An advisory board for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina voted Tuesday morning to remove Sarah J. Maas’ bestselling young adult fantasy novel A Court of Frost and Starlight from school library shelves.
“The Central Media Advisory Committee met this morning to address appeals to three books: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins, A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas, and Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen,” the committee told The Daily Beast in a statement. “As a result of this meeting and much discussion, the Committee voted to retain Tricks and Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts). While the committee voted to remove the physical copies of A Court of Frost and Starlight, it supports student access to the digital version of the text through ONE Access, a partnership with the CM Public Library. Parents may opt out if they do not want their students to access the title that way.”
The decision came after the committee received a complaint from a parent who objected to the “adult themes and sexual content” in the book, Queen City News reported.
A Court of Frost and Starlight is a companion novella to Sarah J. Maas' epic bestselling young adult fantasy series, A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR). Bloomsbury, Maas’ publisher, describes the series as a “seductive, breathtaking fantasy series that blends romance, adventure, and faerie lore into an unforgettable read.”
A favorite on TikTok’s “BookTok” community, the series has sold over 13 million copies worldwide, and been translated into 37 languages, according to Bloomsbury. A Hulu TV adaptation is in development.
But not everyone is a fan. Maas’ novels have become a target for groups seeking book bans in school libraries across the country.
In September, PEN America reported that two of Maas’ books were among the “most banned of the 2022-2023 school year.” The second installment of ACOTAR, A Court of Mist and Fury has been the subject of at least 27 bans, PEN reported, outpacing Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir, which topped the list the previous year. Another of Maas’ books, Empire of Storms, has been the subject of 22 bans, according to PEN.
In February, a school district in Florida banned the first three books in Maas’ ACOTAR series. St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson said he reviewed the books, and 20 other titles, after complaints from parents.
Kasey Meehan, director of the Freedom to Read project at PEN America, said millions of readers enjoy Maas’ work.
“It’s disheartening that now, thousands of North Carolina students—in one of the nation’s largest school districts—will be deprived of her writing,” Meehan said. “In a climate that continues to see more and more books banned, a decision to ban even a single book is distressing.”
In response to the efforts to ban Maas’ books, fans have taken to social media in the last year to support her.
Recent political developments in North Carolina have empowered parents seeking to restrict access to certain books. On August 15, the North Carolina legislature passed a controversial Parent’s Bill of Rights, aimed at increasing parental involvement in public education. It created new avenues for parents of public school students to review and challenge textbooks, and created requirements for educators to notify parents if their children change their names or pronouns.
The new complaints about Maas’ book filed to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Central Media Advisory Committee fall under this new law. The committee is responsible for “support[ing] the selection and review of instructional materials “reviewing books with unsuitable content,” according to its internal policies.
The committee met Tuesday morning following a series of complaints about books raised by one local parent, local TV station WSOCTV reported.
Brooke Weiss, the head of the Mecklenburg County chapter of conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, and mother of a child at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, filed at least five complaints against specific books, the station found.
“It is a very popular series that is written for adults, and that is what the committee’s decision was based on,” Weiss told the Daily Beast in an email. “It is too sexually explicit and mature for an educational setting. They acknowledged the books in the series are available in the public library and they are not ‘banning’ the book. So, I am not sure why I have been relentlessly attacked and labeled as a book banner for three years straight when all I asked for was exactly what they decided to do today.”
As well as A Court of Frost and Starlight, Weiss took aim at four other titles: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult; Sold by Patricia McCormick; Tricks by Ellen Hopkins; and Jack of Hearts by L.C. Rosen.
This is not the first time the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district has grappled with the issue of book bans. Last month, The Daily Beast reported that the district sent an email to schools that were due to mark Banned Book Week, instructing them to “to cancel all events and messaging associated with this observance... ‘Banned Book Week’ is not aligned with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools academic curriculum or our pillars of excellence.”
After the resulting public outcry, the district backtracked, sending another email to principals.
“We are not taking a position on banned book week as it is a site-based decision,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg chief communications officer Shayla Cannady wrote in an email obtained by the Charlotte Observer. “It is not a violation or in any way associated with Parents Bill of Rights.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to Weiss objecting to the LGBTQ content of Jack of Hearts. The cited article did not name Weiss and referred only to “a parent of a student at Ardrey Kell High School.”