Michigan’s Most Infamous Challenged and Banned Books

Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

World Book Day is celebrated on April 23 in most parts of the world that are not the United Kingdom, where nooks are given their day in March. World Book Day got its start in 1922 in Spain, where the publishing house of Miguel De Cervantes (writer of “Don Quixote”) came up with the idea as a promotion to sell more books.

Although it began in October on Cervantes’ birthday, it was later moved to April 23, which was not only the anniversary of Cervantes’ death, but also the death of William Shakespeare, among other well-known authors. The tie to Shakespeare is ironic since he didn’t write books, he wrote plays.

To commemorate World Book Day, BetMichigan.com took a break from Michigan sports betting and decided to look at the state’s most-searched banned books. Again ironic, since none of the books in question feature as much forbidden love, cross-dressing, and witches and demons as Shakespeare’s plays.

Starting with a list of the top 13 most banned and challenged books, according to the American Library Association, we used Google Trends to see how often those books were searched in Michigan. The search period was between March 8-April 8, 2024. (Note: These books have not necessarily been banned in Michigan, but they have been banned in areas around the U.S. and are popular in Michigan.)

Michigan’s Most Popular Banned Books

RankBookAuthorSearch Interest Score
1The Perks of Being a WallflowerStephen Chbosky54
T-2A Court of Mist and FurySarah J. Maas19
T-2CrankEllen Hopkins19
4Gender QueerMaia Kobabe8
5Me and Earl And the Dying GirlJesse Andrews6
6The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time American IndianSherman Alexie5
8The Bluest EyeToni Morrison3
9Lawn BoyJonathan Evison2
10This Book Is GayJuno Dawson1


Booking the Michigan Top 10

At the top of the list is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” the 1999 young adult (YA) novel by Stephen Chbosky. The well-reviewed book about high school students, has plot points involving drug use, sex, rape and mental health, which makes it scary to parents and relevant to teenagers who often have to deal with . . . drug use, sex, rape and mental health.

Tied at No. 2 are “A Court of Mist and Fury,” the 2016 second book in the “Court of Thorns and Roses” series by Sarah J. Maas and “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. Mist and Fury is fantasy but has some sex, which sent certain parental censors into a fury. Crank, published in 2004, is a novel based on the crystal meth addiction of the author’s daughter. It features “dirty” words and drug use. As is the case with others on this list, it is required reading in some high schools and banned in others.

In fourth position is Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” a 2019 graphic novel about the author’s gender journey. Given how hot a topic gender euphoria and gender dysphoria have become for teens, it’s easy to see why this book has gotten censors’ non-gender-specific panties in a bunch.

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews, is our fifth choice. It’s another high school story – this one about two friends and (spoiler alert) a dying girl. There are sexual situations and adult themes in the novel and that was enough to get it tossed from many school libraries.

Author Sherman Alexie comes in at No. 6 with “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The 2007 graphic novel about a Native American teenager. Beloved by many and despised by some, the novel consistently has ruffled feathers due to its language and situations.

No. 7 is “Flamer” by Mike Curato, which is not about an arsonist . . . or a fireman. It’s a 2020 autobiographical graphic novel set at a Boy Scout camp in 1995. Its LGBTQ+ themes and topics like homophobia and toxic masculinity, have made it toxic to the book-banning crowd.

In at No. 8 is “The Bluest Eye,” the 1970 debut novel by Toni Morrison. The Depression-era novel is a favorite of book banners due to its subject of race, adult themes, explicit language, and sexual abuse. Yes, it’s for mature readers, but many high school students are mature readers. At least more mature than their parents. Other works by Morrison, including 1987’s “Beloved,” have also made the banned list.

The 2018 semi-autographical novel “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison, is ninth on the list. If your book can’t get banned because it’s about Blacks, LGBTQ+, sex-fueled fantasy characters, or drug addicts, writing about your teenage life as a Mexican-American should do the trick. It did here.

Rounding out the list is” This Book Is Gay,” a non-fiction guidebook by Juno Dawson, published in 2014. With a title and topic like that, it might as well have been called, “This Book Is Banned.”

And there you have it. When we’re not digging into sports betting or online Michigan casinos, BetMichigan.com gives readers stories of general interest like this.


Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the Michigan sports betting market for BetMichigan.com. Before his focus on U.S. sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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