Gone are the days where all kids read were those sugary Sweet Valley High books that depicted self-absorbed female characters who pined endlessly over the hunky Varsity QB while seemingly skirting the issue of sex throughout the entire 500 book series that ends in college. (COME ON!) Back when I was just shy of legally voting, but too old to believe in Santa, if I wanted to relate to a book I needed to choose adult dramas because Judy Blume, as much as I loved her when I was 11, didn’t reach me emotionally anymore. YA wasn’t really intended for the older-young adult and (17+) teenagers were left choosing between Stephen King or the Goosebumps series and nine times out of ten, they chose King.
Thankfully, publishing came out of the Victorian era and realized they could produce books that touched topics that kids were actually dealing with. Presently, YA books touch on some very serious issues while using slang and curse words to convey the messages. Incest, LGBT, suicide, physical abuse, sex, pregnancy, rape and alcohol/drug abuse are just some of the situations authors are forcing their protagonists to deal with. But hey, that’s life…isn’t it? For some sure, but at least teens aren’t being forced to look into the uncontrolled adult genre for real life strife or character connection. Don’t get me wrong there are many YA books that keep it squeaky clean, but many walk a very fine line between young and adult.
This leads me to a question that was (sort of) posed to me by a reader: How much is too much?
Should we label Divergence “Mature Young Adult” because it has a ton of violence? Should Between the Lines have a warning label because the teens talk about sex and use curse words? Are we letting authors teach our kids about the birds and the bee’s graphically and should parents become more involved in what their kids are reading?
I’m pretty sure there is no correct answer and it truly depends on the kid (and family), but one thing I do know is that I will be tickled pink if my kid is reading any book (well maybe not 50 shades) because that means they are not spending endless hours texting or watching 16 and pregnant (or getting pregnant for that matter).
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