Poll Question: Should Christian teens read books about characters of spritually questionable origin?
Maybe. Mature kids can discern the truth without being spiritually compromised. Other kids aren’t ready. (4 votes)
Yes. Reading about a vampire doesn’t do any harm. It’s just fantasy! (2 votes)
No way. The origin of vampires isn’t “questionable.” It’s evil. Don’t even go there. (2 votes)
My Vote I’ll be honest– this is a tricky one for me. When I began this blog and posted my first poll, a friend left several comments on my facebook account about teen fiction and what it should and should not contain and she said two very key words: age-appropriate. (maybe that’s technically one word, hyphenated…)
I think there’s something to that. Absolutely. In the case of Neil Gaiman’s book, we’re talking about a story set in a graveyard with a small child as a character. (I’m so resisting the urge to revisit that too often quoted line from the movie that will haunt Haley Joel Osmet for the rest of his life.) I’m not sure this is what I’d call appropriate content for middle grade readers. It’s an intensely dark story. (A beautifully written one, but dark nonetheless.) I mean let’s talk reality here for one second– kid grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts… anyone see a complex coming for little Bod? Okay, I know, it’s just fiction…(I’m the girl who loved the movie Meet Joe Black, but came away at the end thinking, dude, that guy is going to have one serious complex.)
But I know for myself, as a young reader, stories inspired me and even to a degree became a part of me in a deeper way than my reading does today. I think young readers moreso than older ones tend to idolize the characters they read about. Does reading The Graveyard Book encourage a fascination with death and the dead?
Here’s another interesting thought from a blog I read this morning. She blogged concerning Bella and Edward’s relationship and its similarities to abusive/co-dependent relationships. Is this a relationship we want teens to emulate?
Honestly, I think the romance genre itself often does a poor job presenting a healthy view of a romantic relationship. I have seen it even in Christian fiction. But that’s another topic altogether!
One of the things I liked about the Twilight series is that purity was important to Edward and that he and Bella waited until their marriage to consumate their relationship. In a culture where sexual purity is so out of style, it was exciting to me to see a YA series promoting abstinence take the bestseller list by storm.
They say it takes a town to raise a child. Or in this case, a graveyard.
After his family are murdered by a stranger named Jack, a toddler escapes to a graveyard where he is adopted by a pair of ghosts who name him Nobody. A vampire speaks up as Bod’s guardian, eventually sharing this responsibility with a werewolf. Bod befriends other ghost children and even a witch buried on unconsecrated ground near the graveyard. But the mysterious man who murdered his family still seeks him and intends to finish the task he set out to do the night Bod came to live in the graveyard. Bod and his friends must find out who this man is and why he is determined to kill Bod before it’s too late.
Neil Gaiman recently received the Newberry medal for The Graveyard Book and has also been nominated for the Hugo award. The characters are well-crafted, memorable and endearing, but the story is very dark. I found it so easy to care for Bod and root for him throughout the story. It’s a pretty quick read with illustrations throughout. Sensitive readers might find the dark elements to be too intense. See below for other content information.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Sexual Content None
Ghosts, ghouls, a vampire, werewolf, and a witch are included in the story’s cast of characters and save Bod from harm. Bod literally lives among the crypts and tombs of the graveyard and spends most of his life among the dead (and undead?).
The story opens after a man has murdered Bod’s parents and sibling. While the murders themselves are not graphically described, the killer is cold, complacent about their deaths, even the death of the other child. He intends to kill Bod as well, though he is only six months old at the time. While not graphic, the nature of those intentions seemed harsh to me.
If you are a parent of a teen and have escaped the Twilight craze and the Harry Potter boom, you are probably in the minority. This week, and for many weeks past, vampires dominate the young adult bestseller lists, as Harry Potter did before them. Also not long ago, the Newberry Award was given to Neil Gaiman for his middle grade novel The Graveyard Book, a story about a young boy on the run from a killer, raised by ghosts and other beings in a graveyard. Is this bad news for Believers?
Some say no. After all, we read the Narnia chronicles, which have many connections to Greek mythology. Tolkein’s Gandalf is a wizard. Is that so different from Rowling’s characters?
To others, Rowling and Lewis aren’t even in the same universe. C. S. Lewis wrote a story using mythology to retell the sacrifice of Christ. That’s a difficult goal to compete with.
But what about the way these stories present these spiritual things as benevolent? A vampire hero. Foster ghost-parents. Are these admirable things from a spiritual perspective? Should we as Christian parents encourage our children to participate in literature that presents these characters as admirable and good?
Would we be just as eager to pass a book about a really good psychic to our kids as we are books about werewolves and vampires who protect people, or is that comparing apples to oranges?
Weigh in on the (anonymous) poll below and check back this week for reviews on the Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.