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Does YA Mean It’s a Clean Read?

14 January 2016

From author Tianna Holley:

The answer is no. Books are not regulated and graded like movies, music, and video games, and it’s up to the authors and publishers to choose the genre. A young adult novel usually means the main characters are in their teen years. However, some books with older characters can pass as a young adult read if they’re clean–such as the Alissia Roswell Series.

Although most people believe a young adult book keeps to certain standards–no sex, low violence, and mild cursing–that’s not the case. I’ve stopped reading many books  only halfway through, because I was disgusted with the hard cursing, sexual content, and lack of morals in the main characters. I know of one book that I put down without finishing the first chapter. The main character’s mouth made me cringe with R-rated cursing, and she was a horrible person.

. . . .

While volunteering at my daughter’s middle school book fair, two girls were standing behind me talking about books. One of them pointed to a book and said, “Fifty Shades of Grey right there. That book shouldn’t even be in here.”

While reading the reviews of a book I considered downloading for my daughters, a lot of the reviewers complained that the main teenage character had a low self-esteem from abuse. She then befriended a group of boys and winded up becoming “their girl.” Instead of choosing one boy, they shared her (which seems more abusive).

. . . .

If you’re reading this and getting upset with me for trying to control what my children read, you should be aware that I’m also trying to control what I read. I don’t want to read intense sex scenes, and I honestly don’t want my children reading them, either. It really doesn’t have a place in our home, and I hope you’ll respect that. Please don’t spam me with your opinions and argument.

Link to the rest at Tianna Holley and thanks to Morgyn for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tianna Holley’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG sympathizes with parents’ desire to exert what control they can over what their children read and see.

In past volunteer work, PG encountered the devastating effects that pornography can have on individuals and families. Consequences included divorce, job loss and attempted suicide.

As with other behaviors, such as gambling, pornography only becomes a behavioral addiction for some individuals (usually, but not always, men), so those who aren’t adversely affected may not understand the impact it has on the susceptible.

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69 Comments to “Does YA Mean It’s a Clean Read?”

  1. Totally agree with this. I’ve seen pornography addictions destroy marriages, expectations, and lives. And it’s not only men who become addicted. Addictive behavior tends to be an inherited trait, from what I’ve seen. It devastates and destroys its victims, including those who are in its clutches.

  2. I think the author of the post indicates this, but it’s an individual choice (family, parents, and/or teens). Some want squeaky clean, some want reality but more so, and some want a mix. I think she has the right and the responsibility of her kids in mind when she chooses books, and even when she writes them. It always comes down to that.

    Pornography is so pervasive that it’s tough to go a day without some of it bleeding through, either through an article, a picture on Twitter, or a post on Facebook.

    PG notes it’s mostly men, but it hits all demographics, and he’s right. There was an article about a former Olympian who got into the sex worker industry (as a high-priced “call girl” in Vegas) and how she’s dealing with that now.

    I personally read YA, and I prefer Harry Potteresque as far as sex and violence.

    Good post, thank you.

  3. There are many, many things that are addictive. Those things aren’t necessarily inherently bad, but they are bad for certain people. I recognize that, and I support an individual’s right to stay away from those problem “things.” I draw the line, however, at someone trying to stop ME from enjoying those things. Someone else’s problem =/= my problem.

    I do not in ANY way equate sex in YA books with pornography. YA books explore issues that concern teens, and guess what — sex is a HUGE part of that. Sanitizing the books (or ANY reality for teens) is disingenuous and does no favor for the teens who might relate to the characters and find ways to deal with those issues.

    That said, I have no problem with the OP choosing what her family reads… as long as she doesn’t try to prevent mine from reading those books she disapproves of.

    • I don’t find it disingenuous to present the kids in my YA books as cleaner than normal, so to speak, as a way of presenting young readers with role models to aspire to. As adults writing for young readers, it is not always necessary to try to hold up a mirror to the reader. I feel that giving them characters who are good examples in their speech and behavior is an act of adult responsibility. The characters are not sanitized, however, in that they get angry and make bad choices and experience pain and grief and loss. I can deal with life challenges in my stories without displaying sex and vulgarity.

    • I flagged a book in one of the classroom libraries because while it was YA (protagonist aged 10-12 over the course of the book) it was about prostitution and sexual slavery in India. As I flipped through the book (I was browsing the library as I subbed for her), I found a rather graphic description of sexual torture. I left a note asking the teacher if she’d read the book and suggesting she look at that passage. Turned out that she hadn’t had time to read the book, which had come in a package of YA books about children around the world. Straight up pornography? Not really, but probably not what many 6th graders are mentally equipped for.

      • That’s a helpful example. If the OP is referring to that type of book, I think most people would agree with her that it’s not for middle school.

  4. Does YA mean a clean read? No. But a lot of parents expect it, so if you include sex, drugs, “bad” language, expect your reviews to suffer for it.

  5. Wait, what? Is the opposite of “clean” now “pornography”? When did that happen?

    And why does Ms. Holley feel the need to market herself as a “writer of passionate, fantasy romance without the guilt”? What guilt? Why should ANY reader EVER be made to feel guilt over her choice of reading material?

    Yes, absolutely, we parents have the right and the responsibility to exercise some control over what our children read. But to label YA books with sexual content as “pornography” and try to make readers feel “guilt” for reading them does a disservice to everyone involved. It sets us back several decades to an era of forbidden books and closed minds.

    • This

    • Agreed.

      There are ‘levels’ to anything, Playboy is nothing but porn — if you ask the right/wrong people.

      Sadly I see this as just another mother trying to childproof the world around her, rather than world proofing her kids to be ready for when mommy can no longer shield them from the real world.

      • Yeah, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt just because it’s easy to get into the rabbit hole in these discussions since everyone uses these words differently. I don’t know if she means “sex at all” = porn, or if she means “porn” = porn.

        Is it okay if the scenes are “fade to black,” or is she objecting to the characters having sex at all? I haven’t read any YA lately so I don’t know if they’re really being offered porn.

        I think she writes for middle schoolers, though. I’m reminded of a Carolyn Hax column late last year, when some mom was on shaming rampage because her daughter was upset by a party she went to, where kids played what sounded like “spin the bottle.”

        No one kissed the daughter, she just objected to the other kids playing the game. I could imagine the girl calling it “dirty.” Since middle school is the age where kids hit puberty, most everyone figured she was still on the other side, whereas the other kids had crossed over.

        I am wondering if Tianna’s target audience are kids who haven’t crossed over yet and are feeling besieged by the other kids who have. As you said, there are levels. This is a scenario where I could imagine “guilt” over reading material would come into play without it being unhealthy.

      • How many of us think the world is as it should be? How many of us would like to make the world a better place? And what better way to do that than by positively influencing our youth? The attitude of throwing up our hands at the current state of the world and allowing our children to drown in its excesses is fatalistic and cynical. To be critical of a parent for trying to protect their children and raise them to be better than the world’s status quo is also cynical, as well as judgemental. Parents, teachers, authors of YA — we all can try to help the next generation be better than ours by protecting them from the tentacles of corruption and teaching them a better way.

        • I doubt it’s teaching them a better way. Considering that this world of ours didn’t develop overnight and the type of clean books were available all along but didn’t stop anything.

          Pointing out and explaining a Nigerian Prince scam doesn’t mean your kids will start running one. Not knowing what one is leaves people open to them.

          Should you limit which books you let your kids read? Sure, it’s entirely your right. But discuss the issues with them anyway. Generations of parents not talking to their kids about the real problems they will face lead to this world. Teens were getting married at 16 and having babies far before the current had coined ‘teenage pregnancy’.

          • “Pointing out and explaining a Nigerian Prince scam doesn’t mean your kids will start running one. Not knowing what one is leaves people open to them.”

            I want this as a quote graphic!

            • Lol, I’m pretty sure there must exist a more pithy way of saying it. Possibly on some ‘The Most Interesting Man of the World’ meme already!

          • My eighth grade home room class had a girl who was already married at 13. She was made to leave school a few weeks after the beginning of the year for being pregnant. This was well within the era when raising children to be ignorant was the norm. By the end of the year there were several more.

            • I remember when I was 10-12 my grandmother’s anger at the news of a nine-year-old giving birth.

              At this point in the US the ‘kids’ are suddenly considered ‘adults’ at the magic age of 18, yet they’re not old enough to smoke or drink for another three years?

              By 18, one of my grandmothers had been married four years and was raising three kids.

              So, have the kids gotten dumber and less responsible over the decades — or is it the product of the way they are being raised/trained?

              • Yes, the magical age of 18. Unfortunately too many parents think 15 or 16 is the same as 5 or 6.

              • Biology hasn’t changed over the decades but I think in most other ways it’s good to spread out the longer lifespans across different development stages. Except ‘Angry Manchild’ movies, those can burn.

                • Biology hasn’t changed over the decades

                  Hate to break it to you, but:

                  http://www.livescience.com/40910-girls-reaching-puberty-earlier.html

                • Will, I can’t directly reply but I briefly mentioned that in another post. I was watching some Jenna Marbles video the other week and the comments were filled with teen and 20 something women who didn’t know what was happening when their period started. Which kind of shocked me in this day and age. I’d understand if it was 70 old women talking about back in the day but it wasn’t. Which got me thinking just how much are people preparing kids for their next issues.

                • “Biology hasn’t changed over the decades but I think in most other ways it’s good to spread out the longer lifespans across different development stages. Except ‘Angry Manchild’ movies, those can burn.”

                  Except they ‘come of age’ when they come of age — not when they hit some magic number.

                  And wrapping them in bubble-wrap until that magic age does them more harm than good.

                  They hit that magic number and it’s: “Welcome to adulthood! All things you can get away with yesterday are now crimes — like continuing to date that person that’s a year your junior.”

                  People mature at their own rates (and some never do!), trying to treat them as one gives a disservice to the early bloomers (and trying to pretend they haven’t bloomed can be harmful to them and those they have to deal with.)

                  If you want to produce ‘adults’ that are not ready for the adult world they will be facing, just keep shielding them …

          • I’m not saying parents shouldn’t discuss issues with their children, and I doubt the person who wrote the article is saying that. The reactions to any hint of parents censoring what their children are exposed to seem to always jump to the accusation that said children will be damaged from being ignorant of the real world. It doesn’t have to be a choice of one extreme or the other. Kids can be made aware of what the world consists of without being dipped in mental imagery and dramatic presentations of it in their literature.

            I will concede that my books are on the border between middle grade and YA, so my readership tends toward the younger end of that spectrum. Therefore, my sense of decorum within these stories is tied to that.

            By the way, pornography has contributed to the ubiquitous prevalence of sex in our media and the over-sexualization of today’s children. I see PG’s reason for mentioning it above.

            • It doesn’t have to be one extreme or another but I suspect most of us growing up have seen that we were either told nothing. I’m 46 and Canadian so maybe other places have different results but most of my peers had similar ‘educations’ by their parents.

              I’d rather see kids read 100 stories of struggling with temptations of drugs, alcohol and sex than 1 of them learning the hard way by themselves firsthand. I think picking and choosing stories and discussing them in terms of the problems the characters faced, not morals involved, would have helped many of my generation.

        • I don’t believe sex is corruption. Teens think about sex. Teens have sex. It absolutely has a place in YA books. Certainly we should be mindful of the message we’re sending, but we shouldn’t turn sex in general into a shameful thing. I want to show my characters dealing with it in a realistic manner.

          If my YA books have any kind of “lesson”, it’s about empathy and acceptance. Those are the values I want to instill — not just in kids but in everyone.

    • Well-said, Shelly. Guilt is a perceived notion. Implying guilt for otherwise natural actions and desires is thick-headed at best. Sure, making known the consequences of such actions and desires is great. If anything, her description of the book in question sounds like it was trying to drive home the point of poor choices in such matters. However, implying guilt across the board is part of what creates unhealthy attitudes towards said desires.

    • Thank you.

    • Yes, thank you.

    • Thank you, Shelly.

      An addiction is a problem no matter what the addict is addicted to. Just because a reader enjoys bad language or sex in the books they read, doesn’t mean they’re going to definitely become addicted to it and turn into a horrible person. Addicts behave this way, and they need help for their addictions, whatever they may be. Normal people are perfectly capable of enjoying sexual content without turning into deviants of society.

  6. I could not agree less with the OP if you held a gun to my head. Like PG, I have seen, up close and personal, the kind of damage done by obsessive behavior WRT pornography. It’s been a longstanding interest of mine since my misspent days in grad school.

    Once you get past the percentage of the population that will self-medicate with anything that’s handy in order to stabilize their neurochemistry, most of what we call addiction (obsessive behavior developing around the compulsive indulgence in a hidden pleasure) is driven by shame.

    Pornography (defined here as media consumed exclusively for the purpose of sexual arousal and release) is disproportionately popular in “red” states because the culture in those areas is steeped in honor-culture thinking about sexuality (the rates of abortion and unplanned pregnancy are, not coincidentally, strongest here too). Similarly, alcohol addiction is most prevalent among drinkers in places across the world where alcohol is not given a role in the culture.

    The entire reason for having a category of YA literature (instead of just moving from middle grade to adult) is to give teenagers a forum to explore the phenomenal power they’ve just acquired by hitting puberty. They suddenly can create life, participate in the economy like an adult, and kill people (or make decisions that result in people getting killed). That’s a tremendous and terrifying load of responsibility. YA literature–from Horatio Alger to Mark Twain to Robert Heinlein to (I can’t believe I’m saying it) Twilight–has always been about coping with this kind of responsibility.

    Is there room for books that aren’t explicit in their violence or sex, or adult in their language? Sure. But anyone–especially any parent–who gets freaked out about these things in YA books has fundamentally missed the point of what YA literature is for, and is liable to be perpetuating the kind of shame that creates the very moral problems that they wish to steer their children clear of.

    Childhood isn’t safe. Young Adulthood is even less so. Attempting to make it safe is a fundamental mistake that cripples the up-and-coming generations.

    (If you want to hear me blather in more depth about this, you can find a long article on the subject here: http://jdsawyer.net/2011/06/07/unsuitable-for-children/ )

    • I probably should add that, contrary to what the above might lead you to expect, my first YA series (debuting later this year) has almost no harsh language. The protagonist lives in a world where her facility with profanity is a superpower, and I found it far more conducive to the storytelling (and humor) to describe her profanity and its effect on others, than to simply show her cursing.

      Every story’s demands are different 😉
      -Dan

    • Thank you for that article. It was an interesting read.

      And I agree. Children and teenagers are not innocent at all. There merely are incapable of plotting the consequences of what they are doing in detail (that brain’s function tends to come online around the age of 21, btw.).

      I also believe that kids need to learn about the dark side of people and groups. They can do so either by being directly exposed to it, or by reading / watching it in fiction. I grew up quite sheltered (Germany in the 1970s), but even at that time, we had a home-grown terrorist group that was actively abducting and killing people. And my parents let me watch the news. (Oh, and they took us on vacation to nude camps. Scandal? Not at all. I learned a lot about the human body in all conditions.)

      We can still create YA that has little bad language and no explicit sex and which still gives kids a chance to think about their own choices and reactions. I think that finding that kind of balance makes for great stories.

  7. I was raised as a child who was “protected from the tentacles of corruption”, and was put at a considerable disadvantage as an adult because of it. Keeping young people ignorant of the world outside is a profound mistake. It only made me bitter at my enforced ignorance because it felt like I’d been lied to. Which was exactly the case. You teach young people to deal with the real world by letting them know what’s out there and giving them tools to cope.

    Plus, YA means Young ~Adult~. They need to be treated that way.

    • This is my call as well. If a kid is old enough to be curious it’s time they learned. We aren’t living in households full of bibles with 1 TV and 3 channels anymore anyway.

      Some part of me also thinks this is also about reader expectation. Surely middle grade would be super clean, but young adult? If it’s a story about 16 year olds it’s going to have sex and profanity.

      • I should point out that I’m one of those adults that is super uncomfortable with sex in anything I’m reading. It’s because of my parents sheltering the hell out of me. I didn’t see an ‘r’ rated movie until college.

        So now I get to be one of those Americans that’s totally fine with seeing someone’s head get cut off but once people start kissing I’m out.

        • LOL – Totally understand. I was raised Pentecostal, with my father, both grandfathers, and uncle all being preachers. It’s been hell letting go of those programmed ideas. Now that I’m (mostly) free of that, I look and wonder at how many people are okay with excessive violence, but when Janet Jackson’s boob slipped out at the Super Bowl, it was the end of society and the world as we knew it. 🙁

        • I never understood that. I have a poor guy being tortured (no blood or guts, but still intense) and yet people complain about the moderate level of profanity. So, it’s okay to torture someone in a book, but the victim can’t even let fly with an F-bomb while it’s happening? That is REAL torture. 😉

          • Yeah, I don’t understand the rules but I know them.

            No naughty words or private bits. Death and dismemberment are cool.

            • Yeah, nothing you might see/hear/do as an ‘adult’ — heaven forbid they have any idea what the real world might throw in their face until it’s too late.

  8. People like this is the reason my YA trilogy is labeled as “Not parent safe.” 😉

    • Nice! I might have to crib that one from you.

    • Heaven forbid the kid learn something their parents don’t want them to know …

      “What’s sex?”

      “Sex is dirty, you are not to think about sex!”

      “Okay. How did you and daddy have me?”

      “… The stork — the stork brought you to us — uh, in the cabbage patch …”

  9. The system used to be that if a child read children’s lit, there would be no sex and limited violence or controversial subjects; that YA would contain some controversial subjects and some violence but no sex; and that a normal adult book could contain anything. And yes, this conformed to developmental stages of American kids, as well as social mores.

    Apparently now, we expect every kid to have sex before adulthood, and I fully expect someone to argue that Trixie Belden should have been portrayed as having sex with every member of the Bob-Whites, because realism.

    And yet, we fully expect literature for young people to provide role models and depict aspirations, in other modes of life, instead of realistically portraying, say, every story ending with the teen character dying as an old person in a nursing home with prostate trouble.

    Only one behavior is uncritically pushed and rushed, and parents are apparently not allowed to help kids grow into sex like they are urged to let kids not be pushed into ballet on their toes or dangerous sports or calculus. Because people could get hurt doing sports too young! Broken hearts or exposing yourself to abuse? Pffft, nothing to worry about. Not like a hamstring.

    It is all about adults pushing their wants on kids, really. And adults in this culture want to push the gospel of sex almighty.

    • Well said.

    • No, American teens have been have sex before adulthood for a couple centuries now. Many, especially in rural areas, were married and having babies before the current age of adulthood.

      Social mores have changed as lifespans and urbanization changed the life’s of people. But that hasn’t changed biology or hormones. Unless you want to get into the issue of puberty hitting even earlier these days for some people.

      You don’t have to depict your teenage MC as anything you don’t want to. Just as most older coming of age fiction ignored the reality of homes for unwed mothers, back alley abortions, girls suddenly shipped away to cousins and subsequent adoptions, and other really hard topics. That didn’t make those things disappear in my mom’s generation. She knew those books were fantasy though, they had nothing to do with the real situations around her in a rural village.

      No YA novel needs to have the MC having sex. But exploring the peer pressures, the problems the MC’s friend had after having sex, and other things can help a child develop far more than a lecture from parents ever did.

      Btw, I suspect that across history a few hundred million less babies would have born if kids actually listened to parents.

      I’ve severely regretted for 30 years not knowing how to help a friend with her sex related problem in high school.

      • From 1930 to 1968 there was a massive, strongly enforced censorship program on Hollywood films. Particularly in terms of what could and couldn’t be portrayed with regard to sex. There was similar, though not as formal, censorship of books in America. Many books were banned and most erotica couldn’t be published or distributed.

        I don’t think kids in general were better off during that time period when parents didn’t have to worry about pornography. It certainly didn’t stop unwanted pregnancies and sex before marriage. It certainly helped fuel homophobia, and probably sexism and racism. It also provided cover for sexual abuse in many forms since children (and young adults) had no context to understand when they were being abused by relatives, priests and people in authority.

        It seems to be adults who are most uncomfortable with the fact that kids can easily access sexually oriented material. The statistics seem to indicate younger people growing up in the internet age are actually delaying sexual activity, since a lot of the mystery is gone and kids have a better understanding of what they are getting into. There is also evidence of less unwanted pregnancies.

        It’s impossible to image how a future society would enforce a new censorship program as thorough as the one in America from 1930’s to 1960’s. And there isn’t a nation with strong censorship that one can point to as being a society most people would like to model. (Saudi Arabia?) There is, in fact, strong evidence that societies with a high level of censorship are less successful culturally, economically and in terms of human rights.

        I can’t help but wonder if those people whose lives are ruined by access to pornography would have also gotten divorces, committed suicide, or lost jobs anyway. (Back in the 50’s there were people who developed fetishes based on the underwear ads in Sears Catalogues and National Geographic pictures of tribal dancers.)

  10. I’m not sure what this article had to do with pornography. Trying to create an infant bubble for your children isn’t going to stop them from being addicted to porn, if that’s the connection we are trying to make.

  11. As a writer, I’d like to find a way to market my fantasy novels as “clean”. I think a lot of readers want to read a fun book without being blindsided by a rape scene or random sex without morality. Readers used to be able to rely on the Young Adult genre to give them clean(er) fantasy, but it seems those boundaries have been pushed.

  12. Hmm, I think people are at cross purposes here.

    Two possibilities regarding the OP: 1) she’s treating normal things — spin the bottle if 12, making out if 15, sex if 17 — as if they’re deviant, or 2) she’s referring to things that are genuinely deviant: “50 Shades of Grey” given to 12 year olds, or the book TXRed mentioned.

    So it seems most people think 1 is in play, and object because the attitude is unhealthy and only leads to the very problems she’s trying to avoid, like a prophecy in a Greek tragedy. And the other camp think 2 is in play, but mistakenly believe that the people who think 1 is true are actually supporting 2.

    Yes? No?

    So, I do not believe anyone here believes Trixie Belden should put out for her chums, whoever they were (I only read the one book in that series that I ever saw).

    Hand-wringing on this is usually not necessary, as kids find their own level. In middle school I read Danielle Steele, Mary Higgins Clark, and V.C. Andrews (the real one) right alongside the Baby-Sitters Club. I looked askance at some things and nodded at others.

    The girl in the Hax column I mentioned would obviously turn away from Steele and Andrews, as well as Norma Klein or Judy Blume. The Sleep Over Friends or the Baby-Sitters Club might be more her speed and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    While we’ve all met the person who would think Kristi, Claudia, and Mary Ann were “dirty” for going on G-rated dates with their crushes, I’m not convinced Holley is that person.

    I’m in camp 3: Another article made the point that “kids today” can no longer accept friendships of the kind that Anne Shirley and Diana Barry enjoyed, where they are bosom buddies, not “friends with benefits.” They think Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are impossible; they must shag, for, Idunno, reasons. This was depressing to read, and not just because I always portray Shirley / Potter friendships between my protagonists (I always have 3 in a story).

    Assuming the article wasn’t exaggerating, then that perverse, cramped view of relationships didn’t just ooze out the aether. Whether carefully or carelessly, somehow those kids were taught to think that way. If so, the kids (and the rest of us) have lost precious ground, and I am in camp “take it back.”

    • I’d guess I’m in camp #4. That there’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing books for your kids but you should be thinking of progressively more challenging books as they grow older, and not in language terms.

      There a jump from relationships in Aladdin to when the boy you like in school tries to lure you behind the bleachers. If the girl has seen similar stories before it happens to her then she has at least a chance of knowing what she wants from the situation.

      For me growing up on fantasy, sci-fi and action novels I put myself in the place of the heroes and realized a lot of things about myself and saw things from a lot of viewpoints that weren’t like mine. However most of those and the Hardy Boy books before them didn’t really explain how to deal with everyday problems of growing up and puberty (except avoid all women cause they are scary in Edding’s books).

      The books at school mostly didn’t help either. Analyzing MacBeth, or The Plains of Abraham earlier in grade 6, didn’t help a lot. Wait, I remember Lady MacBeth was scary too, so that lesson got reinforced again. A few books were helpful but still they were the minority.

      Sex education is useful but I think a far more useful class would be teaching kids to understand a situation from a lot of viewpoints. Even the viewpoint of the kid in the back of the class who swears every time he talks.

      • I don’t believe in infantilizing kids or preserving them in amber. I know they mature at different rates, and it seems fair to meet them where they’re at.

        A couple of people mentioned that teens are assumed now to be mentally incompetent. I know someone who won’t let her high school daughters stay home alone. Whereas, in my generation an 11-year-old girl could hang out her shingle as a baby-sitter.

        I was outraged when my eighth grade home-ec teacher called herself teaching to cook by “showing” us how to make Jiffy muffins. My mother covered that when I was 6; my brother and I would make them for ourselves after that. I get the impression my mother could legally get into trouble if she did that today. I wonder if teachers would even be permitted to let 12-year-olds go near stoves these days?

        I graduated HS in 1997 and had two engaged classmates; I went to one of the weddings. I also had a few classmates who were pregnant before senior year. Both seem normal to me; I think some people are objecting to portraying the latter as preferable. I agree (assuming I’m “reading” them correctly). I also agree that teens are not aided in avoiding the latter sitch by pretending it could never happen.

        I just think it’s incredibly weird that on the one hand teenagers are NOW treated as mentally incompetent, and on the other hand they’re supposed to be “sophisticated” enough for bondage stories (assuming that’s what’s happening). No wonder they’d get confused!

        WRT to the Hardy Boys — I think those were intended for pre-teens. I was in third grade when I discovered Nancy Drew. So I can understand the limitations there. I don’t know what you boys read, but we had Sweet Valley High, which covered the “angles and issues” with varying degrees of credibility.

        I am in the camp of not wanting SVH demonized as “50 Shades” and against portraying “50 Shades” as not only something kids should get into, but that it’s the only kind of “real” relationship they could have. I hope that makes sense! Very sleep-deprived right now.

        • Yeah, I don’t see a need for sex to be in YA, much less 50 Shades.

          I think I can now summarize my camp down to a long paragraph.

          “Issues surrounding sex should be brought up before they start experimenting. A talk is useless. If talking worked almost no one would have done drugs, got knocked up out of wedlock, or drove drunk. The beauty of literature is that unlike movies you can see life from the perspective of the MC’s inner thoughts. Not using that to progressively allow our children to consider harder and harder situations as they grow is a tragedy.”

          I now wonder if there’s a series out there that does that for kids. Instead of being ages 3-5, or ‘explaining the death of a family pet’, it would be interesting if each book dealt with a slightly harder(subjectively obviously) issue. I know there’s non-fiction but if anyone could link a fiction like that I’d be interested in browsing it.

  13. What’s the opposite of clean?

    • Fun.

      • America’s puritan heritage manifests itself regularly through people who are mortally afraid that somehow, somewhere, somebody is having fun.

        • Puritanism fits right in with the modern movement to enforce the campus sex codes being pushed by various legislators, universities, and bureaucrats. Add the parallel movement to suppress whatever offends someone, and the Puritans are just bit players.

  14. I’m a little confused. The author mentions she was at a middle grade book fair and that her daughter is in middle school (in the original full post). So, is she talking about censoring YA books for her middle grade children? If that’s the case, then good for her. Not all YA books are meant to be read my middle grade children, while some YA books are perfect for middle schoolers reading at a higher level. I like to know what my middle schooler is reading, too.

    This author also says in her bio that “her writing tends to have strong violence and romance, she considers herself a PG-13 writer. Her novels do not contain curse words, and her sexual content is limited to heated kissing.”

    I think all that’s great, and I think a lot of readers (especially the adults who read YA) appreciate this disclaimer, however, I get a little confused (there’s that word again) when authors claim that strong violence is okay, but other issues that young “adults” see and hear about every day isn’t okay inside literature.

    There are so many different degrees of these issues. I had a reader ask me the other day to clean up my main character’s language. I’m pretty sure the only curse word this MC says is the s-word, and I’m pretty sure she says it maybe 5 times in a 95,000-word book. So, while I don’t think that’s a big deal, it was to this adult reader of YA books. Everyone is SO different in what offends them. Writers need to be very purposeful in what they write, but know they’re not going to please everyone.

    • Well-said in regards to not pleasing everyone. I’m writing some rather dark stories right now, and I keep self-censoring because of worry over offending someone, but then I have to remind myself that I need to write in accordance with what’s right for the story. That said, I will put warnings in the description, but that’s really all I can do. There will always be someone in the world with a personal crusade, regardless of where they fall politically/religiously.

    • This author also says in her bio that “her writing tends to have strong violence and romance, she considers herself a PG-13 writer. Her novels do not contain curse words, and her sexual content is limited to heated kissing.”

      This mindset always bothers me. Words? Bad. Kissing? Okay, but sex? BAD!

      Violence? Gory.

      Ratings? Violence that can result in harm or death gets PG-13, but intimacy that might lead to pleasure? XXX

    • Thanks for saying that. I found it odd too that she boasted being a PG-13 writer but still had scenes of violence in her books. Sex, bad. Violence, ok.

  15. Ironically, years ago when I was looking for an agent for my novel, which I thought well-suited for the YA market, I was told it wouldn’t have appeal to that market. At the time I was a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and several of the published authors told me my book wasn’t YA, even though the protagonist is 16 years old. One told me that if it doesn’t have the F-word in it, kids just aren’t interested. It wasn’t until I switched to the adult market that my book was published. It’s a clean read, but that wasn’t intentional on my part. It’s just that the subject matter didn’t lend itself to sex, drugs, violence, or bad language. It’s a coming-of-age set in 1952 Japan, when things were much different. I find this all incredibly ironic, and sad, that YA has come to this, and believe me, I’m not a prude. My next book has bad language and mild violence, which of course will be for the adult market. Thank you for giving the heads up on this subject!

  16. “Clean Read” means one thing to a Fundamentalist parent, another to a parent with more, um, Liberal views (culturally if not necessarily politically). So it’s up to parents to define “clean read” and also to monitor their childrens’ reading.

    For example, Judy Blume’s books and The Catcher In The Rye, among others, have repeatedly been targets of irate parents who want them banned from libraries.

    One problem is that adolescents are obsessed with sex. I can still remember when one of my friends would score an issue of Playboy and we would pour over the photo spreads furtively in someone’s basement or behind the garage, mouths agape and drooling. That obsession will never change with the generations!

    • One problem fact of life is that adolescents animals are obsessed with sex.

      Fixed that for ya! 😉

      All of life and biology comes down to the four Fs

      Feeding
      Fighting
      Fleeing
      Mating

  17. Jamie’s concerned about the infantilizing of teenagers – I’m worried about the opposite. About the parents who treat their 14-year-olds like they’re 40. I actually am 40 – and I remember it happening when I was younger, too. The fact that you made a list of when things are “normal” – spin the bottle at 12, making out at 15, sex by 17 – what if you don’t want to do those things? I didn’t. I wasn’t ready. I was immature. In fact, I didn’t kiss anyone until I was 20. Not for lack of opportunity, but because I personally wasn’t ready for it. Your “normal” is not everyone else’s “normal.” There are no guidelines or milestones that must be hit by a certain age or else. And I had friends in high school that were very similar – most of them weren’t having sex at 17, either.

    And I was more than ready to deal with the world when I graduated. I was smart, had common sense, and understood the way things worked. Being innocent in one area did not make me a moron in every other, as has so often been implied in this thread. You actually can prepare your children to be functioning adults without throwing sex in their faces on a regular basis.

    My children have taken after me – as they become teenagers they aren’t really ready for relationships or to be serious with anyone. They don’t even really want to date yet. And you know what? THAT’S PERFECTLY FINE. In fact, it’s even “normal.”

    And I have always gravitated to YA (in reading and writing) because I don’t want to read about sex. It’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to traditional Regencies as well. It’s nice to have an actual romance that’s not entirely focused on the physical, as so many romances are these days. That’s also normal. We all get to decide for ourselves what kind of content we want to write, and what kind of content we want to read. The general impression I get from this thread seems to be that if you’re not letting your kids read about sex regularly, then you’re not preparing them for the real world. That there are milestones and standards that are normal, and anyone not meeting them must be some kind of deviant or weirdo. To which I say – Huh?

    Your world view does not apply to every other person in the world. Not everyone thinks or feels the way that you do. And if one author decides she doesn’t want to put porn in her books and wants to keep it away from her children, what right does anyone in this thread have to say any different about her personal choices?

    And not every adolescent is obsessed with sex, either. Shocking, I know.

    • The fact that you made a list of when things are “normal” – spin the bottle at 12, making out at 15, sex by 17 – what if you don’t want to do those things? I didn’t. I wasn’t ready. I was immature.

      I know. I acknowledged your existence in other posts. Not only that, I wrote those progressions as part of a very specific point: It. Is. Not. Porn. Read them again, I was abundantly clear on that point.

      I was also clear that I just don’t see the point of pretending that you’re the only example that should be catered to. I think stories should cater to the kids who develop at their normal stages, the kids who develop sooner, and the kids who develop later.

      Perfectly fair, yes? The world is not going to hell in a handbasket if we don’t insist that those who developed at their average rate should be treated as if it’s not possible for them to have bloomed at all. Why feel threatened or angry about this? You can find nowhere in my posts to indicate I wanted to force you to experience things you couldn’t handle.

      What you couldn’t handle, you avoided. What other kids could handle, they sought. Let me spell this out for you: There’s nothing wrong with either choice.

      I liked Christopher Pike levels of horror and avoided Stephen King. I liked Mary Higgins Clark / Agatha Christie mysteries and avoided “Seven”-type mysteries.

      I liked modern stories that featured elements of romance, and avoided such from previous generations because of a difference in mores: In Zora Neale Hurston’s time rape was portrayed as a form of romance.

      My generation disagreed, which meant in seventh grade a friend and I were puzzled when we found out about the “Luke and Laura” storyline after “General Hospital” revived those characters. That storyline was from the 70’s, we were watching in the 90’s. We negotiated for ourselves what we would be willing to tolerate.

      I see you’re doing the skim until offended thing, with the result of arguing against points I never made. Take a breath and re-read what I actually wrote. It may shock you.

  18. And if one author decides she doesn’t want to put porn in her books and wants to keep it away from her children, what right does anyone in this thread have to say any different about her personal choices?

    Everyone on this thread has a right to comment on published material. We can observe them exercising that right.

    God Bless the vigorous exercise of free speech, for it is endangered in some quarters.

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