The Year They Burned the Books

People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons.

Title: The Year they Burned the Books

Author: Nancy Garden

Series: Standalone

Publication: September 5th 2017 by Open Road Media Teen Tween

Pages: 256

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

As the editor in chief of the Wilson High Telegraph, senior Jamie Crawford is supposed to weigh in on the cutting-edge issues that will interest students in her school. But when she writes an opinion piece in support of the new health curriculum—which includes safe-sex education and making condoms available to students—she has no idea how much of a controversy she’s stepped into.
 
A conservative school board member has started a war against the new curriculum, and now—thanks to Jamie’s editorial—against the newspaper as well. As Jamie deals with the fallout and comes to terms with her own sexuality, the school and town become a battleground for clashing opinions. Now, Jamie and the students at Wilson need to find another way to express their beliefs before prejudice, homophobia, and violence define their small town.


My Thoughts:

I am sad to say that I am one of those certain individuals who has never read Annie on my Mind, nor do I plan to. I know it’s supposed to be amazing, but it simply has never interested me. Now, imagine my surprise when I got a notification for this book – by the same author. So I decided to give it a shot. What I found was a sucker punch of a story considering our current political state today. The Year They Burned the Books is a masterful conglomerate of censorship, bullying, coming-of-age, homophobia, friendship, free speech, PTA mom politics, and sexuality. It is brutal, honest, and action based rather than character focused. You fall into the plot, and you get swept away by the visceral reality that the events in this book are still very much happening at this moment in time. It’s a bit of a startling wake up call.

This books most powerful scene, and most powerful element entirely, was the burning of the books. I had to put the book down and just go “wow.” It was hard to read, hard to digest, and even harder to accept – especially when examining the horrible reasons behind it. They burn these books because they’ve been deemed immoral. You know what was immoral? Sex ed. That’s right. Sounds crazy… but it’s really not. Do you know how many YA books have been banned on grounds of sexual content? Some Girls Are (this one was last year) , the Perks of Being a Wallflower, Go Ask Alice, Forever by Judy Blume, Looking for Alaska, and Thirteen Reasons Why are just some of the few that have been banned in the recent years for being “gateways to sexual activity.” So, no, the concept of The Year They Burned the Books really isn’t that far out there.

Overall, The Year They Burned the Books ultimately benefits from its focus on issue rather than character. It is plot based, action driven, and based in the consequences rather than the emotional journey of the characters. It focuses on the themes and complications instead of trying to make us emotionally invested in the characters, which works in its favor because we do end up caring quite a bit. Reading this book is like eating a bar of chocolate when you have the beginnings of a cavity. You take a bite, it’s sweet on your tongue and you go in for another… but then it hits that nerve, and you realize you’ve had a cavity all along. Censorship is that cavity, and damn I wish we could pull it out at the root and get it over with. This book is about fifteen years old now, yet it is still very, very relevant.


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