The American Library Association teamed up with us this week on a letter to the Rocklin Unified School District, where they are currently considering pulling Different Seasons by Stephen King out of school libraries. After her ninth grade son brought the book home from the library, a parent complained about sexual content in the book, specifically in the story “Apt Pupil.”
While certain works might not be suitable for everyone — adults and teens alike, libraries exist so that individuals can make personal choices about what materials they wish to read. “Apt Pupil” might disturb one reader, but it is also a fascinating discussion of the influence of power and the Nazi crimes of World War II.
(“Apt Pupil” has also been made into a film starring Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro. More offensive than its content is David Schwimmer’s mustache, but we digress.)
The letter defends the book, the genre and the story as well as students’ right to read it:
The parental complaint centers on the novella “Apt Pupil,” which portrays a friendship between a young boy and a former Nazi commander and deals with the corruptive influence of power and evil. Had the objector read the work in its entirety (she admits to having read just thirty percent) she might have seen that the story does not endorse the violence it portrays but treats the inclinations of the characters with a degree of disgust. The “rape scene (in a wet dream)” to which she objects in particular, serves to show the young boy’s desperation and revulsion over his friendship with the old man. The issues and themes dealt with in “Apt Pupil”—the atrocities of World War II, violence, a power struggle, corruption—may not be suitable for all readers. If the parent feels the book is not suitable for her child, she is free to guide him to a different book, but her views are not shared by all parents and students.