Being both a mother and a reader of YA, this is something that I am constantly thinking about. I have many young adult books on my shelves and my 11 year old daughter asks me constantly if she can read some of them. She is soon to be 12 and really mature for her age so I let her read some. She can handle violence with clarity and swearing without repeating the words. I REALLY lucked out with this kid – seriously. She’s got such a level head on her shoulders and never questions right from wrong. She knows when she reads books and watches movies that they are not reality and that’s why she likes them. Now, having said that, there are some books in the YA category that I would NEVER let her read until she was older!!
The Young Adult section at my local book store advertises that it’s for readers from the ages of 12-18. And in that section are books like A Court of Mist and Fury…… if you’ve read that book would you say that it belongs in the hands of a 12 year old……..NNNNOOOOO!! The graphic sex scenes in that book have made even some adults blush (not me), and since most 12 year olds don’t even know the exact logistics of sex (I hope!), exposure to this is absolutely scary!!
As a reading parent, I am lucky to have exposure to the books that my daughter wants to read. But for a kid to just walk into the store and follow the section for his/her age group, what’s stopping them from picking up a book that has something they can’t handle (sex, swearing, abuse, etc)? There’s nothing stopping this from happening. I know that as a parent it’s up to us to monitor what our kids are watching, listening to, and reading. But it should be a safe assumption that since it’s for their age group that it’s ok in general. Not every parent has time to read every single book their kid wants to get their hands on so it’s impossible to catch everything. My daughter at one time picked up a book that was in the 9-12 year old section and it had the word Slut in it – are you kidding me???? Like I said, there’s no way for a parent to catch all these things. And this was coming from a series that I trusted and had read with her before with no problems. Non reading parents would just direct their kids to the section designated to their age group and assume that it would be acceptable reading material.
When I was at the Stephanie Garber/Elly Blake (Caraval/Frost blood) event, someone asked if she believed that the book belonged in YA since there was abuse present. Caraval had hints of abuse both physical and mental, mention of murder, and hints of sexual activity. None of it was really over the top though. Her response was basically that it was up to the publisher. An author can write something with a specific genre/age group in mind, but it doesn’t mean that’s where the publisher will put it. So it’s up to the publisher to read a book and decide where it should go. Now these triggers were deemed acceptable to the YA genre and that’s where it went. But maybe there will be a person who picks up this book where one of those topics trigger them, and there’s really no warning.
What are your thoughts regarding these sensitive issues in YA?
My personal thoughts is that, in general, the publishers do a pretty good job with not allowing things into books. Elly Blake actually mentioned she needed to take a line out of her book because it was of a sexual nature and this was going to be a YA classified book. (But then ACOMAF was allowed?? What??) She mentioned the line that had to be removed and it was pretty vanilla. I think that swearing and abuse in books is ok if it fits the situation and if it’s moderation when it comes to the younger age group. I personally love sex, swearing, and crude humour in my books but I don’t necessarily believe that they belong in an age group as young as 12!!
That age group is very difficult. It’s such a broad range! Some books are too immature for an 18 year old and then some are far too mature for a 12 year old. What I wish could happen is that books have a rating system like movies. Movies warn of abuse, violence, sex, swearing, etc so why can’t books? Maybe a little mention on the back cover warning of what could be contained? I read the book Nora and Kettle a few months ago and it was published by Clean Teen Publishing. There was actually a disclosure of the content (violence, abuse, romance, and drugs), and each warning had a rating between 1-5 so you could gauge how much was mentioned in the book. Honestly, I think that any book published in the YA genre needs this! Parents and kids alike need to know what situations they could be running in to, and exactly how much of it is in the book.
I know you can’t shelter everyone, and that’s not the point with this post. Violence, abuse, language, sex, drugs, etc, are a part of life. Sometimes when these things are present in a book the author is trying to bring these awful situations to light and teach us something. I don’t think that ANY author should be censored. They are writing, being creative, and getting their art out there. Art and creativity should never be censored. I just think that if someone is looking to stay away from a situation they should be warned ahead of time.
**Disclaimer – This post was not in any way meant to bash A Court of Mist and Fury. I was just using this book as a prime example. This book was HANDS DOWN my #1 book of 2016 and I will probably re-read this more more than any other (ok with the exception of Harry Potter of course!)
Until next time, happy reading!