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Monday, November 15, 2010

My Big Rant & Things of That Nature

I don't read a lot of YA. The majority of my YA reads include The Hunger Games Series, the Twilight Saga, The Books of Bayern Series by Shannon Hale, and most of Jessica Day George's novels.

Obviously, I haven't read much of what you might call "mainstream" YA Fiction. I see a lot of YA titles mentioned on Twitter, in blog posts, reviews, etc., but haven't taken much opportunity to read them.

YA is big right now.

Recently I picked up a contemporary YA book at a large book signing with several authors. I decided to purchase her book after someone mentioned how much they liked this author's books. I spoke briefly with the author as she signed my book. She is very nice. I like her. I was totally excited to read her book.

I have a "thing" about preferring to read an author's books in order if I can, even if they're not part of a series. I like to see the growth in writing ability, etc. So I picked up one of the author's earlier books at the library to read first.

The cover is cute. Eye-catching. Funny, even. The story sounds interesting and entertaining. I got settled in and started reading.

I made it to page 49 before closing the book.

Seriously, I am so disappointed.

I am wondering, is THIS what "mainstream" contemporary YA Fiction is these days?

That the main character and her friends crash the graduation party I have no problem with. It doesn't bother me too much that there is drinking with the characters in the background, though I wish it could be otherwise. I am bothered that the main character takes a sip when it's offered to her. But I know it happens. And I know I'm reading a nationally published novel.

What bothers me is that they are passing a BONG around. And the boy the main character likes takes a very, very long drag.

But let me be honest here.

I think what really bothers me is that the girls didn't leave RIGHT THEN.

Several times the main character mentioned that her biggest fear was dying a virgin.

Maybe I'm odd this way, but even though I knew I wasn't the most attractive girl in my school, rarely dated and had only one boyfriend- who didn't kiss me once in the 3 1/2 months we dated- I NEVER worried about dying a virgin.

I am pleased to be able to tell my girls that I experienced my first kiss when I was 18, with the man I now call my husband.

Ironically, about an hour after I closed the book, I found a link on Twitter to this article, "How to Judge If a Book Is Appropriate."

I will give the author another chance. I plan on reading the book I initially purchased. I am hoping, oh how I'm hoping, that I will not have to put that book down until I've finished it.

I know that The Hunger Games is violent. That's why my girls won't be reading it until they are closer to Katniss' age, if it's something they even want to read in the first place.

I know that the Twilight Saga is full of sexual situations. That's why my girls won't be reading the books until they are MUCH older, and we've had several discussions, if they even want to read the books at all by then.

I don't like the idea of banning books. That's not what I'm trying to get at here.

But as an adult, I wouldn't want to read a book about an adult main character going to a party to see the man she's attracted to smoking a bong. It doesn't do anything for me.

It sounds different put in that context, doesn't it? Well, it does to me.

At a party with teenagers, it is seemingly "natural," but replace all the teenagers with adults and it's just creepy.

I wouldn't want to read a book about that.

I don't want my girls reading about it, either.

After all the work put into Red Ribbon Week, Public Service Announcements, health classes, and late night discussions teaching our children about the dangers of drugs, telling our children to "Just say NO," it seems so... hypocritical... to allow them to read books where the character is okay being in this type of situation. Like it's nothing worse than hanging out at the local diner.

I'm not so ignorant or naive to think that these things don't happen. All the time.

But if my girls ever find themselves in this type of situation I want them to leave RIGHT THEN.

And I want them reading books with characters that leave RIGHT THEN.

I know that books listed as YA are determined by the age of the main character and not necessarily the age of the intended reader. Considering that I found this book in the clearly marked "TEENS" section of the library, I'd say it should be assumed that readers as young as 12 are being targeted here.

I guess what I'm saying is that if it has YA on it, it should have a rating. Or at least a content warning.

Video games have ratings and content warnings.

TV shows have ratings and content warnings.

Even COMMERCIALS have ratings now.

I can hide the titles of shows above a certain rating on my cable box with my parental controls.

So what about books?

For now, I read most books before I'll allow my oldest daughter to read them, with very few exceptions (a few middle reader series from authors I know).

Also, from now on, whenever we (LDSWBR) review a book, especially one that falls into the YA category, we will include specific content warnings for sexual content, drug use, language and violence. These content warnings will include the context as well.

For example, if there is language, we will let you know the severity (how often was bad language used as well as if the f-bomb was one of them). If there is sexual content, we will tell you if it was limited to innuendo or touching or if clothing was removed, and so on.

Everyone is different when it comes to content. Some people don't mind things that strongly offend others. That's how things are and it's okay. It would be nice, though, to have a heads up.

Considering that we are LDS, and our purpose is celebrating good fiction that doesn't ask you to sacrifice your standards, if we read a book that contains objectionable content, we'll do our best to give you that heads up.

Our blog readers are the best, and we appreciate each one of you. Thank you!

Now, who can direct me to some excellent (and clean) YA Fiction?


  1. Well said. I've been drawn to YA fiction because I thought it was "safe" but in recent years I'm finding it much less so. It's absolutely critical for moms to be reading the books their daughters read so they can have those talks you discussed. Even with Twilight (besides some of the 'hot' scenes that's are nothing in literature today but still embarrassed me when I read the books to my hubby) there are elements *coughstalkerEdwardcough* that in a fantasy book may been sweet, in real life would not in the least. Would any of us want a boy sneaking into our home at night to watch our daughter sleep? Ack!

    I read the book "Beastly" and was appalled that the main character was casually sexually active in 9th grade. The author didn't give any gory details, but that everyone was so blase about it really bothered me.

    So I'm glad you're including the information. Even with YA books, it's definitely a 'buyer beware' market.

    Makes me wonder if we'll be worried in 20 years about books where 5th and 6th graders are having intimate.

  2. Shanda, I am so happy that I came across your blog and specifically this post. I can't tell you how much I agree with everything you said! I am a new author of YA fiction and as my book was in the publishing process I took many trips to the YA areas of book stores to see what was out there. I was appauled to say the least. Even the books that claimed to be "christian" discussed sex as a loose subject in the first few pages. I am LDS but I have always wanted to write YA novels that are not solely geared towards LDS readers. I strongly believe that there are non-LDS teens out there who also desire to live by a higher standard than what the rest of the world would have them live. The book I recently had published (that will officially be released on Nov. 30) is a book about a young girl of no specific religion who strives to live by what we know as LDS standards. I would love to send you a copy for you to review on your blog if you are interested. If you want to know more about me and the book take a look at my blog: www.nataliepalmerbooks.blogspot.com
    And if you want to contact me via email I'm at natapalmer at yahoo dot com. Thanks again for your post!

  3. Donna- Thank you for your comment. I knew there must be others who felt the same. I, too, worry about what will be "acceptable" in the future.

    Natalie- I'm happy you found us, too! I'm so glad you are writing for that niche - LDS & non-LDS teens looking for books about characters with high standards - because I believe there is a large market for it. I can't help but wonder if there is a lot of peer/market pressure put on YA authors to make their book just a little more "edgy," or sexy, or whatever and for the life of me I can't figure out why we would want to glorify or celebrate that type of stuff!

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for chemistry. I love a good toe-curling kissing scene. However, the best kissing scenes I've ever read, the ones that made me go back and reread them 2 or 3 times after I finished the book, did not contain sex, or inappropriate touching, or graphic detail. But they had chemistry, and a lot of it!

    I'm sending an email your way about your book. Thanks! :)

  4. I think you may have jumped the gun here. By closing the book on page 88, you probably missed out on many redeeming qualities of the book. Like teenage sexual activity, drug use, shoplifting, and... oh, wait. I think you may have been right.

  5. I'm so with you. I do tend to read YA novels now because they're clean, but I don't read contemporary so I can't make suggestions there. The authors you listed right off, Jessica Day George and Shannon Hale, are two of my favorites! I also loved Kiersten White's "Paranormalacy". Funny, light. I stick to the fantasy in the YA genre. In the more, mystery-like category, Ally Carter is also another favorite. The first four in her "Gallagher Girls" series has been clean.

    There really should be some kind of rating system though. I tend to read books after someone I know and trust has read them and recommended them. Goodreads is my rating system I guess you could say.

    Anyway, so glad I stumbled on your blog. I've been enjoying the posts!

  6. Fantastic post Shandra.
    Not that I think this makes it ok or not in books, but here's another POV. I know when I was younger I didnt even know what bong was. I'd rather have my kids come across topics while they're with me (so we can talk about it), than when they find themselves in a bad situation or confronted with something.

  7. Nisa- Thank you for commenting! I read the first few chapters of "Paranormalcy" online and can't wait to read the rest. I'm so glad to hear it's one you would recommend. I will check out Ally Carter's books as well. I love Goodreads too, though sometimes I have to dig a little to find a review that will be honest about the content. Find me on Goodreads; I'd love to see what you've been reading!

    Debbie- You are absolutely right, we should be talking to our kids about these things beforehand so they will know what to do. I didn't know what a bong was either, though I'm pretty sure I would have been able to figure it out real quick. How I hope our children will never find themselves in that type of situation. Thank you for your comment!