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.
Words like h—, d—, a– appear in the story.
Words like h—, d—, a–, sh– appear. No F-bomb.
Language includes use of f—.
Swear words appear fewer than ten times (total) throughout the story.
Swear words appear ten to twenty-five times (this is about once or twice per chapter, depending on the length of the story.)
Swear words appear more than twenty-five times total.
So many swear words I wanted to swear about it.
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:
Includes infrequent kissing, few or no indirect references to sex that do not include main characters.
Regular kissing scenes interspersed through the story or more frequent/more obvious but not explicit references to sex.
Characters obviously struggle with desire to progress beyond kissing each other, references to sex are more open, though those behaviors are not displayed.
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.
Rather than a scale here, any spiritual content will be summarized.
Rather than a scale here, any violent content will be summarized.
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.