by Philina Richardson
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
I remember begging my mom to take me to the bookstore the day The Amber Spyglass was released. I remember being so excited that I started reading in the car. I also remember having my 13-year-old heart ripped out several days later when I finished.
Written by Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials is a young adult fantasy series of three books: The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights in other parts of the world), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Borrowing heavily from Milton’s Paradise Lost, the books follow Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry as they adventure across the multiverse and the underworld in the company of witches, angels, gypsies, aeronauts, and giant polar bears.
Oh, and they kill God. (Ok, not really. But they sort of do.)
The influence of Milton’s Paradise Lost shows. The trilogy has been attacked for “promoting atheism” and showing the Church in a negative light, charges that Pullman does not confirm or deny. Mentions of 12-year-old Lyra’s burgeoning sexuality were omitted from American editions of the book because publishers didn’t think it would sit well with American audiences.
Threats to delicate young minds and delicate sensibilities landed this trilogy at number two on ALA’s list of banned books in 2008. At 13, I was ignorant of the controversy surrounding the book I was about to purchase, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew I was reading something radical, challenging, and exciting, and I loved every second of it. A few years later I learned that His Dark Materials had caused quite a ruckus among the grownups, and I laughed.
Didn’t they remember? The best books are the books they don’t want you to read.