The Content Scale

Representation

After reading this article about the review policy at Kirkus Reviews regarding race of protagonists, I’ve decided to add a section to my reviews that explores what types of characters or situations are represented the books I’m reading. This can include race, religious affiliation (though I’ll save the significant exploration for the Spiritual Content section), disability, or elements related to sexual orientation.

The goal is to make it easier for parents, librarians, teachers, and readers to find books with specific issues or characters in them as well as books with diverse casts of characters.

Note: This category used to be called “Cultural Elements” but I think it was confusing and caused some people to assume I listed sexual orientation as a warning for readers. Obviously, someone could use my notes to avoid books with any LGBTQ+ characters in them, but that’s not the goal of my review notes.

Profanity and Crude Language Content

For me, this breaks down into two joint categories: word choice and frequency.

Word Choice

Mild
Words like h—, d—, a– appear in the story.

Moderate
Words like h—, d—, a–, sh– appear. No F-bomb.

Extreme
Language includes use of f—.

Frequency

Infrequent
Swear words appear fewer than ten times (total) throughout the story.

Moderate Frequency
Swear words appear ten to twenty-five times (this is about once or twice per chapter, depending on the length of the story.)

Frequently
Swear words appear more than twenty-five times total.

Excessive Frequency
So many swear words I wanted to swear about it.

Sexual Content

My reviews include a brief summary of the romantic or sexual content, so be aware of that in case you’re trying to avoid spoilers! I’ll try my best to keep the plot details from spilling into my summary, but it’s not always possible. When I refer to content by scale, here’s what I mean:

Mild
Includes infrequent kissing, few or no indirect references to sex that do not include main characters.

Moderate
Regular kissing scenes interspersed through the story or more frequent/more obvious but not explicit references to sex.

Heavy
Characters obviously struggle with desire to progress beyond kissing each other, references to sex are more open, though those behaviors are not displayed.

Extreme
Central characters have sexual relationships that are explicitly described in scenes of the story. The encounters may be openly described during or after the actual event.

Spiritual Content

Rather than a scale here, any spiritual content will be summarized.

Violence

Rather than a scale here, any violent content will be summarized.

Drug Content

Any alcohol or drug references or abuse will be summarized in this category. I also try to specify whether the characters experienced consequences for their actions and whether main characters participated or witnessed drug or alcohol abuse.

19 Responses to The Content Scale

  1. Hi Kasey! I happened upon your blog when researching how to get book reviews, and seeing your scale of what type of literature is acceptable raised a question for me. I am a Christian author and the author of a Christian fantasy trilogy. The tagline of the second book of my trilogy is “Doing what is right never felt so wrong,” as the book deals basically with how the yearnings of our heart can often be deceptive and lead us astray. There is romance in the book, and it touches briefly on sexual temptation, but I did this on purpose as I wanted to contrast two men in my heroine’s life, one who truly loves and respects her and therefore refuses to bed her, and the other who is only out for himself. I did this to speak to young female readers about what kind of man to look for and the kind of man to avoid like the plague. Again, this is a very small part of the novel, which deals with a much greater issue of making difficult choices that go against what we “feel” to be right. I struggled with whether or not to even put the sexual temptation part in, but I decided to address it since it goes along with the overall theme and message. I know that if you haven’t read the book it’s hard to say. But, in general, do you think dealing with sexual temptation in that way can be of value when the goal is to promote a Biblical understanding of sexuality?

    • Kasey Giard says:

      Hi Mary Beth. I think it’s often a good thing to contrast pure and impure motives in characters in a story. I read lots of different types of stories with lots of different types of content. Generally, a story with a lot of explicit sexual content isn’t a good fit for me as a reader. But I think tension and opposing values can make for a strong and interesting story.

  2. Tammy Manuel says:

    Kasey,
    I had not tried your website before, my bad, but I am so impressed with the content you offer! I will definitely send the link to my friends and family. Thank you, and be safe!

  3. Sarah E says:

    After much searching, I found your site and have bookmarked it. I can’t keep up with my teens’ reading (a good problem to have), and I was looking for reviews with a content summary to assess the age-appropriateness of books and/or to be able to discuss the “big” issues that are present. Thank you for this website and blog!

    • Kasey Giard says:

      Thanks Sarah! You’re right – it’s a great problem to have. 🙂 Glad you are finding the reviews helpful. If there’s a particular series you’re interested in that you don’t see reviewed, shoot me a comment on my reading list page and I’ll see if I can get a copy to review. 🙂

  4. Ames says:

    THANK YOU for this blog. I have wished for something like this for so long, I spent the past 10 years pre-reading hundreds of books. I always thought of doing this myself but I never did. Now my kids are in college, lol. Too late.
    Anyway, I am still previewing books for ESL readers. Many non American cultures are NOT okay with inappropriate content, and I absolutely don’t want to recommend a book to an ESL student that would be offensive.
    My students are not Christian, and probably would not relate to “Christian YA” type of fiction. So I particularly appreciate the review of secular books.
    On another note, I would like to see a review category on “literary value” (Is it well written? Are there “SAT words” in it? Is it written in first person?) Building literacy is an important piece of the fun reading for my ESL kids! Anyway, you are awesome.

    • Kasey Giard says:

      Thanks, Amy! I really appreciate your encouragement. I like your ideas for a literary value type of category. I’ll definitely work on a way to incorporate that information into the review. I’m so glad you stopped by and took the time to comment. 🙂

  5. Kate says:

    Kasey!

    I really appreciate your blog and am going to recommend it to parents and educators I know who would appreciate this kind of resource. I blog about spirituality in children’s and young adult literature, and am glad to see other blogs that specifically look at titles in terms of content that parents or educators might be concerned about. Since I have some parents that read my reviews, I may be doing a little more of what you do in terms of that. Looking forward to exploring more of your blog!

  6. Rocky Morrisette says:

    Kasey, I just stumbled across your website. I am a new author of a young adult novel called, Me, An Old Pilot and a Three-Legged Dog. It is published by iUniverse. It is available in hard back, soft back and e-book format. You can read the cover copy on-line. I originally wanted to market this book as Christian literature. But as the book developed I wrote in conflicts that tested my main character’s faith. I was afraid I had written myself out of the market. The main overiding theme in the book is empowering young women. There however remains that thread of Christian conflict and resolution; an internal struggle within in her. Why won’t God stop the War in Afghanistan. Her father is an Army helicpter pilot? Why won’t God answer her prayers? She grows angry at God. She rebels against, all things “church”. Can her grandfather guide her back? Will she return to those values she learned in Sunday School as she grows into womanhood? I hope you will consider my book for review.

  7. I sent you a NOOK file. I look forward to your review. Please let me know of others that might have an interest in reviewing “Colt O’Brien Grows Up”. Thanks

  8. Hey,
    I am writing to request a review of my first novel released by Muse It Up Publishing on 6/3/2011. It is an e-book, YA Christian fantasy, and book 1 of a trilogy.
    Relics of Nanthara: Secrets Revealed

    I thank you in advance.
    Take care,
    Nick G. Giannaras

    • kaseyheinly says:

      Hi Nick! I am so sorry that I missed your request. I’ve had some personal detours that have made it impossible for me to keep up with this blog for the last few years, but I hope to be back at it now. Your book sounds really fascinating. I would love to check it out soon. 🙂

  9. George Cole says:

    My new novel, “Colt O’Brien Sees the Light” has just been published. I consider it to be a YA book. It is not what I would consider to be a Christian novel. Does that exclude my book from being reviewed? It does deal with moral choices, education and a teen character overcoming internal and external challenges. There is a seduction scene but no explicit sex. The main character does struggle with desire. No drugs. Some violence – fights.
    If my book meets your criteria for submission, please let me know. Regards George Cole

    • kaseygiard says:

      Hi George – Sorry for the embarrassing delay in my response. Your novel would be a great candidate for review. While I review from a Christian perspective, I am extremely interested in reading and reviewing all sorts of books. 🙂 Best of luck to you!

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