Posted in Books, censorship, cyber bullying, teacher librarians

Destroying Avalon and the f-word

I’ve checked the final text of Destroying Avalon. The notorious ‘f-word’ appears 5 times.

5 TIMES!!!!!

Do you get that? In a novel of 56 393 words, 5 of them are that bad word! Reason enough to ban it? I guess so, for some schools that’s obviously five times too many. I get it. But what about what those other 56 388 words are doing? What about the impact those words deliver?

The messages in Destroying Avalon (I think- and so does my editor and publisher- and my Mum) are important. It’s about cyber bullying- something so terrible and soul destroying we need to deal with it. It’s a book for kids who are alone, who feel they can’t take it anymore, who need to reach out. And maybe Destroying Avalon will encourage them to take that first step.

It’s a book for kids who maybe engaging in that behaviour without realising the ramifications of their actions. Maybe reading Destroying Avalon will remind them of the fundamental human kindness they so eaily shed when they hide behind the anonymity of the web.

It’s for parents who are giving their kids 15 inch LCD monitors, high speed broadband access and a passoport into the cyber world- without knowing where their kids are actually going.

It’s a book that is meant to send a timely reminder to us all. We live in a fantastic, technologically advanced world that provides us so much more than ever before. But let’s not blind ourselves to the dark side because it’s an inconvenient truth (thanks Al Gore!)

So it’s official Destroying Avalon has the f-word (in the most crucial pages of the novel) appearing five times. Do you think that should be reason enough to ban it???


I am an Australian author of YA and Adult fiction. My first novel Destroying Avalon (2006) published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press is about cyber bullying.My second novel In Ecstasy (2008) is about friendship and drugs. My third novel Beautiful Monster (2010)focuses on body image . Crashing Down (2014) was my fourth novel and is about teen pregnancy. Saving Jazz (2016), is a novel that looks the world of social media and what happens when your mistakes go viral. In 2019 I released a non-fiction book The (mostly) English Teachers' Survival Guide To Marking which outlines a coded marking and feed-forward system, designed to save teachers about 50% of their marking time. My first adult book Double Lives is being released in 2022. I live in Western Australia, with my husband, two daughters, a cat and two Maltese Shih Tzus.

58 thoughts on “Destroying Avalon and the f-word

  1. I’m totally agreeing with what you are saying. I’m a 16-year old male using your book as a text in English, in a rural place called Lightning Ridge NSW. After reading the book “Destroying Avalon” I didn’t relise that there was 5 “F-words” simply because I was drawn into the surrounding issues. Now, if the “Old-gray-headed men” think they should ban the book because it has a bad word in it, how are they going to police the word after the “children” leave school. They should come at this with a bit more maturity.

  2. Thanks for your comments Peter. Firstly let me say congratulations to your English teacher for using it as a text. It means that the f-word is being absorbed into the context of the novel. And as any English teacher knows, context is everything. Many people have said, like you, they didn’t even notice the f-word, because of the overwhelming issues the book deals with. Also, in this book language IS everything- it’s what destroys all the kids, discussing language in context gives us a platform to deal with the big issues.

  3. “So it’s official Destroying Avalon has the f-word (in the most crucial pages of the novel) appearing five times. Do you think that should be reason enough to ban it???”

    I’d be surprised if the average teenager doesn’t use the word five times before lunch, why try to pretend they don’t understand that it does have a context in modern life and has become part of our language.

    Back in my day we studied “Catcher in the Rye” (Salinger) and poems by Bruce Dawe and the teachers then took great pains to skirt around some of the grittier issues covered in their writing – is a word reason to ban any book? Never would I agree with banning a book because of the language used.

    Good on you Kate don’t Disney-fy your writing – one day our school system will drag itself into the 21st century.

    And congratulations on the book – I must grab a copy, when are you about for signings? 😉

  4. I am in love with your book! I read it in a day, and it made me cry. For a person like me that is a big thing. I’m reccomending it to all of my friends and i hope they read it! I agree with Peter, i didnt even notice the words… i just wish my school was more accepting of the context, i would love to study it.

  5. Hi Cagla,
    Thanks for the comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. The language was a deliberate choice at being truthful. It’s something I’ve had numerous discussions with people about since the publication of Destroying Avalon. It wasn’t to be trendy or controversial- it was to be honest. We know this is the language in the schoolyard and we know kids moderate it when they walk into the classroom. Like teachers do and parents also. It’s about context and audience.Still, some schools won’t accept it- even if it means the message will get across! Though I’m told the ‘sexual references’ and (spoiler alert) suicide still manage to make it controversial!
    But hey, as my Mum always says “better to be spoken about badly- than not spoken aout at all!!”
    Having said that its acceptance by its target audience reassures me that the language and subject matter were the right choices!

  6. This is the best book I have read in a long time. It is so powerfully written, and if anything about it changed, it just wouldnt have the same effect. So what if you used a couple of swear-words? This book is opening the eyes of teenagers everywhere, teaching them the extreme levels that bullying can reach, and the consequences that it can lead to. It simply would’t be right to ban such a great book that isn’t just a chliche`d teen novel, but is probably helping hundreds of bullies and victims speak up and own up.
    I absolutly loved this book, and stayed up till the early hours of the morning to finish it, then had to drag myself to school early the next day resembling something like a zombie, and ranting and raving about how good this book is to anyone that would listen!

  7. this is by far the best book i’ve read all year!! it as so touching, i cried so much. i spent all night reading it, it was that fantastic. the use of the f word five times throughout the whole novel is nothing compared to the amount of times i would here in a sigle day at school. the idea of banning the book because of this is ridiculous. this book explores many issues that teenagers face during their schooling, and is very moralistic and teaches a valuale lesson, it shows the consequences of bullying, and just how much it can affect someone. its truthful and emotive text open the eyes of many teenagers. this is so much more important than readers being exposed to swear words or foul language.i personally know that now after reading this book, i will never say something about someone that may not be true, or that may damage their reputation and i pressume that many other readers will think the same. this book is too precious and teaches too much of an important message to lose over a few swear words. it was simply wonderful. keep up the fantastic work Kate, you did marvelous 🙂

  8. Thanks for the kind words Annabelle and Steph!
    I hope the book does make the kind of impact you think it will.
    Keep your eyes open for In Ecstasy- April next year!! I hope you like that one too!!!

  9. I just finished reading Destroying Avalon which was given to me by my wide reading teacher. I was up all night crying my eyes out, so I’m extremely annoyed that people would dare to ban such an amazing book. I think it’s ridiculous that people want to ban the book because it uses the f-word 5 times! I mean, it’s not like it’s a completely foreign word to the book’s main audience. Our eyes aren’t burning from seeing that word for the first time in our lives. If they’re so concerned, they should ban Tv, internet, video games, music, even school! All these things are blatantly corrupt, but no one makes a peep, your book on the other hand is helping kids all over the world, and these people who want to ban it are either trying to be offensive or just plain stupid.

  10. congratz on this FABULOUS book. it is this book that got me to open up to my teacher about my own experience with cyber bullying. although mine was not as severe as the book but it really helped. Now i am in year 8 and i am doing this book as my free choise text for the semister. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS BOOK!! Please visit my website i have a page espeacially dedicated to Destroyign Avalon.

  11. Your book left me in tears, never has a book had such an impact on me. it has changed the way i look at bullies forever, i never thought it could lead to what your book discribes. and the f-word only drivers home a portion of the books meaning- intolerance and ignorance.

    I read your book four months ago and when i had to hand in a topic for an academic essay, i submitted “Adolescent mental health issues can be attributed to bullying in schools.” and to my surprise the teachers response was, “thats been done to death, pick something which envokes more interest”. I was so frustrate that the following day i gave the teacher “destroying avalon” telling her that if after reading that she can look me in the eye and still tell me my topic doesnt “envoke interest”, then i will change it.

    Shes in the process of reading it. But it made me think, how are the youth of australia ever ment to be tolerant of each other if our teachers dont take the time to apprecate the detrimental results bullying can have on a youths mental state.

    you captured high school to a ‘T’, congrats on such superb writting. I look forward to you next install, hopefully it shall be as thought provoking.

  12. Hi Tegan,
    Thanks for the comments. I must say I’m as surprised as you by that response that ‘it’s been done to death’. The problem (bullying) still pervades our culture and the attitude of bullying being a rite of passage makes it acceptable. Which it’s not and never will be. I guess the problem lays, and has always, in the prevention of such behaviour. A radio interviewer asked me what can we do to stop bullying behaviour and my response was ‘teach people to be nicer to each other’. Some would say a totally naive attitude perhaps– others might say overly ambitious. But why is it? If a novel can teach the other side maybe it can reach out to affect change.
    There- my little rant for the day!
    Anway thanks for the comments. I’m glad you got so much from the book- that in itself is the greatest reward for me! Watch out for In Ecstasy in April next year- I hope you like it!

  13. Congratulations on a book that is so relevant, so brutally honest and that captures the reality of what so many of the youth of today are experiencing. I read the first 3 chapters of the book to my Year 9/10 girls English class last September to engage them back in reading.

    It is now March of the following year and I have finally been able to get my hands back on the novel to finish reading it (and start all over again) after it has been in such high demand. And even then it was only because 1 year 9 student took pity on me missing out and loaned it to me over a weekend while still under her name!

    Even as an adult the feeling of being bullied and the context of the high school setting tore at my heart. Even more so I think as a student from the Northern Suburbs who buried a school mate in Pinnaroo there was such a confronting reality to the novel in your exceptional detail.

    And yes, I did return the novel to the library and it did not last a few hours before it was borrowed again. Thanks not just for exposing this harsh reality but also for getting my students reading again!

  14. Hi Lesa,
    Thanks for your comments. It is rewarding to hear that Destroying Avalon is getting kids back into reading as that was always one of the main reasons why I wanted to be a writer! I hope my next book is as well received by kids and schools!
    Watch out for In Ecstasy- to be released in April!
    Cheers Kate

  15. If you ask me, the amount of times a book has swearing in it has absolutely no impact on the story. I’m fifteen, when I read ‘Destroying Avalon’, it was a choice of mine. I found it refreshing that there was an author that was touching on some major issues, and not softening the blow. I’ve been in Avalon’s postition, it didn’t get as bad but reading her story I got the courage to take steps and stop it.

    If others can’t see the impact ‘Destroying Avalon’ can have, then I honestly have to say they’re blind. So it swears, big deal, there are worse words out there than the ‘f-word’. To me, it was brilliant. You didn’t hide the truth, you showed people what was happening, you showed us how to stop it. How are we supposed to live our lives without being afraid that the next time our phone beeps or the computer makes a noise it’ll be more threats? If teachers, the people responsible for our safety and happiness for six hours, five days a week won’t accept this… How can they expect us to hold our heads high and keep walking? It’s stupid, stupid and blind. So it says a “naughty” five times, how many times do most teenagers use it in a day? Fifty? Sometimes it’s every second word, you don’t blow off a good book, a book that is more than a good read, but a book that is the only one touching on such subjects. It was high school all over, it was so like my own school it was almost scary. Brilliant writing, some of the best I’ve read.

    Can’t wait for the new one.

    Sorry about that, I think I ranted a bit. Opps.

  16. hayy yeah well i’m 15 and a girl …

    who cares if it has some indecent words that isnt what the book is about …. DESTROYING AVALON is about a young girl having to make the change from living in the country and moving to a big city . fitting into a new school and becoming involved in a brutal cyber bulling campain …
    just get over it …

    well the book is great and i rekon that everyone who even doees like reading should to. before i read this book i was lucky to even look at a magazine and now i read pretty much everyday ..

    love you all jess

  17. This year, my year 11 English teacher had the class read Destroying Avalon as a part of our study on cyber-bullying. She had read it previously and told the class how excellent it was. Well, most of the class finished it within the first week. I cried throughout the second half of the book and I don’t think any of my classmates had dry eyes either. It was such a touching story and it really brings you back down to earth about the situations that are happening this very day.

    Another class is now working on it and my friend (in that class) has been reading during recess and lunch; every chance she can get. All of year 11 is now talking about it and those people that claimed “I just don’t like reading” swallowed their words.

    In in relation to the ‘f word’ being present 5 times, I say “who cares?!” I think it just made the story more realistic and believable. It also fit in with the passion and ferocity of the riveting story line.

    Thank you for introducing such a confronting and enthralling novel into today’s technological society. I have and will definitely be recommending this book to almost everyone I know.

    Can’t wait to read more of your work,

  18. Thanks Emma,
    What a fantastic review of my book! It’s still a great thrill to receive emails from people who have read it and had it impact upon them in some way. My next book ‘in ecstasy’ is due to hit the shelves any day now. It will be launched here in Perth on April 4th and will be available in bookshops then too. I hope you like it as much as Destroying Avalon.
    Good luck in Year 11!

  19. Dear Kate,
    Thank you for writing Destroying Avalon. I am a teacher librarian who has come across students who have been bullied, in the classroom, the playground and via the internet and the mobile phone.
    I have not been able to put it down. I went into the city on the train, and almost missed my stop. I was in tears in places, it is so moving. I am going to recommend it for class set reading at Year 10 level.

    We need to confront teenagers with these issues. Without a book such as yours, teenagers will not realise the significance of their actions.

    Best wishes with your new book.


  20. Thanks Annie- it’s great to know people like yourself- at the coal face- are able to recommend my books to the kids they are intended for. Sorry for making you cry- and nearly miss the stop- but it’s also great to hear such strong responses!
    Cheers Kate

  21. i think they should`nt ban this book because i reckon it`s an awesome book. i am doing this for my english assigment aswell and i am below 15. this book should`nt be banned because it can relate to other peoples

  22. hey well im 14 his year and me and my friends we cant go till recess without sayin the ”f” word atleast 5 times and i really enjoyed the book it was really good and made me cry at the end lol i dont think they should ban this book its awesome and really tells teens what could happen coz this has happened and it still does go on well cant type foreva then 1 more thing KATE MCCAFFREY ur the best

  23. hi, im 15 and i chose your book for my english assignment. I think it’s pathetic how people can be fussing over something like that when the book sends such a strong message about a subject that is SO much more important! Plus – that word is so commonly used in society that most people would hear or use the word daily. What difference is it that it’s in a book?

    great book 🙂

  24. Hi Keira and Emily,
    Since i wrote this post it is safe to say Destroying Avalon has been accepted by the education system and used readily in schools across Australia. Most teachers and librarians accept the use of the naughty words and see how they fit into the story.
    Thanks for your comments and support!

  25. Hi,
    I have gotten this book for an english assignment today. So far, I think it is quite good and it displays a really strong message. As Emily said, the ‘f’ word is commonly used by people in society, so why should it matter if it appears five times in a book. And about your comment above (no. 25) I do reckon that the teachers understand the message, especially since I witnessed the teacher hearing someone quote a few sentences from the book, though not being part of classroom etiquette as such, they laughed and just got on with it. I’m looking forward to finishing it and presenting my summary on it as part of the class assessment.

  26. I don’t think that the book should be banned because of that. Yes, it has some inappropriate language, but when your a teenager, reading this book it only makes it real. When you are in a high school situation, these words are used, when you are being cyber bullied, these words are used. so it gets the message across

  27. After reading your book, I was surprised to see that it was banned, which I am now pleased to hear that has been overturned. Your book has such deep meaning for all that read it. I am a mum of 3 teenage girls one who has been bullied.
    Funny that they would ban such an important book, when everyday our children hear words such as that of the “F” word daily in music on the radio, tv and friends.
    Well done with your success of your books and I am looking forward to reading ecstasy.

  28. THIS BOOK IS THE BEST NOOK EVER!!!!!!!!! it made me cry so much! i wish it never happend (cyber bullyin or any kinds of bullyin) i hate bullies
    anyways i recommend this book to every1 whi has a heart

  29. im doing research on the book right now for an english assignment, i loved the book and didint notice any bad language. If the book didnt have ‘naughty words’ it wouldnt be realistic,
    now days, thats how teenagers talk to eachother.
    it deffinatly should NOT be banned,
    its such a good book, every teenager should be made to read it,

  30. I didn’t like the book because i think that the language you used and the way which the characters acutally talked was unrealistic. And the suicide thing gave everyone exactly what they wanted. And the book was predictable

  31. hey im 13. i was given the book as an english assignment and i’ll be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it. I immediately labelled it as one of those ‘issues’ books that avoided the truth and was completely unrealistic. I was so wrong! this is a great book, so much like how high school is really like. It was really beneficial and it opened my eyes to how awful bullynig can get. Thank you!

  32. When I was in Year 9, my English Teacher gave us this book to read, sheerly for your strong use of language and the message you raise. We took no notice of the swear words; besides, we used (and still do) the words in everyday life. I’m now in Year 11, and out of all the English Texts I’ve been given to read, yours was the most inspirational. I go to a commercial school in Sydney, so I’m glad they didn’t ban it. Your novel was superb; thank you.

  33. i have chosen to use this book for my independent study, i found it really moving, especially the part about marshall. you can really relate to the issues in the book

  34. i find thiss book to bee very straight fowardd this wil give kids an ideal of how when you bully some one there could be help and and you shuldd tell simee onneree off [hyou zrre and ddnnt takke itt to personalle e ANND I AT TIMME I FEALL TH SAMME WAYY ABPOUUTT

  35. Hey Kate. I loved the book, we just finished reading in in English (I’m year 10). It was so true, the things that go down at school these days, I am not a bully and I think people who have to type immature things into a screen and sent it off are cowards. Why can’t they say it to someones face?! You are an amazing writer, look forward to reading more of your books 🙂 when will you ever come to Perth fro book signings?

  36. hi my class is reading this book for english and well im not much of a reding person but i loved this book and i didnt want to put it down or for it to end it had me tearing up i felt like it was in the book when i read it gr8 job on the book loved it.

  37. hi i am 15 and i am doing a text study on this book at the moment. and it really isn’t a big deal. without this laungage the book would not be as realistic. these words are said every day and it really would not be the same book without the f-word and sl** and the other words used.

  38. Hey Kate, I’ve finished reading your book a text for my year 9 english class.
    For one thing, I loved the book. I learnt a lot – I was never cyber bullied properly (it was only the few people who disagree with me on YouTube who get over the top :P) or cyber stalked, and was shocked to the extent that some people go.
    In the school that I attend, swearing is nearly common practice – and while it’s disgusting, you can’t take it out of someone’s daily routine where I am. Adding swearing is only amusing to the childish and offensive to the sensitive in my class, and it’s taken pretty seriously.
    As well as giving the school a “normal” badge, it gives the book a darker feel, and makes everything that bit more serious than just a novel about bullying.
    Great book, thank you!

  39. Hi Kate,

    I am also one of the readers who love your book. I am studying the Area of Study – Belonging for my last year in high school. I found that this book, in many ways, show the physical and emotional prism to the notion of belonging as well as sending out the main message of the effects of cyber bullying.

  40. Hi Kate,

    I read your book for my year 10 English assignment and I love how you tackled the issue of cyberbullying. I really love the way you wrote Destroying Avalon. Keep up your really good work!

  41. Hi Kate,

    I studied your book for my year 8 English assignment and I cried nearly all the way through your book. If people are focusing on the F-word being used instead of the themes and the beauty of the book, then they need to step back and look at the bigger picture. I think this book is really brave and I loved it so much. Thank you so much. Our generation needs a book like this to teach us.

  42. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back often!

  43. this is such an emotional and touching story. made me feel so much stronger about not only cyberbullying, but also how we should treat each other everyday. we need to keep our eyes wide open and help those who are suffering. thanks for writing such an inspiration book Kate McCaffrey

  44. This book is so emotional and touching. Last year some of my yr 8 friends (i was in yr 7) read it. So when the opportunity came for me to read it last year I took it. I have been cyber-bullied before but nothing like what Avalon and Marshall were receiving. Thankyou for writing this book.

  45. As a whole grade, our Year 9 classes read Destroying Avalon. I’m 14 and I enjoy reading, unlike many of my classmates. In fact some classes read it aloud. Our class only just started reading it but I’m going ahead because it just seemed so intriguing. I mean, if swear words are in the conversations of teenagers today, than why wouldn’t it be in the dialogue of book characters in their teens? In fact, it encourages teenagers to read instead of sitting in front of screens because they can relate and the language is real in context. So why ban the book in schools when it encourages them to read books instead of spending all their time in front of electrical appliances.

  46. I’m in year 10 in a country school and all English classes use this book. Each class reads aloud and no one has a problem with it. In fact we are currently writing an essay about whether Destroying Avalon is a suitable book to be read, as far as I’m aware everyone feels as though this is a good book to read, Not only is it enjoyable but it has the ability to help someone that may be in a situation like this. I don’t think this book should be banned at all, it is an asset to have in the classroom and can encourage people to seek help.

  47. I’m in year 12 at the moment, and I picked up this book just for a read, and I loved it!! When I was in the middle, we got our English assignment, and I chose to use it, and I didn’t even notice the ‘f-word’ at all. Although I won’t include that particular phrase in my speech, it didn’t have any harm, as I hear it enough every day!!!
    Anyway, thanks for the great book, I really enjoyed it 🙂

  48. I have loved this book so much. I am 14 and we are currently studying this in English and i have loved every bit of this book. Anyways Thanks for such a great book, I loved it. 🙂

  49. We are two high school students, similar aged to Avalon and we believe the language in this text is quite relavant to today society as no one is oblivious to what happens online. Some chapter however, were very confronting which made them difficult to read but the sense of realisticness to them is incredible.

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