A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of insight into life in South Korea in the early '80s, and what it's like living under a brutal military dictatorship. Lots of controversial books and authors mentioned.
Everyone has the right to the truth. Look for the truth and stand up for it. If enough people stand together openly and without giving up, change for the better will happen. Access to information and literature of all kinds helps us discover the truth and figure out our own beliefs and values.
Positive Role Models
Hyun Sook and her friends in the book club are great models of courage, perseverance, and teamwork. They have many different methods of networking, protesting, and trying to restore fair and democratic elections. They stand by their principles and don't give each other away even under brutal interrogation.
All Korean characters in the historically accurate, homogenous, closed South Korean society. Epilogue mentions a character who organizes the annual Pride parade.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
A couple of sequences show violent interrogations with victims bleeding from the nose and mouth. Most direct violence like punching and hitting with canes and billy clubs is implied, but a punch in the nose is shown with blood spraying out. Flicking a lit cigarette butt at a victim's head, knocking a seated victim's chair over, and pressing a victim's face into the floor are shown. Past rape during interrogation is implied. Protestors punch law enforcement officers and throw Molotov cocktails. Some disturbing stories of a recent massacre with news-photo-styled illustrations. Police throw tear gas into a small room full of college students.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mild romantic dynamics like holding hands and one kiss on the cheek. A professor invites a student to a hotel and says no one need to know what happens behind closed doors.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
One mention of Nike shoes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villains smoke cigarettes. Mention that a college student makes rose wine. Illustration of wine bottles at a picnic.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Banned Book Club is a graphic novel about a college student in 1980s South Korea, which was then under a repressive and brutal dictatorship. Violence includes rough interrogations with victims bleeding from the nose and mouth, a punch in the nose that shows blood spraying, and news-photo-type images of a real massacre that took place several years before this story is set. A professor invites a student to a hotel. Past rape during interrogation is implied. Romance is very light, with some holding hands and a kiss on the cheek. A couple of mentions of wine. Villains smoke cigarettes.
Is It Any Good?
This compelling graphic novel offers a lot of food for thought on much more than just banning books, packed into a slim volume. Banned Book Club is based on real events, and relatable protagonist Hyun Sook gets readers thinking about government, family, literature, resilience, protest, democracy, access to information, and lots more. The black-and-white illustrations are dynamic and dramatic.
Some transitions from one thing to another, especially when lightening things with a bit of humor, are abrupt and jarring. Also, sometimes they're paired with character drawings that don't have distinguishing features, or are from a far-off point of view, so it can take a minute to figure out who's talking. But readers will find a lot to think and talk about issues important to teens, especially if they're interested in politics and activism.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Books to Inspire Young Activists
Graphic Novels That Teach History
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate