by Dennis Dalman
A novel titled “Him” has roused the hackles of several Sartell-St. Stephen school board members at its Jan. 23 meeting, and three board members, raising their voices in anger, called the book “hard-core pornography.”
Some parents, too, expressed outrage about the novel in the school.
The book (apparently there is only one copy of it at the high school) will be removed. “Him” was never approved as part of the learning process, and no one seemed to know how it came to be in the school or who, if anyone, authorized it.
“I’d like to see it in a dumpster fire,” said school board member Jen Smith, calling it a “horrible book.”
The other board members who expressed outrage at the book and its contents are Emily Larson, Scott Wenshau and Trish Meling.
Superintendent Jeff Ridlehoover noted the book is not in circulation and has not been checked out by students.
“Just the fact it’s even in our district is wrong,” Smith replied.
“This book does not belong on school bookshelves,” Wenshau said. “Some parents are pissed off about it existing here.”
“This is an emergency,” Larson said. “It (that book) does not belong here.”
The new Sartell High School does not have a central library. Instead, there are collections of books throughout the school, as in common spaces and in classrooms.
During the meeting, a parent read aloud part of a scene from the novel, which describes in detail a sexual encounter between two young men that includes repeated use of the “F” word and several mentions of body parts.
Board members Larson, Smith and Wenshau were elected last November as new members to the school board. Smith and Larson founded “Kids Over Politics (District 748)” last year, a parent group that seeks to introduce more parental control over the schools’ curricula, including which kinds of instructional materials to which students are exposed, including some books.
A number of parents have expressed shock and dismay about the book.
One social-media posting on the district’s website stated the following: “If my kid brought that home from school, I would be more than pissed that it was available there. There is a difference between controversial and inappropriate. This book is completely inappropriate for schools to have, yet we have it.”
Another parent’s comment, as shown on the district website, is this:
“If there’s one in the (school) library and it (hasn’t) been checked out before, obviously kids are checking it out of a public library, which our tax dollars go toward. Making a huge stink over it is also going to get more kids to read it. It’s that double-edged sword.”
First published in 2015, “Him” was written by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, best-selling authors who have collaborated on other books, including several known as “male/male romance novels.”
“Him” is narrated by the alternating points of view of its two main characters: Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley, two avid hockey players. When they were both 18 at a hockey camp, they had a sexual encounter when they were inebriated.
Some years later, they are set to face off in a national hockey championship, and thus they meet again and re-establish a relationship.
The book, sold on Amazon.com, comes with an advisory: “Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, (sexual) shenanigans in sports-utility vehicle and proof that coming out to your family on social media can be a dicey proposition.”
The novel earned many positive reviews after its publications. Seventy-three percent of Amazon readers of the book rated the book as worthy of five stars.
One reader named Emily stated the following: “The story was sweet, it was hilarious, it was everything I could have ever wanted it to be. ‘Him’ is the kind of book that reminds me why I love romance novels as much as I do.”
Seven percent of reader comments gave the book from one star to three stars.
One reader wrote: “This one is a cheesy, vapid and vulgar book, the characterizations are poor, the characters flat, the dialogue during the sex scenes is going to make you roll your eyes.”