we can pass onto the next generation.
And Tango makes three / by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
A true story of 2 penguins who were given an egg to nurture and care for and who raised the chick that hatch to form a family. Sounds kinda cute so far. Which it should be for a children's picture book.
But what if I said that the 2 penguins were both males.
If like me, this probably didn't even register and you just went awww how wonderful. Others out there didn't have quite the same reaction.
Since 2006 it has made the ALA top ten list of banned books 6 times. Because apparently 2 male penguins raising a chick promotes same sex lifestyle and that is wrong.
And no I'm not even kidding.
The perks of being a wallflower / Stephen Chbosky
Struggling to find our place in the world is something that we all go through. Whether as a teenager or as an adult. We all have issues and we all deal with those issues in a way that is unique to us.
Perks is a realistic look at teenage life to today. It's honest. It's painful. It doesn't hold back. And all of that makes it something worthwhile for all teens and adults to read.
It's also appeared on the ALA banned book list 5 times in the last decade. Because it seems being honest about what teens are really going through is something that we should ignore.
Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson.
Sometimes life is hard. And sometimes it goes beyond the realms of hard and in to the truly horrific.
Speak is one such book.
It is also almost overwhelming sad and beautiful, all at the same time. It's about finding your voice even in the face of something terrible like rape.
Sadly some people see this as a bad thing and called for the book to banned because it "exposed children to immorality"
Th1rteen r3asons why / by Jay Asher
Suicide always leaves a wake of unanswered questions for those left behind. But what if the person left a series of recorded messages, detailing their thoughts and feelings ?
In Th1irteen r3asons Hannah does just this. Revealing how one little lie can snowball out of control and the ramifications of that one lie, not just on the victim but on everyone involved.
Once again though there are some who think that talking about suicide is just encouraging others to follow suit. Oh yes teenagers are just lemmings without the ability to think for themselves.
The fault in our stars / John Green
Cancer is no laughing matter. I know from personal experience having seen someone I love die from it.
But living with death also gives you an appreciation for life and in The Fault In Our Stars Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who believe that life is for living even when death is knocking at the door.
They want to experience all that life has to offer and try to do just that.
But talking about life and life experiences including wanting to know what sex feels like is something that others see as something to hide and ban, especially when it concerns young adults, who shouldn't have sexual desire, who shouldn't want to share something intimate with the one they love.
The diary of a young girl / Anne Frank
This is my book. If I was asked to pick the book that meant the most to me, that was my favourite of all time then this would be it.
Words can not begin to describe how wonderful this book is. It's about being alive, about what it means to be human, about what it is to live a life where all you know is hate and persecution.
That it has made several banned and/or challenged books lists just wants to make me cry. Because apparently it's "too depressing".
And no I really am not kidding. Not even in the slightest.
It also has some sexual content. Like about 2 paragraphs. And that is also reason even to ban it. THAT'S what some people got from this book? It's promotes sex and sexual feelings? Really???
I despair. I really do.
This book and all of the above books are something that everyone should read, teens and adults alike. Hopefully like me you'll come away with feeling that life is beautiful and precious and something to celebrate