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Book Banning & Definitions

With everything going on not only in the town of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, but all over the United States, I thought it would be good to dig into some facts and definitions.

First of all, the women driving these book bans will tell you “We aren’t banning anything. You can still go out and buy these books.” This is a disingenuous and incorrect statement. A ban is defined as the removal of material and/or a prohibition on said material. Removing books from libraries is banning books. Period.

Second, these women (because that is who is primarily behind this, self-proclaimed “mama bears” who often are members or admirers of the hate group, Moms For Liberty AKA Klanned Karenhood) are all following the same playbook. They are pulling from the exact same list of titles, going into school and public libraries, searching for these books, and then kicking up a fuss.

Third, many of the books being attacked are young adult. This term is fluid in definition, and can range from teens through twenties, and even into one’s thirties. In the publishing industry, young adult is specifically the 13-18 audience, while new adult is 18 and older. Young adult and new adult books often center on themes of self-actualization (aka finding yourself), coming of age, family, friendship, loyalty, and love.

Finally, the women fighting for book bans use inflammatory language to frighten and incite others. They love words like pornography, obscene, erotic, and sexually explicit, and refer to librarians, public school teachers, and parents who disagree as groomers and pedophiles. Once again, these are incorrect and inapplicable words.

So what are their definitions and why might there be scenes of sexual intimacy in young adult books? Good question. Here goes.


I had an extremely successful career writing LGBTQIA romance. I wrote erotica for fun (and still do). Then I moved to writing paranormal and urban fantasy, because that’s my first love as both a reader and writer. So this explanation comes from years of experience and involvement in various writing communities. Now, on with the definitions:

Pornography – The literal definition is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotica rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” When I think porn, I think of the classics, like Debbie Does Dallas. If you read through the books challenged in libraries, you will find that this word does not apply to any of them.

Erotica – Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. In a story, the characters are DTF (down to f***). The end. There might be a plot or story, but you won’t find these books in the vast majority of libraries, and absolutely not in school libraries. 

Literary Erotica – Plenty of sex happens here, but often to propel a story/journey of self-actualization or growth. Usually a plot or reason for the sex beyond “ooh la la, loin tingles.” Think The Story of O. Absolutely not in school libraries.

Romance – Falling in love is the main plot. Often includes a secondary plot point of self-actualization, solving a mystery, or some other theme or trope that brings the characters together. Romance ranges from “clean” to “spicy.” Sex, whether on page or fade to black, is an important part of the narrative because it serves to solidify the relationship. Is not erotica. Sometimes found in school libraries.

Everything else YA to adult – All other fiction genres (except for juvenile and younger) revolve around one or two plots or themes, usually with additional supporting themes. Romance can be a secondary or tertiary theme, as in “romantasy” novels. If there is a romance subplot, including sex, that’s intertwined with a much larger story and character growth.

Sexual intimacy, whether described on page or not, does not mean the book is erotica.

Consensual sex in fiction exists to connect characters through the greater challenges they face together. It is part of advancing character growth.

The inclusion of non-consensual sex or other non-consensual events (such as Feyre’s sisters being forced to become fae in the A Court of Thorns and Roses [ACOTAR] series) often serves the purpose of creating conflict or adversity for a character that also propels their growth.

A final note on this: we authors don’t sit down, cackle, and go, “I’ll add sex here and here and here and here.” In fiction (not including the erotica tier), sex is included for a reason that makes sense to the narrative and the characters.

So, even with some explicit sex scenes, books marketed toward YA readers are generally appropriate for teens and older.

What does this mean? It means that you, as the parent or guardian, are the one who needs to be aware of what your kiddos are reading and decide if you’re cool with it. No one else should make that decision for you. However, you do not have the right to make that decision for others because every family is different. 

These books are not porngraphy, but guess what? If you don’t like them, you don’t have to read them or allow your teenagers to read them. It’s as simple as that.

Favorite Books Read in 2022 | Our Prairie Nest
Favorite Books Read in 2022

This was the year I committed to reading all the unread books on my Kindle, in addition to many checked out from the library. Of the books I read in 2022, my favorites were:

Dread Nation and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland. This alternate history duology follows Jane and Katherine, two young students who attend a combat school to put down the dead. Why? Because the dead started reanimating during the battle of Gettysburg, and nothing has been the same since.

The first book follows Jane as she tries her best to do her duty – at least, the one expected of her by white people – and quickly gets swept up into a conspiracy. Somehow, she manages to drag her school nemesis, Katherine, along with her. The second book follows Jane and Katherine all the way to California, and beyond, as they try to find some sense of peace and safety in their dangerous, often heartbreaking world.

If you enjoyed The Walking Dead original graphic novels, you might enjoy this. As with that series, these two books aren’t just about zombies, but humanity. The stories also tackle the inherent racism and sexism of the mid-1800s, as seen through the eyes of two extraordinary heroines. There really isn’t a romance here, also, which is nice. Though Jane takes lovers, one of whom is a fellow zombie-fighting young lady, neither Jane nor Katherine require a man to make them whole and happy. It’s a nice change of pace!

If you prefer a fairy tale, check out Thorn by Intisar Khanani. In this story, Princess Alyrra is reviled by her family and set to marry a prince from another kingdom. She doesn’t expect much of the marriage, because her family is certain she will die “accidentally” so the prince can move on with his life.

Fortunately, her family couldn’t be more wrong, because Alyrra doesn’t even make it to her new kingdom. At least, not the way she left her old one! Instead, an act of betrayal swaps her identity with that of another girl and leaves her as nothing more than a servant. Rather than flee her new fate, Alyrra embraces it. As long as she can keep her head down and do her job, maybe she can take charge of her own life.

But as she starts to learn the language and befriend the other servants, she becomes invested in their troubles. She also takes on a new name – Thorn – and advocates for her fellow servants as she better understands their fears and challenges. What Alyrra eventually does is nothing short of wonderful, showing everyone what it truly means to be a princess.

At times, this story addressed dark and sad themes, but the main character’s capacity to care about the well-being of others made her incredibly likeable. I also appreciated the fact that there really isn’t a romance here, as there tends to be with YA fantasy. Any possibility of romance is treated reasonably, with it stated that the characters aren’t in love, but are open to seeing if those feelings develop. I appreciated that aspect of the story.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones is another book with more of a fairy tale-like vibe and it drew me in from the beginning. And, yes, more zombies here. After the loss of her parents and uncle, Ryn is doing her best to take care of her family. She is a gravedigger in a remote village that sits at the foot of a mountain range rumored to have once been home to the fae. The bone houses are, specifically, the risen dead. Something about the forest between the village and the mountains seems to keep the dead from staying dead. Legend has it this is because of a curse.

When a mapmaker named Ellis shows up in the village, they end up under attack by groups of bone houses wandering out of the forest. But why? Ryn wants to know what is drawing the bone houses to her home village, while Ellis just wants to map the land. They work together to reach both of their goals and undertake a dangerous journey to the mountain range where the curse is said to originate. Along the way, they learn more about not only the bone houses, but themselves and human nature. I love that a feisty undead goat is their companion, though you know that can’t end well!

There is a touch of horror to the story, but also whimsy and romance. I loved this one and will read it again on a cool, October night, with a nice hot cup of tea.

Finally, my favorite book that I read this year was Small Favors by Erin Craig. This is an absolutely chilling and dreadful tale, with a wild ending that had me excited about it for days. All I wanted to do was talk to people about it… except I don’t know anyone else who has read it!

Ellerie lives in an isolated village called Amity Falls. Right off the bat, I got a “The Village” (the movie) vibe from the way these folks live. For example, when there’s danger, the villagers light fires to alert their neighbors. And their neighbors light their fires, and so on, until everyone knows there’s trouble. And trouble does come, especially from the forest that keeps Amity Falls cut off from the rest of the world. Strange creatures come out of the woods and residents are being offered their deepest desires. You know what they say – if something is too good to be true…

Our main character soon finds her family dealing with one tragedy after another, with no end in sight. Ellerie and her sisters don’t seem to get even a single moment to catch their breaths and, when they do, that moment is tenuous and fraught with anxiety. I love, love, LOVE how the tension grows without letting up in this story until everything and everyone hits a horrific breaking point.

Again, this was my absolute favorite read this year. I thought the ending was bloody fantastic, and I want to find someone else who feels the same. Once again, this book is a mix of horror and fairy tale. I think it’s pretty clear what kind of vibe I was digging in 2022.

“Honorable mentions” for books I read this year go to An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns, both by Margaret Rogerson. Ravens was enjoyable because it was a fae story that showed what dark, horrible, twisted beings they are beneath their beautiful exteriors.

I’m still reading Sorcery, and I can’t wait to see how it ends. It’s funny to say this, because Howl’s Moving Castle is a book, not just a movie… But Sorcery of Thorns feels like the movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle (the book moves much slower than the Studio Ghibli film). Except, add more dangerous demons and sorcerers, angry grimoires that are capable of becoming twisted, murderous creatures, beautiful dresses and ballrooms, fancy swords, and a slow burn romance.

I read so many other books this year, but these are the ones I loved and highly recommend.