Last week, in addition to Captain Underpants, I read another book on the American Library Association's most-challenged list: Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher. "Racism" is given as one reason for the challenge, but the young-adult novel is about racism.
T.J. Jones, an adopted mixed-race teenager, forms a swim team of misfits to challenge the dominant jock culture at Cutter High School. The story moves quickly, and the psychological motivations of the characters ring true. (Crutcher has been a child and family therapist.) Whale Talk is written for mature readers; abuse—physical, emotional, sexual—fuels much of the story line. Some of the characters use profanity; one abuser uses the N word, too.
Despite some hard-to-believe plot twists and a hero that's almost too good to be true, Whale Talk would probably provide fodder for a classroom discussion. If I were a teacher, though, I'd look for something else, most likely a book written more subtly.
Link: Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview with author Chris Crutcher