"Trash of the Veriest sort" or the Great American Novel?
I tend to wonder about the mental capacities of those who pushed for the banning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, at the time of its release. The only plausible explanations I've come accross are that many behind the ban either didn't actually make it to the end of the book, or more probably suffered from severe irony deficits.
The evasion sequence shows the potential problems with kids imitating the stuff they read (or had their more literate friend tell them) about in supposedly respectable novels. Classic, "respectable" literature tends to set far worse examples than anything in Clemens' work. Honestly, the biggest crime Huck commits in the story is grand theft human, which by the time the novel was published, was no longer illegal (and in theory blacks were SUPPOSED to be considered free). Granted, he does get into some minor mischief. Still, a kid emulating Huck Finn is far better off (and likely more alive) than someone emulating Romeo and Juliet. Suicide tends to be a bit harder to bounce back from than getting in trouble for stealing chickens. Lying isn't nearly as bad of a habit to pick up as killing everyone who gets in the way of your rise to power (MacBeth) or trying to defy the oracle at Delphi and indavertently murdering your father, having two kids with your mother, and eventually gouging your eyes out as a result (Oedipus Rex).
That said, it's interesting to take a look at more recent literature for young adults in comparison (I took a course on this). The Outsiders by Stephanie Hinton, involves a gang and includes a murder, Twilight involves dating vampires (which is decidedly unsafe), Carrie lays waste to an entire town in Stephen King's novel, Jack Gantos smuggles a boat-load of pot into the US in his autobiography Hole in My Life and a mob of boys kill two others in Lord of the Flies by William Golding. All of these stories demonstrate far more dangerous behavior than anything that occurs in Huck Finn.
The list gets even more impressive when I look back on the sort of stuff I read when I was younger. Raskolnikov kills an old lady (Crime and Punishment), Raul Duke takes all sorts of drugs (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Tyler Durden wages a guerilla war on civilization (Fight Club), Jason Bourne kills a whole lot of people (Bourne series), so does Boba Fett (there was a series about him I read, but I forgot the title), Renton does piles of heroin and steals stuff, Begsby gets into tons of fights, Sick-boy constantly rips people off, as well as doing lots of heroin (Trainspotting), Dirk Straun smuggles opium (Tai-Pan).....and the list goes on. While I've screwed up significantly, (though I'm doing better these days), It hasn't been that bad, and I really can't blame any of it on literature.