When multi-published YA author Robin McKinley’s novel Deerskin hit shelves in 1994, the story was considered her first foray into adult fiction. Why? The story contained a scene in which a girl is raped and the text contains the F-bomb. At the time, this was not considered appropriate content in the YA market.
Times have changed.
Fast-forward fourteen years to 2008, to Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s novel Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, in which readers encounter graphic sexual content between several characters and, on a single page, the F-bomb is dropped no less than 25 times.
(Side soap box moment: if this had been any other word, the editor would have cut 24 of those occurrences. Seriously. Imagine how boring “very” would be on a page 25 times. Why didn’t it get cut? Two words: Controversy sells.)
So what does this mean for today’s thirteen year-olds? It certainly means that turning them loose in the YA section of the library, which may have been safe the last time you were there, may expose them to more extreme content than you expected.
Reading is as important as ever.
As a Christian parent and an aspiring writer, I believe in the importance of reading and in the value of experiencing stories. We know reading is important academically, and the book industry is happy to provide vast and varied choices for our voracious readers.
While I’m not a proponent of book censorship, as a parent, I’m definitely an advocate for content monitoring. In my house, I read a book first, before turning it over to my daughter. We often read aloud together, too, which provides opportunities for us to discuss the things that happen in the story.
There are books I’ve read that I think, this will be great for her in a few more years. And others which I wouldn’t be comfortable with her reading as a teenager at all. Beyond a certain point, she’ll grow up and those will be her choices. For now, I am the gatekeeper. I want to be sure the content in the books she reads today will both challenge her and support her inner values.
We rate music and movies for content and make judgments about what is appropriate for our children. I believe that as parents, we have a responsibility to do the same with books. Unfortunately, the industry provides little information for us, so we have to be more proactive. And it’s hard. Who has time to keep ahead of the reading interests of multiple teens?
Some parents choose to limit their children to reading only Christian fiction. While there are some amazing authors in the Christian market, there are also some fabulous authors telling clean stories in the mainstream market as well, and those are definitely worth pursuing.
Find like-minded parents and blogs.
Having good resources and being willing to read some YA yourself will go a long way in helping protect and nurture your little and not-so-little ones. My advice? Find blogs that give information about content.
I post reviews here at least once per week and am open to requests for reviews from parents. You can find a list of reviews for novels I’ve rated as clean or preview my reading list with links to available reviews.
You might try blogs like Compass Book Ratings or reviews by Christian author Jill Williamson’s NovelTeen.
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