Places I Never Meant To Be is a collection of young adult short stories and essays that contain material that is often banned by schools and libraries. The stories deal with issues surrounding love, race, class, sex/sexuality, illness/dying, abuse, bullying, homelessness, and moral dilemmas. All of the stories are tastefully done. The authors aren’t pushing boundaries just for the sake of pushing boundaries. Even the fantastical stories deal with issues that real teens face.
The anthology also contains personal essays about how censorship and book banning has impacted each author’s life and work. Some of these essays are crazy. I didn’t know that people went to such extremes to get books banned. There are a few essays that I like more than the stories because they are so eye-opening.
Most of the stories in this book are pretty average. The anthology was published in 1999, and the stories are showing their age. Many of them feel dated. However, there are a few that I love:
In “Spear” by Julius Lester, the son of a famous black leader falls in love with a white girl. The two main characters in this story are very well-developed. Both of their families are pressuring them to be something they’re not, and I felt bad for them.
Paul Zindel’s “Love and Centipedes” is a horror story about a girl who uses centipedes to get revenge on a bully. I love horror, so of course I’d like this one. The characters are quirky, and the writing is attention-grabbing.
In Rachel Vail’s “Going Sentimental,” a teenage couple discovers that losing their virginity isn’t as dramatic as they expected. This is my favorite story in the anthology. It points out how our sex-obsessed culture can sometimes give teens unrealistic expectations. It’s also hilarious.
“Lie, No Lie,” by Chris Lynch is about a practical joke that turns out to be very unfunny. Reading this story made me uncomfortable (in a good way). I’m not sure how I should feel about the ending.
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a huge fan of Judy Blume’s introduction to this book. She does tell some interesting stories about how censorship has influenced her work, but the introduction feels a little long-winded and preachy to me. I totally agree with what she says, but reading it reminded me of those really long charity commercials that try way too hard to make you feel guilt and outrage.
Overall, this is an okay anthology. I enjoyed it. It’s a quick read. Most of the stories are short and entertaining. Some of them will make you uncomfortable, and some of them will make you think, and you’ll learn a little about censorship in the process.