Ted Dawe's Into the River won the 2013 New Zealand Post Children's Book prize; businesses that sell, lend or gift it face fines of up to NZD10,000.
The book is aimed at teen boys — a relative rarity in YA literature — and features sex scenes, a slang term for genitals, and drug use. The group Family First got the NZ Film and Literature Board of Review to ban the book. It is being pulled from stores, libraries, and schools across the country.
The ban is interim and will be finalised or lifted based on a later hearing.
"I have taught in secondary schools for the past forty years. Much of this time has been spent encouraging boys to read. Part of the challenge was to find books that 'spoke' to them. This meant books about issues that were relevant to them and written in a style that was authentic," he said.
"There are many issues that young adults can not take to other people. They want to do their own thinking about them. There is no better, no more private medium for this than the novel.
"In this relatively safe context the teenager can navigate through issues such as race, sexual orientation, body issues, class discrimination and bullying and harassment. They can test their responses against the main characters and calibrate the differences without the need to discuss."
"The last banned book was entitled How to Build a Bazooka. Perhaps the content of Into the River is a bazooka fired into the complacent middle class oligarchy that rules this country."
New Zealand bans award-winning teenage novel after outcry from Christian group [Eleanor Ainge Roy/The Guardian]