Banned Books for All (the word "Banned" is crossed out) Teen Banned Book Club. Book cover: The Downstairs Girl

NYPL Continues Nationwide ‘Books For All: Teen Banned Book Club’ with ‘The Downstairs Girl’

Starting February 21, readers across the country will have unlimited access to the award-winning young adult bestseller The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (Penguin Random House) as part of The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) nationwide Teen Banned Book Club.

The Downstairs Girl, which is the third Teen Banned Book Club selection in NYPL's Books for All campaign, will be freely available across the U.S. through April 30, 2024. The Books for All campaign, which is the longest and largest banned books campaign in NYPL history, extends across the country and throughout the school year and focuses heavily on teen readers in recognition of the fact that the majority of books targeted for bans and challenges are books for young people.

Anyone over the age of 13 can download the title, whether or not they have a NYPL card, without wait times through the library’s free e-reader app, SimplyE.

Set in Gilded Age Atlanta, this Reese’s Book Club YA pick and New York Times Bestseller tells the story of 17-year-old Jo Kuan, who gets herself into hot water when her anonymous advice column soars.

Author Stacey Lee shared her enthusiasm to be part of the campaign in a video to library patrons. NYPL’s Teen Reading Ambassadors will also conduct a virtual author talk with Lee on April 25 at 3:00 p.m. ET, during which they will discuss the book, censorship, and why it's crucial for young people to have the opportunity to see themselves represented in the books they read.

Stacey Lee

The first selection for the book club was the highly-acclaimed Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro, who joined the Library's Teen Reading Ambassadors for a live streamed author talk on November 28, 2023. The second selection for the book club was the award-winning young adult bestseller All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, who also gave a live-streamed author talk on February 21, 2024. The next, and final, book club pick will be announced in the summer.

NYPL's Books for All campaign launched in October 2023 during Banned Books Week in response to the alarming rise of book bans and challenges throughout the country, which have significantly impacted young adults, and to underscore the vital role that public libraries play in our democracy. The library partnered with the Unite Against Book Bans campaign and the American Library Association (ALA), the foremost national organization representing the nation’s 123,000 libraries, to get the word out about Books for All across the country.

As part of the Books for All campaign, NYPL also ran a nationwide teen writing contest in partnership with 826 National that asked teens: “Why is the freedom to read important to you?” The contest closed on December 29, 2023, by which time the library had received 481 essays from teens across the country. The grand prize–winning entry will be published in Teen Vogue later this spring, and its author will receive $500. Twenty finalists will also receive a $250 prize, and all winners will have their essays shared in a special issue of NYPL’s Teen Voices magazine.

NYPL and ALA have also made available free downloadable toolkits to enable people and library systems all over the country to participate in Books for All in their own communities. The kits, which have thus far been downloaded by libraries, educators, and readers in 48 states, feature a “How to Get Involved” guide about ways to fight book bans, book discussion guides, button maker templates, and photo props with slogans like “I Read Banned Books,” “Read Freely,” and “Protect the Freedom to Read.”