Over the past year, Florida residents filed roughly 1,100 complaints against more than 680 public school library books, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis of public records from 62 school districts. Most books received one or two complaints, but a handful appeared repeatedly, the Times found.
Why advocates focused on these titles is not clear. Many received attention from groups like Moms for Liberty or were listed on sites like BookLooks.org, which flags titles for “objectionable content, including profanity, nudity, and sexual content.”
Most complaints pointed to explicit depictions of violence, sex and drug use, arguing that such material can harm young readers. Authors like Ellen Hopkins, who received 66 complaints, said their books build empathy and help kids make good choices.
Here are the four titles that received the most complaints:
“Sold,” by Patricia McCormick
Districts receiving complaints: 11
Status: Banned or restricted in at least six districts.
The story: Lakshmi, a 13-year-old Nepali girl, is sold into sexual slavery in India. There she endures physical and sexual abuse until her captor is eventually arrested and prosecuted.
Why it was challenged: “Contains explicit abhorrent serial activities including the rape of a minor, prostitution and violence,” wrote Bradenton resident Julia McLaughlin.
“Tricks,” by Ellen Hopkins
Districts receiving complaints: 10
Status: Banned or restricted in at least five districts.
The story: Written in verse, “Tricks” follows five troubled teenagers from different walks of life as they fall into a life of prostitution.
Why it was challenged: “This book contains sexually explicit excerpts involving minors. There are also excerpts containing explicit child rape and abuse; illegal drug abuse; graphic violence; underage alcohol consumption; and adult and child prostitution,” wrote Mariya Calkins, chairperson of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty.
“Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins
Districts receiving complaints: Nine
Status: Banned or restricted in at least four districts.
The story: Inspired by her daughter’s struggles with crystal meth addiction, Hopkins’ 2004 novel chronicles 15-year-old narrator Kristina’s downward spiral from straight-A student to drug dealer.
Why it was challenged: “It encourages drug use & sex to escape feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence. … It Glorifies abusive sex and rape as normal behavior between a boy and a girl. It is divisive rhetoric and could emotionally harm young girls and young boys into misunderstanding the opposite sex. This is not appropriate for any educational facility to have at any time,” according to one unnamed Collier County resident.
“PUSH,” by Sapphire
Districts receiving complaints: Eight
Status: Banned or restricted in eight districts.
The story: Precious Jones, an illiterate 16-year-old — pregnant with a second child by her father — meets a radical teacher determined to push her toward a journey of education and enlightenment as she learns to write about her life, according to a summary by publisher Penguin Random House.
Why it was challenged: “The promotion of the violent and repeated sexual abuse of a minor, sexual assault of a child, sexually explicit and graphic details on incest, molestation sexual nudity and vulgar slang,” wrote Patricia Driscoll of Marion County.
Tied for fifth, with complaints in seven counties, are: “Damsel,” by Elana K. Arnold; “Milk and Honey,” by Rupi Kaur; “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini; “The Sun and Her Flowers,” by Rupi Kaur; and “Tilt,” by Ellen Hopkins.
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