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Inside the 44 books challenged at the Prattville Public Library

What exactly are the books that have been challenged by the Prattville group, which has now expanded its efforts statewide?

Drawing from a nationwide surge in book challenges, the state of Alabama is rapidly becoming embroiled in its own culture war over books.

Prattville has been the major battleground in that war, with a group of individuals over the past six months now challenging 44 books, with more expected to come.

Out of those 44 challenges, only 10 have worked their way all the way up to the Autauga-Prattville Public Library board so far, and they deal almost exclusively with LGBT content.

The challenges have created much debate over what the library’s role is in determining what books should be accessible to minors. While the group challenging the books, Clean Up Prattville, has focused on using language such as “obscenity” and “pornography” to challenge the books, there are actually three true categories of books being challenged: books that show “alternate sexualities” (not heterosexual), books that include “gender ideology” and books with sexually explicit content. Sometimes these books overlap.

So what exactly are the books that have been challenged by the Prattville group, which has now expanded its efforts statewide under the title of Clean Up Alabama? APR has obtained the “reconsideration of materials” forms that have triggered challenges for each book. Identifying information of the persons filling out the forms were redacted. 

NOTE: APR can confirm through the APPL website what section these books are found in. However, the listings do not show labels within the Young Adult Fiction (YAF) section that denote whether the books is suggested for “tweens” (12-14) or “teens” (15-18). Many of the books are checked out, and some of them appear to have been checked out beyond a typical loaning period, and therefore APR cannot independently verify any labeling of the physical books.

Additionally, these reconsideration forms are not explicitly on behalf of any group or organization, with each request being filled out on behalf of the individual. However, almost every challenged book is listed on the Clean Up Prattville website and Clean Up Prattville has recruited book reviewers, who were assigned specific books to review.

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The Pronoun Book

Author: Chris Ayalas-Kronos and Melita Tarado

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This is the book that allegedly started the entire book challenging campaign in Prattville, after a parent reportedly mistook the book to be about grammar. The book poses the question: “How do you know what someone wants to be called?” and provides the answer: “Ask.” The reconsideration form states that the book “presents a grammatically incorrect presentation that indoctrinates world view that is untrue and Biblically opposed.” Suggested replacements for the book include “God made boys and girls,” “God made me in His image,” and “Jesus and my gender.” The library board ultimately moved this book to a high shelf representing non-fiction within the children’s library.

Bye Bye Binary

Author: Eric Genre and Charlene Chua

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This book shows a baby that refuses to accept gender norms, such as choosing a pink or blue blanket. “They’re both equally snuggly,” the baby says in the book. In the reconsideration form, the challenger states that the book would “harm the children of an entire generation by imposing concepts on them that are beyond them to which they will likely adopt. Why? Not because it is true or they are not smart, but because children are impressionable and moldable.” This book was moved to a higher shelf within the children’s library.

Being You: A First Conversation about Gender

Author: Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli and Anne/Andy Passchier

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: In the reconsideration form, the challenger says this book presents “male and female as a choice, when it is not a choice” and misrepresents “biological facts.” The reconsideration form asks for this book to be completely removed from the library, as several of the forms request. The challenger suggests replacing the book with “God made boys dn girls: Helping children understand the gift of gender.” The library board moved this book to a higher shelf within the children’s library.


Author: JR and Vanessa Ford

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This book represents the transition of a young girl into becoming a boy. The challenger takes issue with the book because it shows the child making the decision without involvement from an adult, and asks that the book be moved to the adult section. The library board moved this book to the high shelf in the children’s library.

Yes! No! A First Conversation About Consent

Author: Megan Madison

Challenged content: *Sexual content

Notes: The challenger of this book characterized it as demonstrating that it “is intended to teach children that they must consent to any behavior done to them, specifically sexual.” However, the book does not address sexual consent at all, although some of the lessons about consent in the book could be applied to sexual situation later in life. The challenger later admits “the subject matter is not sexual” but argues that children cannot consent to any activity until they are 18; before then, the parent must also give consent, they say. This book was moved to a higher shelf within the children’s library.

Alice Austen Lived Here

Author: Alex Gino

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This book is for 12- to 14-year-olds and follows a nonbinary teen exploring their identity by learning about historical figure Alice Austen. The challenger wrote “this books grooming children with LGBTQIA+ propaganda … Through this book, our Prattville public library is promoting radical gender ideology to the children of this community which is destructive and harmful and dangerous and immoral.” The challenger multiple times referenced potential damage to children 9-12 years old despite this book being in the Young Adult Fiction section and being labeled for teens 12-14. This book  remains in the Young Adult Fiction section of the library.

Red: A Crayon’s Story

Author: Michael Hall

Challenged content: *Gender ideology

Notes: This is the story of a blue crayon named “Red” in a red crayon wrapper, and the turmoil caused by not matching his label. The challenger wrote “Gender ideology is throughout the pages.” However, the book is not explicitly about gender, and the story could be taken as a metaphor for many other things. A library board member chuckled while reviewing the book in a public meeting. “Who would ask us to review this?” she wondered aloud. The library board voted not to move the book.

The Meaning of Pride

Author: Rosiee Thor

Challenged content: LGBTQ+ 

Notes: This book provides an explanation of what the letters in LGBTQIA+ stand for, some history of the gay rights movement, and notes some famous people who represent the LGBTQ+ community. The challenger wrote “At the middle school and high school level, sexual ed is taught as binary according to scientific biological facts and not social theory.” This book remains in place in the children’s library.

My Rainbow

Author: Trinity and DeShanna Neal

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This book is from a mother telling the story of making a wig for her transgender and autistic child, who didn’t like the wigs at the store. The challenger wrote that this book is “setting the child up for the lifelong use of toxic synthetic hormones and surgeries. it is scientifically impossible to change one’s biological sex.” The book remains in place in the children’s library. 

Nick and Charlie

Author: Alice Oseman

Challenged content: alternate sexualities, sexual content

Notes: This book is a love story about two boys, Nick and Charlie, with one about to leave for college. There is a brief sex scene at the end of the book that the library board noted is light in details. The challenger noted those scenes and added that is depicted an “unhealthy dependency on the relationship between Nick and Charlie.” The challenge says the book “exposes elementary age children to sexual content” despite the book being in the young adult section. The library board voted to add a “teen” label to the book that currently means the book is suggested for teens 15 and up, although that may be changed later to mean ages 16 and up.

The remaining books have been challenged, but have not yet reached the library board for consideration.

Heartstopper (Graphic Novels 1-4)

Author: Alice Oseman

Challenged content: Alternate sexualities, sexual content

Notes: These four books are all graphic novels featuring the characters Nick and Charlie, both high school students, all suggested for children ages 12 to 14+. They all contain some profanity throughout, as well as gay couple both male and female kissing. Sometimes the kissing happens while lying in a bed, or on the ground, but no sexual activity is depicted. These books represent four total challenges, which appear to have all been written by the same individual. All four requests call for not just the book’s removal from the young adult section, but from the library altogether and the destruction of the books. “Remove and Destroy” is the suggestion on three of the request (one underline for extra emphasis). Another says simply, “Destroy it.” The challenger suggested all four books be replaced with Huckleberry Finn, but the library already has multiple copies of the book available in different formats. 

If You’re a Kid Like Gavin

Author: Gavin Grimm and Kyle Lukoff

Challenged content: Gender ideology

Notes: This book is about a young person’s gender transitioning story. The challenger wrote “I object to the book’s placement in the library because although the story is a person’s experience, it also expresses the author’s opinions.” The challenger also takes issue with the author’s statement that “living our lives as the people we are is not a choice, it’s a right.” The challenger argues “It is impossible to love fully both others and yourself.” 

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy

Author: Michael Leali

Challenged content: LGBTQ+, gender ideology

Notes: The challenger of this book wrote that the book includes “inappropriate words” that are “confusing to an 8-12 year old” despite the book being in the YAF section for children ages 12 and up. The challenger than lists words and phrases used within the book including words like “queer,” “super gay,” “we smashed the patriarchy,” and so forth. The challenger further wrote “This book teaches that homosexuality is not forbidden in the BibleIt is purposefully leading children astray as to what is in the Bible.” Notably, there has been some controversy in recent years over whether the Bible addresses homosexuality, with some church sects now not only including LGBTQ individuals, but accepting homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle.

What was Stonewall? 

Author: Nico Medina

Challenged content: LGBTQ+

Notes: This book tells the history of the Stonewall riot, in which gay bar patrons fought back against harassment by police. The challenger wrote “It goes against my personal beliefs. Admitting they have their rights, I don’t think it is appropriate reading for younger ages.” The challenger said they would not recommend the book for any age, and would like the book completely removed from the library, but would settle for it being moved to the adult section. The challenger also notes that they used BookLooks in reviewing the material. BookLooks gives the book a 1/5 rating, which it explains means some content may be inappropriate “for very young children.” This book is not in the children’s library, but the juvenile non-fiction section.

Door by Door: How Sarah McBride Became America’s First Openly Transgender Senator

Author: Meeg Pincus

Challenged content: LGBTQ content

Notes: This book is rated a 1/5 by BookLooks, meaning the content may be inappropriate only for very young readers. This book is in the juvenile nonfiction section of the library. The book tells about Sarah McBride and how she became the first openly transgender Senator in the country. The challenger states, “There are only 2 genders. Teaching immature (children) that they can change their gender is misleading and destructive to their futures. Children cannot make such life-altering decisions … No age group should be exposed to this propaganda … remove and destroy.”

19 Love Songs

Author: David Levithan

Content challenged: LGBTQ+, sexual content

Notes: Another reconsideration form that refers to excerpts gathered by BookLooks, the rating site gives this book a rating of 2/5, meaning it is recommended for teens 12 and up. The book has occasional sexual language, and the challenger writes that the teen characters “are accepting of pornography.” This book is in the YAF section of the library.

Felix Ever After

Author: Kacen Callander

Content Challenged: Sexual content, gender ideology

Notes: The challenger of this book does not expressly take issue with gender ideology. However, the book is about a transgender boy. The sexual content in this over-300-page book is confined to two pages that do not go into explicit detail. This book is in the YAF section of the library.

Different Kind of Fruit

Author: Kyle Lukoff

Content challenged: LGBTQ+ content

Notes: In this book, a sixth grade girl finds out her father is transgender after she begins to have romantic feelings for a non-binary classmate. The challenger wrote that the book “is intended to be a ‘grooming book for young children.”  The challenger wrote that the book undermines respect for authority, in part by referring to teachers and parents of friends by their first names, and a “subtle undermining of parental authority.” The challenger also argues the book undermines “traditional education” such as “the primary purpose of science class is to learn about climate change and mankind’s destruction of the environment,” and “it promotes multiculturalism.” The challenger also says it undermines morals by sending a message that lying, cheating and stealing are OK if for a good reason, and also promotes “Black Lives Matter, which is a Marxist organization that promotes, among other things, the destruction of the family,” and “pushes the acceptance of homosexuality.” It is in the YAF section of the library.

Clockwork Princess

Author: Cassandra Clare

Challenged content: Sexual content

Notes: This book is recommended for ages 14 and up and has one page in over 400 pages basically describing a make-out session on the verge of segueing into intercourse. This is between a boy and a girl and the book does not appear to address LGBTQ issues. The challenger wrote “This book portrays sexual promiscuity as normal behavior, but this behavior can be harmful to minors and aids in the degradation of society.” The book is in the YAF section.

Unravel Me

Author: Tahareh Mafi

Challenged content: Sexual content

Notes: This book is about a 17-year-old girl who has lived in isolation because her Touch is deadly. In Unravel Me, a sequel, Juliette can touch two people without killing them: both boys. It has one multi-paragraph sexual scene early in the book and two more brief moments of sexuality. It is not LGBTQ+ related. The challenger wrote that the book is “poisoning the minds of children” and is “harmful to minors.” The challenger’s suggestion is to “remove and destroy.” It is in the YAF section of the library meant for children 12 and up. 

Vampire Academy

Author: Richelle Mead

Content challenged: Sexual content

Notes: This book is a fantasy about a vampire academy. The reconsideration form is confusing, as it includes excerpts from the book provided by the BookLooks site, but then adds an additional three pages of excerpts from the book “Bumped,” which has also been challenged. The reconsideration form submitted does not reference that the excerpts are from a different book entirely. Based on the excerpts that are actually in the book, most of the scenes in Vampire Academy consist of a boy attempting to push a female character into sexual activity, with the girl rebuffing his advances. The book does refer to a disturbing sexual practice in which some vampire men like to suck the blood of vampire women during sex. The male character is seeking to push this practice on the girl, who refuses. The challenger wrote “sexual activity associated with violence. The entire book is filth and not appropriate for any library shelves. Remove and destroy.” This book is in the YAF section of the library.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (Series)

Individual titles: A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Frost and Starlight,  A Court of Silver Flames, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Wings and Ruin

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Challenged content: Sexually explicit content

Notes: Unlike the books listed prior in this article, this series is genuinely sexually explicit, with sexual references and depictions scattered througout. For example, after the initial round of challenges and the formation of Clean Up Prattville, reviewers began adding excerpts and ratings curated by BookLooks, a site that rates books on appropriateness for children and includes alternate sexualities and gender ideology as factors. BookLooks gave the aforementioned Heartstopper graphic novels a score of 2/5, which it classifies as suitable for teens, where the books currently are placed (the novel Nick and Charlie got a 3/5, suggesting it be minor-restricted with access available only under parental supervision). Meanwhile, it rates the books in this series as a 4/5, which it says refers to sexual nudity and “obscene” sexual activities. In one review, the challenger wrote “The library is in opposition to Alabama laws by placing materials in the YAF section that appeals to the prurient interest of minors.” This focus on Alabama’s obscenity law has been blanket-applied to the book-challenging campaign, despite many books involving the gender ideology and LGBTQ+ challenges have nothing approaching any reasonable definition of obscenity.

Thrones of Glass (Series)

Individual titles: Crown of Midnight, Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn, Kingdom of Ash, Queen of Shadows

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Challenged content: Sexually explicit content

Notes: Another series by Sarah J. Maas that contains much more sexual content than previous books, although some entries in this series appear to be tamer than the Court of Thorns and Roses series. In fact, using the BookLooks ratings system used by the challengers, Crown of Midnight is actually appropriate for teens, which is where the book is currently located, Queen of Ash and Tower of Dawn are suggested to be “minor-restricted,” and Empire of Storms and Kingdom of Ash contain sexual nudity and/or obscene sexual activities. Between the two Maas-authored series, these 11 books represent 25 percent of the books challenged so far by individuals in Prattville. 

Red Hood

Author: Elana Arnold

Challenged content:

Notes: This is another book that is genuinely sexually explicit. It is not clearly LGBTQ+ related. It is very loosely based on the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. The challenger used language almost exclusively from Alabama’s law about material harmful to minors to challenge this book. This book is in the YAF section of the library. 

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Author: Lucy Kinsley

Challenged content: sexual content

Notes: The challenger challenged this graphic memoir on the basis of illustrated sexual nudity. The sexual nudity in question is a cartoonish illustration of pornographic magazines and of children looking at the magazines. This is recounting the author’s lived experience encountering such materials. The content is not related to LGBTQ issues. This book is in the YAF section of the library. 

Where I End and You Begin

Author: Preston Norton

Challenged content: Sexual content

Notes: This book involves two romantically interested teens who begin swapping bodies. It does not directly involve traditional LGBTQ, although the premise means that a male character is sometimes inhabiting a female body and vice versa. There is sexual language throughout and sexual activity. In one section, a character reveals that they want to engage in intercourse while swapped in each other’s bodies. The book is located in the YAF section.

Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Challenged content: Sexual content, drug use

Notes: This is one of the few reconsideration forms that posits the idea of possibly moving the book not to an adult section, but for a section for 17 and up with parental approval. Mayor Bill Gillespie has suggested the library create a new area for books meant for teens 16 and up. The book has several sexual scenes or discussions between male and female characters. This book is currently in the YAF section of the library.

L8r G8r

Author: Lauren Myracle

Challenged content: sexual content, drug use

Notes: This book is presented as as series of text messages between teens, who occasionally discuss sex and drugs. One portion mentions sex toys, in the context of one of the teen’s aunts hosting a sex toy party. The challenger asked that it be completely removed from the library.

I am Margaret Moore

Author: Hannah Capin

Challenged content: sexual content

Notes: This book contains scattered sexual scenes, never in much detail, between a girl and boy. The girl later becomes pregnant from this and is convinced by the boy to take rat poison in an attempt to abort the child, which kills her as well. There are some LGBTQ side characters but that is not the gist of this challenge. The book is in the YAF section of the library.


Author: Megan McCafferty

Challenged content: Sexual content

Notes: This book portrays a dystopian world in which women become infertile at the age of 18. This makes teen girls who can give brith the most prized members of society, and would-be parents pay teens to give birth to their children. In the excerpts provided, one of the characters appears to abstain from sex unlike many others, and one religious character feels used after being impregnated, realizing that she was groomed to be used as a surrogate mother.  The challenger took the book as “promoting prostitution of minors” as well as glorifying drug use and sexual activities. The book is in the YAF section.


Author: L.C. Rosen

Challenged content: LGBTQ+ content, sexual content

Notes: This book is about a boy who goes to an LGBTQ summer camp every year and begins a relationship with his crush. Clean Up Prattville leader Hannah Rees pointed out this book specifically during a city council meeting, telling the council members about a scene in which the main character’s crush teaches him “how to give a blow job.” This prompted council president Lora Lee Boone to admonish Rees, stating that the council had asked speakers to use “PG” language because the council meetings are open and streaming to all ages. The book publisher suggests this book for 14- to 18-year-olds. The book is in the YAF section.



Challenged content: Sexual content, drug use, self-harm

Notes: As the title might imply, this book is about a girl who has been found to cut herself, and is sent to a mental institution. It is not promoting self-harm. The challenger acknowledges any sexual scenes are “inexplicit” but argues that the book would result in children thinking “it’s OK for young teens to engage in drugs, casual sex, and self-harm.” The challenger requests that the library should “not have the book in the library — period!” The book is rated a 2/5 by BookLooks as acceptable for teen audiences. It is in the YAF section of the library.

Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H. K. Choi

Challenged content: Sexual content, abortion

Notes: This book has scattered sexual references throughout, without much detail of explicit sexual activity. There is much more talk about two teens, a male and female, discussing an abortion. The excerpts do not deal with LGBTQ issues. The challenge states that the book “promotes activities known to degrade society.” The book is in the YAF section of the library.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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