Virginia’s Most Infamous Challenged and Banned Books

Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Virginia, as the motto says, is for lovers, but that doesn’t necessarily carry over to book lovers.

According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, more than 4,200 unique books faced challenges to be pulled from public school or community libraries last year. Virginia was one of 17 states that had more than 100 books receive scrutiny. In fact, the 387 titles challenged in 2023 were the fifth-highest in the U.S., behind only Florida, Texas, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

With World Book Day (April 23) less than two weeks away, BetVirginia paused our Virginia sports betting coverage and decided to see which banned or challenged books are the biggest favorites among Virginia residents. Using a list of the top 13 most banned and challenged books according to the American Library Association, we then consulted with Google Trends to see how often those books were searched in Virginia. The search period was from March 9 to April 9, 2024.

Most Popular Banned Books in Virginia

Rank, Book Author Search Interest Score
1. “Crank” Ellen Hopkins 25
2. “A Court of Mist and Fury” Sarah J. Maas 24
3. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” Sherman Alexie 14
4. "Out of Darkness” Ashley Hope Perez 10
5. "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Jesse Andrews 8
6. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Stephen Chbosky 6
7. "Looking for Alaska” John Green 5
8. "The Bluest Eye” Toni Morrison 3
9. "Flamer” Mike Curato 2
10. "This Book is Gay” Juno Dawson 1

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Young Adult Novels Top Virginia List of Banned Books

The most popular of the banned books in Virginia was “Crank,” a 2004 young adult book written by Ellen Hopkins loosely based on her daughter’s addiction to crystal meth. While the book was a New York Times bestseller and received several awards, it has faced numerous challenges because some have raised concerns about its graphic descriptions of drug use and sex.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Crank” was one of 75 books banned by Hanover County Public Schools.

Second on the list was another young-adult novel. “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas is the 2016 follow-up to her “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” An attempt to ban the book within Virginia Beach schools was overturned in 2022 by a judge who ruled the effort unconstitutional.

Third was “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Sherman Alexie’s young adult book is about a member of the Spokane tribe who chooses to attend a high school off his reservation. Newsweek reported in January 2023 that the novel was one of 21 pulled from school library shelves by the Madison County School Board due to what some considered graphic sexual descriptions.

USA Today photo by Patrick Breen/The Republic

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Steve Bittenbender

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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