But recently I’ve been noticing a trend that I find a more than a little irritating, and it follows the line of thought that this review of Bleeding Violet did:
Bleeding Violet feels like a bondage smut book toned down for teens, and it doesn't work. Movies have ratings and books have genres to prevent children from reading or seeing what may not be good for them, and I think Bleeding Violet should definitely not be in the YA fiction genre. It has too much unnecessary sex, drugs, swearing, violence, self-violence, stealing, lying, and hatred. There is a place for these issues, but it's not in the teen sci-fi/fantasy section, and they need to be treated appropriately.
Here’s another one for the Duff:
I was really excited to read The Duff after hearing so many good things, but I was sorely disappointed after reading. I thought the book would be about a girl coming to grips with her self esteem issues, and negative outlook on life. Instead it's about angry sex, and emotional abuse. Honestly, there is so much sex, and gratuitously described, that I felt like it belonged on the romance shelf. Definitely not in YA (and the sex scenes aren't even that great). I am not a fan of censoring things for kids, but this has so many incredibly bad messages there's no way I'd let my niece read it.
So let’s look at the reviews. They both have the same overall message: this is not appropriate for YA. Okay? But why? The first review states that Bleeding Violet has “too much unnecessary sex, drugs, swearing, violence, self-violence, stealing, lying, and hatred.” The second review states that in the DUFF “there is so much sex, and gratuitously described, that I felt like it belonged on the romance shelf. Definitely not in YA.”
So my question is: where do they belong?
The first reviewer seems to be hinting that those kinds of topics only belong in what most people call “issue books”. That’s great and all, but sex and lying and drugs don’t just happen to kids dealing with a friend dying or being raped. They kind of happen to everyone (the sex and lying and drugs, not the raping. Although the statistic on that is pretty depressing). In my high school (many moons ago), people were having sex and a few girls even got pregnant. There were drugs and drunk driving and all of the general stupidity that you see in the “real” world. You know, because high school IS a microcosm of the rest of the world.
|You kids quit reading those books!|
By reading about the consequences of other people’s mistakes teens can relate to a character that is more like them, that may or may not be going through the things they do. YA should be relatable, it should have flawed characters, and it should have violence and sex and lying and hateful people. Because all of those things exist, whether you like them or not.
And who decides what is appropriate and what isn’t for someone? I’ll tell you who: the person reading it.
If YAs are adults, then we should treat them as such. We should trust them to pick something up, say to themselves “Ugh, this is so not for me,” and put it down. If they don’t do that, then maybe they aren’t ready for YA, the same way they aren’t ready for the regular adult market. Hell, there are some sections of the adult market I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for. And that’s okay.
And if someone’s not ready for YA, well, there are a lot of really awesome middle grade books out there. Just because someone reads at a twelfth grade level doesn’t mean they are emotionally ready to experience twelfth grade. And that’s okay. But let’s not try to redefine what YA is or isn’t because we don’t like a book. Because, really, that’s just being selfish.