Which is Sweeter? Blood or Chocolate?
THE DEFENDANT: Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause
THE VERDICT: While technically not widely banned, Blood and Chocolate was on the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2001 of 448 challenges reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom for being sexually explicit and unsuited to intended age group of readers. Regardless of the charges, the book won the 1998 YALSA Award for Best Books for Young Adults. Klause has not made an appearance before on the banned books list.
THE CHARGES: Blood and Chocolate is charged with being sexually explicit, being unsuited for the intended age group, and also for religious reasons. While the book did make the top challenged list, it was only banned from LaPorte (TX) school library shelves “until selection policy is reviewed” (Marshall 2011).
As the plot of the book focuses on a teenage werewolf and her problems with her family, school, fitting in, and a boy, it would seem obvious to the reader that some adult themes would come into play as they do in real life. Classified as a romantic young adult novel, Blood and Chocolate is part of the current trend that showcases a world that occupies the individual’s fantasies and imagination (Piesyk 2010).
THE REVIEW: Personally, I loved this book and read it shortly after it was published. I have read this book so many times that I had to buy a second copy, since the first was so abused.
The book is written in the perspective of the main character Vivian, who, after a tragic loss and family/pack disputes, is looking to belong. She eventually falls in love with a boy from school, which continues to create an even larger rift between her and the pack. Aiden is the opposite of her “family” which she finds relieving in comparison to the squabbling that she deals with at home.
The book is written in a way that you empathize with Vivian and her plights. With the loss of her father, the pack leader, her life is turned upside down. She is moved from the safety of the countryside to the unfamiliar suburbs. Obviously, this is not the best situation for a large pack of werewolves to remain unknown. Vivian is desperate to have a normal life and often finds herself socially isolated from the other students. After publishing a painting in the school newspaper, Vivian becomes intrigued by a poem that faced her painting. Finding the author to be a handsome boy who is fascinated with the supernatural and magic, Vivian feels like she has found someone to share her secret, which is against pack law.
THE DEFENSE: Annette Curtis Klause has made plenty of arguments in support of her own book which I think adequately state the point I would like to make:
“Reading about violence and horror is a way for a person to not only clarify their stance on moral issues by exploring the alternatives (and in doing so give license to the antisocial creature within in a safe venue) but to exercise their responses to the terrible and be prepared for it in real life.”
“It is foolish to try and sanitize literature and the arts under some mistaken idea that one is protecting youth. Children and teens need to explore the dark side as a healthy part of growing. If a child is protected from everything dreadful, he will have no coping mechanisms in place when finally confronted with disaster.”
“There are limits in what should be presented in children’s literature based on a child’s cognitive level and life experience. I don’t want to traumatize young people. But I think they are capable of dealing with much more than some people give them credit for.”
“Some things like sexual feelings, are universally true in adolescence, and I am not about to ignore them or pretend there is something wrong. The feelings exist—it’s what you do with them that counts.” (Piesyk 2010)
According to Amazon, Blood and Chocolate is intended for young adults from grade 9 and up and for children aged 12 and up. While I would be significantly more comfortable giving this book to a high school student, I think a mature enough 12 year old could comprehend the point of the few moments of adult content that I would describe as rather edited. Nothing sexually explicit is described other than the descriptions of Vivian and the pack and the process of the change into their “wolf” state, which often discusses nudity but in a non-sexual manner.
Vivian often puts herself in situations that are sexually charged and ends up in adult situations that would make some adults uncomfortable, but, as an individual that read this book for the first time as an adolescent, I did not end up scarred by what I read nor did it effect my decisions on what could be considered “typical teenage dilemmas”. Klause put it the best “Young people are capable of dealing with much more than some people give them credit for.”
The only reason that the religious charges could potentially have came up is the often use of pentagrams and discussion about magic. I feel like the charge was tacked on at the end and almost feels like Mom is mad that their little baby is wearing a little too much black.
I would tread with caution on giving this book to the younger children, but I would have no problem giving this book to my teenager, as I’m pretty sure that they have these issues in their everyday life (minus the werewolf part…sadly).