All these book have two things in common - they are on the list for most banned books in the U.S. and I loved each and every one of them.
One of the best things about being human is the opportunity to make something where there was nothing. Whether we are painting, starting a business, building a house, writing a novel, or having children; we are tapping into that part of ourselves that gives each of us joy. Creating.
And before I continue let me be clear. I in no way support someone telling someone else what they can or cannot create. Or someone telling a parent what is acceptable for their child to read.
However, I had to ask myself some questions when I opened the book Cracked Up To Be last night. Remember, this book is written for teens, meaning publishers are marketing it for the 14 to 18 year old demographic. Caution - it is vulgar and crude and I don't enjoy putting it on my blog but I also think a lot of parents are unaware of what is being sold to their minor children under the name of Young Adult literature.
Here is the opening page of Cracked Up To Be.
Imagine four years.
Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken lims, turf wars - every day a turf war - six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts.
"No, seriously, Jules, just feel around in there and tell me if you have one-"
"Fuck off, Chris-"
"And tell me where it is, the exact location."
He reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder. I shrug, shrug, shrug him off.
"Fuck off, Christ."
He's been on about the G-spot for, like, a week.
"Don't fail me now, Parker. Where is it?"
"Cosmo, December '94. The Sex Issue. Came with a map and everything."
I gave up hoping the content would clear up by the third chapter. Skimming instead to the last scene. The 'F' word caught my sight at least one to three times every couple of pages. There was also no shortage of sexual conversation/scenes.
And trust me, this isn't the only "R rated" book available in the Young Adult section at a book store or library.
So this is my question - does it seem off to anyone else that an unassuming 14 year old girl could pick up this book and buy it without a problem but she wouldn't be able to buy a movie ticket to see a movie with similar content?
Banning books? No. But why isn't there a rating system for books being sold to minors?
As an author, I believe I am accountable for my manuscripts. Authors and publishers have a responsiblity to bring awareness to parents of a book's content. And parents have the right and responisiblity to decide if that book is acceptable for their child.
I think it's a wonderful thing that books can be used as a discussion tool between parents and children. But I also think it's unrealistic to assume that a parent is going to proof read every book their child brings home.
The MPAA (Movie Pictures Association of America) helps parents know what their kids may be watching in a movie.
(Please don't think I have anything against the YA market or issue books. There are many clean YA books - Matched, by Ally Condie for example. And Speak, a book about rape, is a tough read but one that I believe is beneficial for teens.)
I'd really like thoughts about this. A discussion between authors and readers.