Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


It's Day 2 my Banned Books Week Giveaway! For more information about how this giveaway works and why I'm doing it, read this introductory post. And a head's up to readers - today's book deals with the topic of rape, so we're going to be discussing that today. 

I have a deep love for Sarah Dessen's books. For the most part, she writes charming books about teen girls learning to understand themselves and their families. But beneath the cheery, pastel covers, Dessen often reaches down into topics real teen girls cope with every day - abusive boyfriends, broken families, and - in the case of Just Listen - an attempted rape at a party. The title refers both to the main character's attempts to cope with what happened to her through music and to her struggle to get people to believe her story.

Robert P. Doyle writes in Books Challenged or Banned 2007-2008 that Just Listen was "challenged in the Hillsborough County, Fla. school system (2007) because it was considered too intense for teens."

One of the things I've come to realize from working as a librarian is that most people who challenge books or want them banned aren't fundamentally bad or evil people. They want the same thing most caring adults do - to protect kids from things that might hurt them. But here's the other thing. Teens aren't kids. And denying them the kind of information and representation of difficult topics that books like Just Listen provide isn't protecting them.

RAINN tells us that 1 in 6 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, and young women are the most at risk.

I wish sexual assault and its prevention weren't a part of young women's lives, but the truth is that it is. Even if a young woman is not a victim herself, one of her friends or family member is likely to be. And if young women have read a book like Just Listen, which shows its main character healing and learning to speak her truth for both herself and others, they might feel less silenced themselves or know to listen when others speak up. This book might bring its readers one step closer to seeing rape for what it is - a crime, and one that we need to discuss as a society, rather than sweep under the rug.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or abuse - or even if you're confused and want clarification about what constitutes abuse - check out, call 800-865-HOPE, or use's chat feature.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway for this book, you have until 11:59 p.m. today, Monday, Sept. 26th. You will get 1) a paperback copy of Just Listen, 2) a copy of Robert P. Doyle's 2015-2016 Books Challenged or Banned, and 3) a paperback copy of my book, Sound, which is coming out this week. Enter below!

Check back tomorrow for more profiles of banned and challenged books!

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