Neil Barton hates his small town, Americus. He uses his love of books as a shield to keep the rest of the world at bay. And then his best friend's mother starts a campaign to get the Apathea Ravenchilde books, Neil's favorite series, pulled from the local library.
I'm of two minds about this book. On one hand, Reed went for the most over-the-top possible book banning scenario. And yet, that doesn't make it any less realistic of a scenario. Sure, most censorship attempts are far calmer, but if you don't think that there are people who could work themselves into an identical frenzy in real life over a middle grade fantasy series, you haven't paid attention to the extremes of the debate over Harry Potter. The censorship side of the debate in Americus could be made up entirely of direct quotes from people opposed to Harry Potter in real life. So yes, it is a realistic look at an extreme attempt at book banning that could really happen (and has happened!) in modern America. But that is really at the far, extreme edges of the issues surrounding censorship, and it lets the author present the issue as good vs. evil, when it's seldom that simple.
I was also disconcerted with how Neil's friend, Danny, was handled. Early in the book, he comes out to his parents, and is immediately shipped off. That wasn't what worried me. It's a valid plot development, if handled well. The problem is that Danny is just bundled off and largely forgotten about. When he does come up in conversation, it's usually handled fairly well. The scenes with his younger sister trying to deal with his absence are heartbreaking, and the family not dealing with the issue is probably realistic. I just wish that Danny had been given more time. As it is, he's just a pointless subplot, and I think he, and the issue, deserve more than that.
So yes, mixed feelings. I admire what the author was trying to do, but a less extreme banning attempt would have been more realistic, and let the book become more than just a lecture. I also felt like Danny's subplot wasn't given the space it deserved, which is a shame. I think Reed could have done a great job with it, if she'd actually given his story more attention. On the other hand, Apathea Ravenchilde is a great name for an epic fantasy heroine.