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The Year They Burned the Books Hardcover – September 22, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

High school condom distribution and a hotly contested sex education curriculum set a small New England town's blood boiling and books burning in The Year They Burned the Books, an issue-driven novel by Nancy Garden. Jamie Crawford is the senior editor of the "Telegraph," her high school's newspaper, but the publication of her editorial in favor of the school's new policy to distribute condoms happens to coincide with the election of a new, highly conservative school board member. As a result, Jamie suddenly finds her editorial voice gagged. Soon the school's health books have been removed from the classrooms for "review," a conservative parents' group stages a library book burning, and Jamie's beloved teacher is forced to resign as the newspaper's faculty advisor. Jamie's personal life also becomes more complicated as she tries to deal with her physical attraction to Tessa, a new girl at school. Then, on top of it all, Jamie and her best friend Terry (who is openly gay) are the victims of an attack by a group of conservative students and Jamie has to decide if she can handle the consequences of coming out.

Teens love controversies, especially those involving young people, and there is scarcely a hot topic here that Garden doesn't touch. Yet in spite of the scene-stealing issues, Garden's timeless message that hardship shapes character is illustrated well in Jamie's transition from a "maybe," (as in "maybe gay, maybe straight")to a "probably" by novel's end. An excellent choice for use in high school discussions about censorship and free speech. (Ages 13 to 15) --Jennifer Hubert

From Publishers Weekly

Issues, not characters, drive this story, a retread of the themes and setting in Garden's Good Moon Rising. Jamie Crawford, a senior, has achieved her goal of becoming editor-in-chief of her small New England high school's paper. She is also fairly sure she is gay, and when Tessa Gillespie, a new girl from Boston, shows up wearing a red cape and a star-shaped stud in her nose, Jamie starts falling in love. Tessa happens to be straight, but as it turns out, Jamie's unrequited love causes her less anguish than the rise to power of fundamentalist Mrs. Buel. A "stealth candidate" during her campaign for a seat on the school committee, Mrs. Buel leads the committee to set aside the new sex education curriculum and stages a book burning on Halloween. The liberal faculty adviser to the school paper is put on leave, and Jamie is forbidden to weigh in on controversial subjects in her editorials. While turning out the rah-rah paper the new faculty adviser insists on, Jamie and her staff eke out the time and energy to publish an underground paper. Another plot line concerns the outing of Jamie's best friend and the swim team star he is attracted to: lockers are defaced, and Jamie and her friends are nearly attacked in the cafeteria. Garden pays less attention to her characters' emotional lives than to their political passions. Unfortunately, if the characters don't seem real, their passions won't ignite readers. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (September 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374386676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374386672
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I first read some reviews of this book, I thought maybe Garden had taken on too many subjects for one novel. Reading it, however, I started to think that its themes are unified and that it is showing a whole system of the ways people are silenced by oppressive groups. The closet takes many forms, and the kids' inability to speak about who they are - for fear of being physically hurt - is mirrored in the censoring of information about sex and the censoring of commentary about the censorship itself. The novel is thought-provoking about social issues as well as moving in its portrayal of individuals finding their voices. If I'm picky, I could say that some of the dialogue sounded too written to me, and I really dislike the book's cover. But I read it in a few hours, and I feel richer for it. I am going to use it in my YA Literature class.
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By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
THE YEAR THEY BURNED THE BOOKS is another wonderful novel by Nancy Garden. It is somewhat different than Annie on My Mind and Good Moon Rising in that the main focus isn't on a relationship, but instead is about what happens when a group of conservatives try to censor the school health curriculum, as well as the newspaper. It is another coming out story, and the wonderfully portrayed characters provide a vivid and realistic picture of what it is like to be young and gay, and to have to fight for what you believe in. Anyone concerned with issues of censorship should definitely read this book, whatever side of the issue they are on. It is eye-opening, and heart-opening.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Year They Burned the Books" was one of the most realistic and eye-opening books I have ever read. Jamie, the main character in Ms. Garden's wonderful novel, struggles with the how, when and if of coming out of the closet. At the same time, the school board is voting to re-evaluate the school's sex-ed material, stressing abstience and showing pre-marital sex and homosexuality as being immoral and anti-God. Jamie is the editor-in-chief of her school's newspaper, and through the paper, she fights with her first amendmet right to make her point heard in the midst of all the chaos and divided opinions. This is an excellent book, showing how the differences in people's thoughts on morality can split them apart.
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Format: Hardcover
Book burning and censorship are things that should be addressed more often in schools. It is sad that only a few volumes are in print that zero in on the topic. "The Year They Burned the Books" is one of the best. I only wish the author had done more to develop the antagonists. As vile as Nancy Garden painted them, the reality of people like that is much worse. Our young people are mature enough to know that not all adults will defend their rights to think and read. Any child who has searched a school library in vain for a book they really needed to read knows this. Even in major cities like New York, even in enlightened schools, libraries do not stock books on their shelves that address every student's need. The solution that the young people in this book created for themselves should be an inspiration for students in every school. This is one book which should be available for any student who wants to stand up for his or her right to have ideas.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Could there be anything else in this book? Censorship, homophobia, the religious right, sexuality, suicide--I can't think of a book that attempts to tackle so many issues at once. Not that Garden doesn't handle all of the issues well. I am particularly impressed with how she works in a minor physical altercation--a level of homophobia not seen in her earlier novels, and, I suspect, a reaction to the homocide of Matthew Shepard the same year. This novel raises many questions and is a must read for gay and straight teenagers.
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Format: Hardcover
Author Nancy Garden has received critical acclaim for her work, including the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award for her lifetime contribution in writing for young adults.

Garden is no stranger to the issues presented in this book. First, she understands what is to be gay youth. Secondly, she knows what it is to be the target of censorship. Her book _Annie on my Mind_ was burned on the steps of the Kansas City School Board building (1993) and removed from the shelves in Olathe, Kansas.

Although printed 6 years ago, it feels as though it were ripped from today's headlines. Homophobia is rampant and using hatred and/or fear of homosexuals is perfectly acceptable in today's political climate. Recently an Alabama state legislator introduced a bill to bar the use of state funds "for the purchase of textbooks or library materials that sanction, recognize, foster, or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." The bill would also remove items already in libraries and prohibit theatrical productions at state-funded institutions of such classics as Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or the appearance of classroom speakers who discuss homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.

In today's political climate I recommend everyone read _The Year they Burned Books_ for a look at the affects of censorship. It's an easy, yet thought provoking read. This is one fictional story that is relevant today.
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