On September 12, 2022, Northwest Cabarrus High School Senior Mary Liu was asked to leave a school board meeting where they were discussing banning the book Looking for Alaska by John Green.
"I was furious. I was telling them that I don't think this is right, because it also just hit me that students were the most impacted by this topic. Yet, our voices or our opinions were just not heard. When I talked to many peers, like myself, we love that book. Why? Because it talks about experience that we can relate to. You know? The grief of losing a friend, like, the struggle of fitting in at school, young relationships, young love — like these are stuff that when we read this book we identify with. So when you censor a certain material, because of your interpretation, you're not just saying this material is bad, but you're censoring, like the whole meaning, that whole interpretation, that other people can identify with."
According to Liu, banning books can have some unintended consequences.
"It also comes down to a question of: Do I feel safe in school? If, let's say, because I am a lesbian, and I see a book about, let's say, lesbians getting removed, and other students can see that too. ... that means probably homosexuality should not belong in school."
As of December 2022, the Cabarrus School Board has not made a decision on the banning of Looking for Alaska. Mary continues to fight for students’ access to literature in Cabarrus County schools because she finds it to be a unique way for them to learn and connect with the world around them.