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12:49 pm: How admirable! Oh…wait…

SF SIgnal has an entry about whether or not Young Adult books are currently too graphic. As you might imagine nearly everyone who responded cheered the current standard. This was my post:
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My first response is that I suspect that most of the people responding have no idea what the YA field is like today. Comments such as "there is no sex in YA anyway" are so far off from the reality as to suggest that the reader is only familiar with older books or with a spattering of books that do not represent what is currently out there. (If you are not up to date on YA, I recommend googling Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. While perhaps an extreme, it gets the point across.) [Folks reading this on my blog, save yourself the mental cringe and don't bother.]

Secondly, I note that nearly everyone I see answering questions like this always takes time to qualify how bright and precocious they were, and how bright and precocious their children are. Those of us who are not so lucky as to have children with excellent judgment applaud you, but we wish someone else were acting as the gateway to what is available for teens. Alas for civilization, not all children are like you. Not all children are like your children.

Thirdly, I read adult books when I was as young as twelve and grappled with all kinds of interesting and mature ideas. Those books were NOTHING like today’s books. They were adult in their ideas, not in their graphicness. YA books today are much more graphic than was even the most interesting and shocking of adult books generally available back then. (There were adult books more graphic back then, but not interesting ones, not ones that also had a good story that made it seem legit.)

And, finally, one cannot help wondering at the motives of those who wish to shove stark and shocking things down the throats of children and even teens. It is as if we are all rushing to compete in the graphic version of the old Death Race 2000 game – Two points for scandalizing a sixteen year old. Five for shocking a twelve year old. 50 points for traumatizing a nine-year-old who picked up the book by mistake. He who defiles the most innocents wins.

How admirable! Oh…wait…



Comments

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From:carbonelle
Date:March 21st, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Well said. Or written, as it were. You and John really are a formidable and delightful team.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 21st, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Thanks...the funny thing is when I was young, I was such a huge proponant of the 'Oh, kids can read anything' party. Several things changed my mind.

1) My boys are not ready for things that other children their age might be ready for (well, Juss is, but...) and there are millions of children like my boys right now. Millions.

2) My friend Matt told me the story of how he read Pet Semitary at really the wrong age and it gave him nightmares for years -- years.

3) It suddenly occurred to me one day: why the rush? There are many things I didn't know about until I was a bit older. It gave me a chance to really get who I was down first. I think that is good, not something to attack.

I like your idea of a "Teen" catagory. WHat would be idea would be a different catagory for 11 to 16 than for 15 to 25 (or whatever). That would -- assuming that they kept the 11 to 16 cleaner -- alleviate many of my concerns.
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From:carbonelle
Date:March 22nd, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
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My library system has children's materials (age 0 to 12), teen materials (age 12 - 16) and adult materials (age 16+) all filed seperately as well as having specialists at least part-time in every library who can and do help parents match kids to the right book. Parents also have the right to review what is on their (minor) child's card.

Our library system is not regularly rocked by censorship challenges. Gee. I wonder why? :-)
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 22nd, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
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Could it be because you are in the Washington State free-zone rather than the a more conservative state?
; )

Personally, I don't see many kids over the age of 10 looking for help for reading recommendations from the librarian. But we have sneaky ways of investing them in "good" books:

http://www.teenspoint.org/schools/cafe_book/index.asp

I'd be curious to see what you think of these titles.
http://www.teenspoint.org/reading_matters/book_list.asp?sort=101&list=2459


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From:saintjoi
Date:March 22nd, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
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I was preserved from most YA stuff by the simple fact that our library really didn't have a YA section to speak of. I spent most of my YA years reading The Hardy Boys (I wish I'd know about Redwall then, but alas...)

Even the tamer books still had repercussions. Like most girls my age, I went through a (blessedly short) time of reading The Babysitters Club books. I see nothing wrong with reading "mind candy," as my mom calls them. Even in those relatively harmless books, I absorbed a lot of ideas that it took me some time to get rid of. Thank goodness my parents stocked our house with good books for all ages.

But now when I cruise through the YA section of a bookstore, I just get depressed.
From:ext_90900
Date:March 22nd, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)

"YA" always makes me nervous

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I always feel nervous picking up a YA book.

Adult books seemed to have niched themselves well enough that I feel I know what to expect when I see a cover or publisher, but with the consolidation of publishers and attempts for YA (I'm thinking fantasy in particular) to appeal to as many fantasy-readers as possible, well... let's just say I don't pay full-price anymore for anything I haven't researched on Amazon.

(Inkspell and Birdwing were my latest mistakes-- though I'm getting the impression those were mild compared to what I could have stumbled on.)
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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I've wondered quite a bit about Inksplell -- some hyped books are good. Some are not. So, I could not tell. Can you say anything else about it?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 24th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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What did you find wrong with Birdwing? Our ten year old read it and found it interesting, if not terribly so. I've looked at it, and had much the same reaction. I did rather object to the sidekicks getting it on, without that being dealt with in any real way. It seemed like the author needed a way to separate the protaganist from them and took the easy way by having him find them in bed together.

Our ten year old has ... issues ... with books, having had severe nightmares caused by some reading - the writing in those cases is the sort that dwells lovingly on the violence, threat, etc. This didn't have that, at least.

Mostly I didn't think it was very good on a craft level. Arbitrary and unsubtle.


Inkspell was a good idea that never picked up steam. And completely lost it around the climax. I remember as I skimmed thinking ok, here's the author is trying to ratchet up the tension adn I'm getting more and more bored...

So bored I remember almost nothing about the book, just my reaction

Elaine T
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 24th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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Interesting. I picked up a novel by the author of Inkspell, but I haven't been able to get myself to read it...seems too slow.
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From:princesselwen
Date:August 14th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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Do you mean the Inkheart trilogy? I liked it, but the books took a while to get started. I think some of the stuff in the later books was inappropriate for younger children, but then again, I didn't read them until I was twenty. (Even so, I appreciated the fact that she didn't actually show anything.) All the same, I would not recommend the last two books to anyone under the age of about twelve or thirteen. I say the same thing for another favorite of mine, The Hunger Games. Very good book, but definitely not for children.
I do remember the first books I read with sexual content at least mentioned were Christy by Catherine Marshall, and To Kill A Mockingbird. I was about twelve. But none of it was actually shown, just talked about, and the characters (at least the good ones) were very careful not to take the description too far.
Of course there's also the fact that one's perception of books can change as one gets older . . . I've heard people say that a scene of the villain's henchman leering at the heroine seemed more disturbing to them after they were about twelve or so.
Redwall is awesome!
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From:arhyalon
Date:August 14th, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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Technically...in publishing, YA means Young Adult...I mean by that that these books were actually books young adults might like to read...young adults like 18 to 22.

The interpretation of YA as teen lit came later and is very upsetting to many in the business.

Some librarians are pushing for a new catagory. I forget what it is called. Something with teen in it...to distinguish young teen appropriate litature from YA, which is often NOT for young teens.
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From:princesselwen
Date:August 16th, 2012 12:45 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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True, its definitely good to try and distinguish between books for twelve year olds and books for twenty year olds.
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From:arhyalon
Date:August 14th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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I read the first two books of the Inkheart trilogy and loved them a lot!!! I did not like the third book. This was a different book by the same author I never did bring myself to read.
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From:princesselwen
Date:August 16th, 2012 12:46 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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The only other book of hers that I read was 'The Thief Lord,' which actually was for a younger audience. I loved it mainly because it was set in Venice.
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From:arhyalon
Date:August 16th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)

Re: "YA" always makes me nervous

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That may have been the one. I never did read it. My friend did and was not particularly impressed. I have her dragon book unread, too.

But...we have read one of her Ghosthunter books, whch my youngest son loved!
From:shana_sfo
Date:March 22nd, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
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Well said! Or in the words of the Dufflepuds "Truer words have never been spoken, Chief!" And I mean that quite sincerely.

I also have some who cannot handle very mature subject matter or graphic books and I read all of their books first to see if they will be suitable for them. Its terribly sad to have to reject books with great ideas that ridicule religious belief, become sordid soft-core (or worse) porn, or promote and 'celebrate' things rejected by simple decency.

And you know, giving it a bit of thought, the words "mature subject matter" don't really apply most of the time for these things do they? There is really nothing 'mature' about describing sexual intimacy in the most graphic means possible. Quite the opposite. If you have to describe everything in detail, the person reading shouldn't be. Its a kind of Jerry Springer shock voyeurism, but for what end? Why is titillating preteens & teen some kind of intellectual superiority worthy of praise anyway?





[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)
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> the words "mature subject matter" don't really apply most of the time for these things do they?

So True!!!! One thing I really don't like is that if I want to say that something requires maturity, not that it includes graphic descriptions, it's quite hard! Mature, adult, all these words one would normally use have also been used to describe XXX stuff.
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From:saintjoi
Date:March 23rd, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
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I've only ever found one time where it was pretty important to the story to know exactly what did and did not happen in a sexual encounter. That was in
Disclosure, by Michael Crichton.
But that was the only time that it's mattered to a plot; the rest of the time it was completely superfluous.
I still think the best thing I've read on the subject was from M. L'Engle, who said somethign like: explicit sex scenes don't work well. If the reader has had sex, they don't need the detailed description, and if the reader hasn't had sex, a graphic description won't really tell them what it's like anyway. That always struck me as a very sane way of approaching it.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 23rd, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)

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