School Book Fair Truncated After Parent Complains About 'Heartstopper'
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.
A parent's complaint about Alice Oseman's graphic novel – the basis for the popular Netflix series – prompted Ohio's Little Miami school district to cut back on a fundraising book fair, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Though the graphic novels and the TV series have charmed fans around the world with Oseman's sweet storytelling and realistic, relatable storylines, the parent in question, Silas Shelton, claimed in remarks to the school board that "Heartstopper" was telling kids to "explore their sexuality," and said that he "got sick reading that stuff."
Shelton went on to claim that parents "aren't allowed to talk about the health risks of kids being gay," though it was unclear from the article what sort of ban he was referring to, how it is enforced, or what health risks gay teens face that straight teens do not.
"While book bans in various school districts have made headlines this year," the Enquirer noted, "the Little Miami situation is different because the book in question isn't one being assigned as reading material or even stocked regularly in the school's library."
The "Heartstopper" books in question "were available for sale during a Scholastic Book Fair for 10 days in August," the news article detailed.
"Little Miami School District instituted a 'pause' on book fairs" after the complaint, "saying it wanted to impanel a special committee to screen books sold at district fairs," the newspaper reported. A petition at Change.org was set up in opposition, before "the district announced it would scale back, in a compromise," the Enquirer said.
"Instead of allowing students to peruse books during the school day, as has been past practice, the fair instead will only be open during two nights of parent-teacher conferences to ensure that children have parental supervision while choosing what books to buy."
The scaled-down book fair could result in a less successful fundraiser and, therefore, less money for the school, the article noted.
Oseman's graphic novels are stocked with teenage characters from across the natural spectrum of human sexuality, and their romantic travails are treated with decorum in the Netflix adaptation. The Enquirer noted that the graphic novels' main storyline was assessed by Common Sense Media, "an organization providing age-based media reviews," as being "a high school romance between two boys that grows from a classroom friendship."
"A few drawings in the graphic novel depict kissing from the shoulders up, a few instances of strong language, and some 'mild romantic gestures like holding hands and hugging,'" the newspaper noted.
The Netflix adaptation treats the characters' romantic relationships with similar decorum, in a striking contrast to other shows about teenagers, such as HBO's "Euphoria."
Book bans and challenges to library books have skyrocketed over the past few years, with conservatives pressing the narrative that age-inappropriate books are being stocked in schools. But public libraries, too, have seen books challenged – in most cases, books that deal with America's history around race or issues related to sexual minorities.
Indeed, an NBC report noted that more than half of the books that came under challenge last year include LGBTQ+ themes.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.