For a long while now, I've been a huge fan of Alex Flinn's writing style. The author has the unique ability to spin incredible fairy tales, while also creating gut-wrenching stories full of life, reality, compassion and depth. Censorship is a hot button issue in the book industry, as well is in the world today, as a whole, and I couldn't sit idly by when I heard the news that Alex Flinn's critically-acclaimed novel, Breathing Underwater, is facing censorship in Richland, Washington. Below is a description of the novel:
Nick is one of the chosen few at his high school: intelligent, popular, and wealthy. People think his life is pretty easy. Except for one thing. Nick has never told anyone about his father's violent temper.
When Nick meets Caitlin, he thinks she is the answer to all his problems. Caitlin is everything Nick has ever wantedbeautiful, talented, and in love with him. But then everything changes, and Nick must face the fact that he has gotten more from his father than green eyes and money.
The Richland, Washington school district is stating that that Breathing Underwater features "profanity," "dark themes" and "sexual content." As a conservative individual who has read the book, I can objectively state the profanity never goes beyond name-calling such as "b*tch or "slut," the dark undertones mimic the severity of the situation that the novel is actually bringing to light and the sexual content is merely alluded to. There is no action, there is no physical description and, frankly, the content to which the school board is referring is much like a tactful fade-out, if you will.
I believe there is value to books that tactfully broach upon the difficult-to-stomach issues of real life. There are going to be teens in this world that can relate to the trauma that Caitlin faces, both emotionally and physically. There are going to be boys that can relate to the internal battle that Nick fights every day to control the violence inside him. Simply censoring and glossing over such important and valuable content would be severely detrimental to the children whom the Richland, Washington school district are teaching. To ban a book simply based on the presumption that the content is too much for the sensitive minds of the children is narrow-minded and egotistical. Frankly, there are probably students who won't have the courage to stand up and step out of a situation without reading a novel like Breathing Underwater.
Breathing Underwater has won dozens of awards and honours, but perhaps the most valuable of all was not so much an award, but a clear and distinct recognition of its necessity for teens. In 2007, Rhode Island passed the Lindsay Ann Burke Act in honour of a young woman killed by her abusive boyfriend, making it mandatory for all schools in the state to address dating violence in their curriculum to raise awareness to the severity and detrimental nature of it. Nebraska and Ohio passed the act in 2009, as well. Breathing Underwater has been recommended reading for the course since.
Last year, the school district fought to ban the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and lost due to public support and the upholding of the novel's merit. It is my hope that as a YA community, we can rally behind not only the integrity of Breathing Underwater, but also the author in this situation. To the Richland, Washington school district: life isn't all sunshine and roses. In some situations, there is a dark underbelly that needs to be exposed to properly educate and grow the minds of the individuals being taught.
There is still time to help Alex Flinn and support her novel, Breathing Underwater. We are a vast community, and we have the opportunity to make a significant impact. Please, if you can take just a moment to do so, tweet this, share it, blog it and get it out to others that the censorship of Breathing Underwater must be stopped.
If you would like to email the school district to rally for the cause, please do so HERE.