X is for… (#AtoZChallenge 2012)

X is for X-Rated

(Post 24 on my WIP)

Just read what could be considered a raunchy scene in Insurgent (full review on 1st May, when I’ve finished it and when we are allowed to release our reviews in celebration of the publication day of Veronica Roth’s follow up to Divergent).

Also one of my beta readers commented on how I’d introduced Jane, representing her as promiscuous, and whether that was appropriate in Young Adult fiction.

This got me thinking about audience and what is appropriate – about the ‘moral responsibility of authors’.

There has been debate about the violence in The Hunger Games and Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden which centres on a brother/sister incestuous relationship has massively divided opinion.

When I think about what I read when I was younger I think it helped me explore issues that I needed to understand in a non threatening way.

But as Serendipity Viv so eloquently writes – there are times when our threshold of acceptance change  – as we age, as we become parents or experience other life events.

My response to her post was (and when I say children I really mean teens):

Wow, what a brave post. I really don’t think anybody really wants to see incest, violence and other unsavoury things in YA or other fiction – I’m guessing (hoping) they were just demanding its right to be there and sadly it exists in the ‘real world’. I think you are perfectly within your rights not to read a book if you don’t want to.
I won a set of Tabitha Suzuma’s books and read Forbidden first (the only one I have read so far). Why did I pick that one? Because the reviews were outstanding, as is the book. It makes you understand how these things could happen and it broke my heart just a little.
I am speaking as a person who is not a mother but I recognise that the protective feelings that come with that are not made up, I have seen some quite unsappy friends change quite dramatically. I think you are right that parents need to be more aware of what their children are reading (and watching) and not police it or stop it but to be prepared to discuss the difficult issues that arise. I think literature is an amazing way to learn and I think we do children a disservice if we protect them too much leaving them naive and a bit vulnerable possibly. Neither do I believe we should shove it in their faces before they are ready. My copy of Forbidden does say ‘Not for younger readers’ on the back.
I think the reasons I have drawn to paranormal/fantasy are similar – it’s not real – it’s escapism. I don’t think I could read a Forbiddenesque book everyday and stay happy but sometimes we need to understand the dark side too – it’s just way too scary otherwise.
If you do decide to read it I look forward to your review.
Thanks for this very thought provoking post.

As I already mentioned in my Q is for Questions Answered post – Nicola Morgan says (in the comments on this post here) ‘NOTHING is too dark for YA! (Though it does have to be handled properly.)’

Do you agree that there is nothing too dark for YA?
For those who are parents – do you think you’d stop your younger self reading the books you did when a teenager?

Posted on April 27, 2012, in #am writing (and all things writing related), April A-Z Challenge, Training Time (WIP) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. shananagins2468

    As a mother of 4 children all of whom are teens…they know what is good reading and what is not…but I try to draw the line at x-rated things…just because I don’t think it makes them into a better person by reading it…they are aware of what goes on in the world but they don’t need to purposely read something that may hurt their character…blessings

    • Thanks for the comment. I think what might be considered x-rated may vary person to person even. I agree that these things should never be gratuitous. I do still think that some teens don’t maybe get the chance to explore some issues with families (for whatever reason) but also if they are then only learning from books without anyone to discuss it with that could be dangerous too. I would really love to try and come back to this issue when I have children of my own and see how my ideas and opinions have changed. Out of interest what sort of books are your kids into?

  2. It’s hard to say if I’d stop my younger self reading what I did. In my very early teens 12-13) I made what seems to be a rather dramatic change to my reading habits. I went from reading Sweet Valley High books, about an American high school, to reading Christopher Pike – young adult horror I guess, with plenty of murder and suspense. However, thinking back now, I think what pushed me to that change was actually a SVH book which dealt with the subject of drugs – a character died from a drug overdose. The book was very thought provoking, and I think it helped me consider things I’d never considered before.

    In retrospect, the books that have stayed with me from my early teens have been ones about death – often quite graphic. It’s a way of dealing with your emotions on the subject without having to actually experience it. Think Dead Birds Singing by Marc Talbot, or (I can’t remember it’s name now) the book about post-nuclear war that we studied in English class aged 13.

    I think teens need to read and explore genres, however dark, in order to find what appeals to them. I guess as long as they’re reading ‘age appropriate’ books (note – this is not defined by physical age, but mental maturity) then we shouldn’t stop them or edit their reading list.

    • I think I remember that SVH book – there was also one that dealt with cults which I found really interesting.
      I just googled the Marc Talbert book and it says about a car accident rather than post nuclear war so I’m not sure if that is the same book you are thinking of or not. Did I read that too – I don’t remember. I can see Goodreads is going to be so helpful.
      You definitely seemed to take a darker turn with reading – was it you that had read Rats? – I think I have a few horror books from authors you read that I never got around to reading. I’m sure I’d probably enjoy them so I’m not quite sure what has stopped me.
      It’s an interesting point you make about mental maturity. I think sometimes adults that read YA books get given a hard time as reading below their age but I think many people forget that teens often have a high level of maturity and start to deal with some quite complex information out of necessity in terms of forming identity and recognising values and beliefs. I personally think that it is important to keep thinking about these things as we age and not get stuck in beliefs.

  3. Definitely agree with Nicola Morgan — nothing is too dark, but it really really has to be well-researched. Things like sexual abuse and mental illness happen to teens, and they need a fictional representation of it, but a poorly researched stereotype of something will damage their entire story (e.g. a murderous schizophrenic who constantly hears voices, or god forbid, a rape scene to add darkness or titillation to a story. Bleh.).

    Female promiscuity is one of those things I don’t think is covered enough to YA, especially in a positive light. One of my WIP main characters sleeps around quite merrily, with no negative impact on her life, because I’m kind of burnt out on the ‘slutty girls are bad/virgin girls are good’ stereotypes still clinging to YA.

    • We do see things similarly I think ;o) – Go us for challenging stereotypes and trying to get real ‘issues’ out there in understandable and accurately represented ways.

  4. Very thought-provoking post. I don’t think anything is too dark, as long as there’s a reason for including it, and as long as it’s done tastefully. Young adults need to be aware of the many issues in society.

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

  5. I think that the other thing that we forget when we’re older is that children/teens don’t tend to process or be affected by dark subject matter in the same way you are as an adult. I remember reading Silence of the Lambs when I was 15 – (a serial killer murdering women and removing their skin) – and thought absolutely nothing of it. It was just an entertaining book about an FBI agent killing a bad guy really. I’ve reread it as an adult and really been quite upset about how anyone could inflict that much pain an torture on another human being and enjoy it. The chances of me reading that book again are practically non-existant, and yet I read it several times as a teen.

    • Really interesting point. I have got more sensitive as I’ve got older, not ‘getting’ horror films as much and generally getting more upset by things. I guess it becomes less about entertainment and more about reflections of life and reality and the recognition that they are pretty damn scary at times.

  1. Pingback: Insurgent – Book Review (May Contain Spoilers) « kirstyes

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