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).

Sara O'Connor
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Sara O'Connor

A dreamer, a writer, a critic, an avid reader and the endless seeker of enlightenment through education. Basically, that translates to a girl who loves to read and discusses what she is reading and writing with anyone who will listen so that she doesn’t have to think about her obscenely large student loan debt. She holds a BA in pre-law, a Masters from Northeastern University in Communication Management with a focus in Social Media Marketing and Personal Branding and is currently working on an MFA in creative writing, but believes she has learned the most from writing…lots and lots of writing. She is also the owner of the literary and lifestyle business marketing an management firm, Voir Media Group.
Sara O'Connor
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Comments
  • lifeandlims
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    Yep. As much as it saddens me that teens today have to face some mightily serious issues, I also think that it would be nice to have some literature that shows teens making positive, healthy (physically and emotionally) choices that show some maturity, rather than “teens just being teens.” I don’t want to raise my teen girls to be naive, and heaven knows they hear about all kinds of things at school, but there are still a lot of great kids out there who aren’t involved in tons of irresponsible sex and drinking and so on. And why can’t we celebrate that fact, rather than just have books that encourage that “wallowing in the mud”? Just because bad stuff exists doesn’t mean that we can’t encourage positive, mature behavior and good choices that will make kids’ lives happier and better in the long run. If we show in lots of books that teens are out there doing all kinds of things that, yes, have consequences, but that there are somehow magically no negative side effects from their behaviors, that’s not “reality.” I don’t mind books that have heavy subject matter, but I want them to reflect the reality of what happens when people make bad choices, and how those can affect them in the long run. But to show teens drinking and having tons of sex without there being any kind of effects on them in any way is not “reality.” Can’t have it both ways.

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