A RANT: Don’t Judge My YA Lit

Sorry, no pictures today…just a soapbox…

I am at a loss.

Stunned.

Not really, but sorta.

Why?

Because some adult has once again decided that Young Adult (YA) literature is too…

Dark…

Depraved…

Explicit…

Violent…

Have these people taken a look at today’s society? The world these teenagers / YA readers are living in?

The kind of television they watch?

The video games they play?

HELLO!!!

When I was growing up, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume was banned by our school because it was too explicit (it discussed in detail a girls’ puberty).

Well, that was the world I lived in. It was scandalous to some adults; the kids didn’t understand what the problem was.

I’m thinking that’s pretty much the case today.

The world we live in is a scary place (have you watched the news lately?). The kids who live in this world have a lot of issues they face today. Adults would like to believe that teens are oblivious, but NEWSFLASH they aren’t!

There is war, death, kidnappings, suicides, rapes, incest, torture, shootings, depression, drugs and that is just on the news. These are issues that are real to teens and even pre-teens today.

These subjects are not new, they are just more common in literature today. As a librarian, I couldn’t keep Christopher Pike or R.L. Stein on the shelves for pre-teens or teens. These are authors that I read more than 20 years ago, by the way.

Everyone keeps talking about wanting their teens to read. The schools even demand they read a certain number of books each year, taking tests and building Accelerated Reading points to prove these books were read.

The key is often finding something these teens can relate to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents complain, “I can’t get my child to read!” I always ask to speak to the teen (if possible) and these are the questions I ask.

“What do you like to read?”    I don’t (like to read).

“Okay. What movies do you like to watch?”

And from there I can usually find SOMETHING they are willing to pick up and actually READ. Many come back and *GASP* ask me to help them find something else like it!

I mean really, most kids / teens today aren’t asked what THEY would like to read. They are often just given books to read as assignments or brought home from the library by well meaning parents. Kids today want something they can relate to, something that has characters they can relate to. They don’t always appreciate the books we loved at their age (I’ve learned this the hard way).

Many teens choose adult fiction to read.

I know this.

I am a librarian.

The higher the grade, the more likely they are to choose adult fiction – among the favorites: Stephen King, John Grisham and Jodi Picoult.

Let’s see here…

Dark..

Depraved…

Death…

Destruction…

Explicit…

All you women out there, admit it, Jodi Picoult tackles some tough issues and there is rarely a truly happy ending.

And, Stephen King, ‘nough said.

I also know a LOT of adults who read YA books.

If a parent isn’t sure about the book, READ it YOURSELF! If there are some tough issues there, use it as a catalyst for a discussion with your teen (pre-teen). Don’t judge an entire book by its’ dustcover or the synopsis on the back of the book. If, after reading the book, you don’t feel it is appropriate, choose a different genre of book!

But, keep in mind, the best way to ensure your teen will read a book is to ban it.

My 10 (almost 11 yr) old reads at a 10th grade level. She just finished reading the Lightening Thief series and the Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan. Would I let her read the Hunger Games? Not at 10, but maybe in a few years. I am her PARENT. I am PARENTING. I have read many of these books, I l-o-v-e YA literature!

If you don’t want your kids reading these books, by all means, that is your choice. But to criticize my parenting, my library and my choices by your standards is just RUDE!

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12 thoughts on “A RANT: Don’t Judge My YA Lit

  1. It seems to me that the author of the article doesn’t know anything about teenagers.

    Also, agreed that banning books will surely make kids read them. When I was in Russia, my host mom loaned me a copy of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey. She told me that it was banned in the Soviet Union, so anyone who was cool had a copy and had read it.

  2. Great post! As someone who’s been through the teenage thing 3 times (and still lives there), I can attest to the fact that teenagers are not easily shocked. They are more aware than they will ever let on even (especially) to their parents. And an older teen is going to find a way to read ANY book. Better to discuss the merits of the book with them, then to TELL them that the book has no merit. Teenagers don’t like to be told how to think any more than adults do.

    • I think that so many people judge a book by the cover and not by the content that it’s ridiculous. Also, parents want their teens to talk to them, what better way than by reading a book with issues that teens are dealing with and then discussin it together!

      Teens today are often mini-adults, because that is the way society has evolved. And, nope, they certainly don’t like to be told what to do!

  3. I remember an English class I didn’t want to take because it was mandatory to read IN COLD BLOOD. I didn’t want to read it but had to. The teacher passed the book out and
    I had it finished by the end of the school day. Some guys at my dad’s work gave him THE HAPPY HOOKER and told him it was about the steel industry. My dad was dyslexic and he asked me to read it and let me know if it was any good . . . I burned it. I told him it was about a prostitute. He was embarassed and really gave his “friends” a reason to respect him or avoid him. I only read a couple of pages . . . it was gross and the author should have been arrested for having sex with a child. I also burned my sisters copy of THE EXORSIST. I was young and it scared me . . . I held The Bible between me and the fireplace because I was sure Satan was going to come out in the flames.

  4. I really love this. I read HOARDS of YA fiction. Some I allow my 11 year old to read, some is definitely too “adult” for her. I’ve only read one YA fiction piece that I wouldn’t allow her to read until she’s at least 16. Never if I have any say in it. It dealt with issues that maybe 14 year olds in the slums are faced with, but certainly not issues she’s old enough to be exposed to in my opinion.

    • And that is why I fully support the “Library Bill of Rights” which basically says that you havethe right to not read a book that offends you, but remember that what you find offensive could be something that the next person lives with everyday and they have the right to see that book on the shelf and to read it. While I wouldn’t want my daughter to read something that deals with issues facing the 14-yr olds in the slums at this age, those 14-yr olds who are living in the situation could possibly find something totally relatable.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I think from discussions we have had on censorship in the past, you will know that I agree with you on this wholeheartedly. I don’t have to like what the person next to me is reading. I can think it is a waste of that person’s time and energy and perfectly good paper, but I will defend his/her right to read what they want. My Mom and I have often discussed why books are banned, trying to understand the reasoning behind it. I am very glad that my parents trust me to read what I want (never mind that I am an adult and have been for years) – they trust the education they provided for me that gave me critical thinking skills and that the faith in God that I grew up with is not so easily destroyed by tales of fantasy.

    Some people, no matter what, just aren’t readers. And some haven’t figured out yet that there are books out there that they will enjoy. I would guess that it was very gratifying when those teenagers came back looking for more books.

    • I think my favorite part of being a librarian is finding someone a book or author they never knew existed and turned out to like. This was especially fabulous when it was a teenager / pre-teen who was never much of a reader before.

  6. We love the Lightening Thief Series and all of Rick Riordan. We did tell our 1st grader he had to wait until 3rd grade to finish the series after finding him half way through his brother’s copy 🙂 But our 11 year old is used to bringing a book home, asking us if it is okay. If we aren’t sure we read it and then give it back to him. Usually we give him permission, but it is nice to know what he is reading so we can discuss any issues that might come up.

    • That’s pretty awesome if your 1st grader is reading Rick Riordan! I always like to know what my kids are reading…I sometimes do the same with movies…I just like to know so, like you said, we can discuss any issues that might come up. Thanks for stopping by!

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