Once again, a book intended for young readers is in the news. "Night Talk" by Elizabeth Cox is the story of a friendship between a black and a white girl during the civil rights movement.
These two girls live under the same roof, have absentee fathers, and are best friends who share their deepest thoughts and feelings by night. By day, however, the white girl, Evie, at first fails to see that she and her friend do not live in the same world at all.
The value of this book, it would seem, is in the eye of the beholder.
"Night Talk" has been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Google Books calls it "a beautiful, moving story" that has "served as an inspiration for honest discussions of race around the country."
The titles change but the questions remain the same: What is appropriate for young readers? Should what offends one (or some) parent(s) be removed throughout a school?
And on an even deeper level, what serves teenagers best? Does reading about a sexual encounter in a work of literary merit teach them something useful – or expose them to notions that they are not yet ready to process?
Certainly it depends on the book as much as it depends on the teen him or herself – but that's exactly what makes these questions so difficult to answer.