Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's Too Risqué For YA?

You know how I said I'd have a review for an oo-lala book yesterday? Yeah, that didn't happen.

It's not happening today either. Didn't have time to write it yesterday, and will only have time to write it later tonight.

Blame Physics. I stayed for five hours after school, cramming for it. Tomorrow, same, but also with History and Art History. And then I tutor for two hours straight (hey, how else would I earn money with which to buy books?).

Sooooooooo.... For those interested (I don't suspect it's that many of you :P), that review comes tomorrow as a scheduled post. Or not, because I may not finish it.

For today, since I have a compulsion with posting every day, I'm going to ask:

What is considered too much for YA? I hear several people complaining about the mention of drugs, sex scenes, profanity, etc, and I always wondered, well, isn't that how we teens are?

So, what's your take? Feel free to exemplify by giving titles to books you felt went too far/were pitch perfect.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!



Kyle said...

I think that sex, drugs, language is what people should expect fr teen books. I mean who doesn't got to High School and hear about that stuff.

Anonymous said...

You know, I honestly think it all depends on the teen. I, personally, can handle pretty much anything so I don't think semi-graphic sex scenes (aka Forever... and Anatomy of a BF) are inappropriate and neither are drugs/drinking/parties/etc. On the other hand, I have a best friend who is offended by the slightest mention of a swear word or sex or anything like that.

So I think that's what authors and teens have to take into mind. If you're writing something with a sex scene or drugs or drinking or ANYTHING, there's ALWAYS going to be someone offended. So if you don't want that to happen, then write a perfectly clean book. Just don't expect us to think it's a good book because honestly, most teens swear and drugs, drinking, sex, etc is a natural part of our lives, something we see almost everyday, whether or not we're involved so it wouldn't be "real" NOT to include any of that stuff.

So that said...

Well, honestly, it's up to the teen. KNOW what you can handle and what you can't. If you're iffy about the content of a book, read reviews, ask reviewers, etc about it. And for the love of God, do NOT bash a book just because you aren't mature enough to handle the content!

Anonymous said...

For me, nothing is too much for YA except for maybe teen erotica or something, lol. That would be too much. Yknow, like Harlequin for teens in which there's a sex scene every 5 pages or something.

But usually, for me at least, it's pretty much anything goes. I think teens can handle mentions and explicit scenes that deal with those issues if they're mature enough for the content. So I agree with Harmony, it depends on the reader really. There isn't a clearcut answer here that we can say "OK, this is where it goes too far."

anilee said...

Ick. Physics. Hate it.


That is one of my pet peeves. I hate when people say something is inappropriate for a young adult novel. What the heck? In my opinion, pretty much everything and anything is appropriate for a young adult novel because teens go through so much. I mean, as long as it's from a teen's point of view, I'm not going to complain.

Like Harmony said, it should be up to the readers. Teens know what they're comfortable reading and what they're not. I know that I am. And honestly, I don't really like perfectly clean books that much because they're not very realistic.

And like Harmony said, DON'T bash a book for swearing or sexual content or whatever. It's part of teen life. If you can't handle it in fiction, I hope you're living in a really sheltered world. Because reading about this stuff in fiction helps me accept it in the real world. Not like it, but accept it.

I mean, to me, it's more about is it authentic or not. If it's not realistic (either because the author seems to be putting it in only because she thinks it's needed or because it seems censored) then it's a failure. Nothing should be gratuitous. It should all add something to the story.

Here's more that I wrote on this: http://thegoosegirl.wordpress.com/2008/04/08/why-i-object-to-the-word-appropriate/

Amee said...

Like others, I think anything goes.

However, I like the clean books. I think they can be realistic. While I heard about sex, drugs, etc. as a teenager, I didn't partake in such matters. So a "clean" book can be realistic because not every teen is out there having sex and sampling drugs and alcohol.

Rachael Stein said...

i really dont care what is mentioned in the books i read, whether it is cursing, sex, drugs, alcohol, whatever. it happens in real life, why shouldnt it be in a book (especially realistic fiction)?

this actually reminds me of a book i just read, Courage in Patience, in which there's a summer english class that gets attacked for reading a book by Chris Crutcher involving thinking about sex and cuss words. it was kinda sad how some people think teens are so innocent all the time.

anilee said...

Ambeen, I do agree with you to a certain extent, but I think that sometimes it seems silly. Like right now, I'm reading Jinx by Meg Cabot, and a character says "the F word", and that is how it's referred to in the book, and it just sort of sounds silly rather than realistic. Or like in Twilight when Bella says, "Holy crow!" instead of "Oh my god!" or something. It just sort of sounds weird. That's sort of what I mean, not so much that books on a PG level aren't realistic. Some are. And likewise, sometimes the mature content can sound forced, like in New Moon when Bella starts swearing, it sounds weird because once upon a time, she only said, "Holy crow!" I think it depends on the book and the content and stuff and the way the characters have been portrayed.

Khy said...

I think it depends on how mature you are. I know that most of the people I went to school with last and some this year are quite immature and giggle at anything. I mean, when we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird (Fantastic book. Just sayin.) almost everyone giggled when Atticus was changing Scout's clothes. One guy was saying "I like, thought he was raping her or something." I was literally hitting my head on the desk. Everyone looked at me funny.

Anyway. I believe it depends on how mature you are. I'm quite young but have no problem with the sex and drugs and stuff, but that's just me.

Just sayin, again: I dislike it more when people bash a book for having gay characters. That bugs me a lot worse. I mean, how could people bash David Levithan's books and The Bermudez Triangle? (and, um, other stuff.) Those books are FANTASTIC. What bugs me worse that when there's a gay character in a book containing alcohol and no one really complains about the alcohol. (Bermudez Triangle.)

Chelsie said...

I'm okay with pretty much whatever the author throws out at me... but then again, I know there are people who don't like it. And I fully respect their decisions to not read something because the book's content offends them.

Just, personally, graphic content (sex, drugs, whatever...) doesn't bother me.

cat said...

I have to be honest, I was taken aback when I read Holly Black's Tithe. I was shocked at the drugs and the language, and though I knew it was realistic I found myself slightly uncomfortable with the book until most of the way through.

I come from a generation where things weren't quite so In Your Face, and I'm only in my early 30s, so it's not like I grew up completely sheltered. ;)

I liked my teen books in the 80s and 90s... they weren't quite as graphic as YA books are today. They were a lot more innocent and though I understand the appeal and need to have more realistic books out there now, I sort of miss the innocent escapism I got from those other books.

As long as anything in a book isn't there just for shock value, I don't have a problem with it. It's sad to know that teens (in the books and real life) know a lot more than the teens I grew up with, but at the same time, literature has to change with the times as well. ;)

Yes, I am a prude. Ha!

Amee said...

I understand where you're coming from, Madison, but still disagree. The only "swear" word I use is crap. I say "holy cow" a lot. This was even when I was in my teens. So I don't think it would sound silly or forced for a character to not swear.

I'm thinking, like Cat, maybe I'm just too far removed from teens already (and I'm only in my early 20s). It just seems that's what acceptable now is already pretty different than what it was when I was a teenager.

Chelsea said...

I really, honestly, truly couldn't care less about whether or not "risky" material's included in a book. Unless you're a teen without sight or hearing, you're going to be exposed to all of it anyway. What I care about is whether the book's good or not.

Kelsey said...

I'm okay with everything that YA authors put out there. It's here, in life, why shouldn't it be in books? Who ever goes to HS hears about this stuff. It's the inevitable. Great question. Link exchange?

Caroline said...

At writing camp, one of my teachers (and HEROES) said that to be a poet required 'an allegience to honesty'. I'm a strong believer of that, and I think that (even though most people equate fiction to lies) it applies to prose as well. Like Madison said, it's unrealistic for most teens to say 'holy cow' when they're way more likely to curse. I mean, I have friends who never curse. And I, myself, don't do anything else that's been brought up. But teens in general? They ARE drinking, they ARE having sex, and they DO swear all the time. I think that if YA authors ignore the issues of sex and drugs and drinking, they're being dishonest- to the reader, to the characters, to the story.

That being said, I hate the habit that some teenagers have of cursing every other word, so of course that bothers me in the fiction world as well. It's a balance. I think it's crazy to have no swearing at all, but incessant cursing is bad, too.

As for the sex thing, I don't LIKE graphic scenes, and I sure wasn't happy to find my twelve-year-old cousin reading erotica nonstop, but as long as it doesn't get into too many details it shouldn't matter (and the idea of Looking for Alaska being called pornography infuriates more than almost anything book-related, ever).

I love these discussion questions, Steph!


PS: Is the Ooh La La book by any chance Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott? Mayhaps? I thought (hoped) it might be because you mentioned that you'd be reviewing it sometime in the near future, and I've heard that it gets pretty graphic. I am seriously DYING to read that book.

Steph said...

Caroline: I agree about the ALASKA thing. Like John has said, that one scene was only put there for contrast with the scene following it. (You know what I mean.)

I swear, some people... *rolls eyes*

To answer your question, no, it's not LIVING DEAD GIRL. When I say oo-lala, I mean consesual oo-lala occurrences ;) LIVING DEAD GIRL deals with abuse, which is most certainly not consesual. (Though I will review it some other time.) And yes, it does get graphic. I mean, graphic in a way that the details aren't exceedingly graphic, just the scene is, if that makes any sense. That book really horrified me - but in a good way. I'd recommend reading it ;)

What concerns me, though, is that it's a 176-page hardcover. Like, $16 in stores and $11 on Amazon. I don't know why Simon Pulse did this :S


YA Book Realm said...

I pretty much can handle the mention of drugs, sex scenes, profanity, etc, like mentioned before the average teenager are well aware of them, whether they engage in such activities or not.

I remember the first ever time I read about sex was in The Sitter by R.L. Stine. The first chapter alone mentioned all three. I was so young and niave that I didn't even realize that it was a sex scene at first. Keep in mind, I picked up this book when I used to read the Fear Street book (which I LOVED at the time) by him. So it was a BIG shocker for me.

I remember I didn't like the book at all. And now I realize that it was because I was young and I was never exposed to these things in his other books that I would frequently read. Let alone all the other books I used to read.

But now older and not such a prude I don't mind at all when books mention such things. Like in Jellicoe Road by Melinda Marchetta (one of my favorite book) they do sex was mentioned twice. I think Melinda did an awesome jon and handled it perfectly.

And like Harmony mentioned, I think it varies among different teens on whether they would feel comfortable reading about certain situations or not.

Alea said...

Before I read Prep I wondered why it wasn't marketed as a YA book, it looked like a YA book and sounded like a YA book. But towards the end there I was pretty glad that it wasn't marketed as YA. Though I think mature teens could/should read it. I remember reading Flowers For Algernon in junior high via a recommendation from a teacher and thinking, omg why did she recommend this I'm only a kid! I'm not sure why I thought that now but I just remember thinking that.

I think it's all relative based on the young adult.

PS Can't wait to see your review, you have me perplexed as to what it is!

Caroline said...

And here I thought 'ooh-la-la' just meant... really good. haha

That sucks about the pricing, though. Ack. I hate being poor.

Readingjunky said...

I'm a huge fan of realistic fiction, so the drugs, sex, and language go with the territory. It's not a problem for me, but I appreciate it most when it fits the character or furthers the character's development. I don't so much care for it when it seems to be just a sensational creation for the sake of attention.

Anonymous said...

LoL im 13 and only read harlquin bcuz i like the sex

ya is 2 tame 4 me most times

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph