Mad Monday: Rating Books

One of the biggest, hottest genres out there is YA (young adult) and MG (middle grade).

YA are books specified for children 12-18 yrs old. MG are books specified for 8-12 yr olds. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Chronicles of Narnia, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Graveyard Book, and A Wrinkle in Time series are all MG. It’s assumed that there will be NO objectionable material in the MG genre, as far as sex, violence, and language goes. This used to be the case with YA, too.

In the book, Writing and Selling the Young Adult Book by K.L. Going she talks about one big reason people read the genre is because it is cleaner than the adult genre. When I talk to my voracious reader friends, whether teens or adult, one reason they state that they love the YA genre is because it doesn’t have the sex, violence, and language that they prefer to avoid.

But there’s great diversity of content in YA books. And now it’s easier to pick up a YA book with sex, violence, and language in it than to find one that’s clean. And I’ve read some YA books that I wondered why they weren’t in the adult genre. Not just because of the sex, violence, or language in them, but because the voice and tensions in the book felt like they weren’t in a young adult context.

I’m NOT about banning books or drawing skull-and-crossbones on “dirty” books or anything like that. I want all of these books to be written and published and set on the shelves for teens and adults to read.

But I am also a big fan of knowing what you pay for. 

In the YA section, you can pick up books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Marcelo in the Real World with explicit sexual jokes and scenes, or you could pick up The Book Thief which has no innuendo. You can pick up a fantasy like the Leviathan and find little violence or you can pick up The Hunger Games and get more than your fill.

This is good. Diversity is awesome because teen readers are so diverse. But for those teens who prefer not to read about sex, violence, or language I think we should make it easy on them to find books they’d enjoy.

I think it’s time that “objectionable content” was listed on the backs of books. Not anything like a MPAA rating system, but just a way for readers to know what they’re getting. It’d be nice to pick up a YA book and know if there’s sexual content, violence, or language. Of course this doesn’t solve every problem, because sex scenes in Twilight, Shiver, Graceling, Sold, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants aren’t at all graphic and they can get graphic in other books, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

I wrote more about this topic in an article called Ellie Ann Battles Sex, Violence, and Rock and Roll.

What do you think about listing objectionable material in YA books?

Have you read any good posts/thoughts on the idea you can share?


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