Alright, so I am a huge YA fan. For those not in the know, "YA" refers to the "Young Adult" section at the store that is nestled somewhat arbitrailty between "Children" or "Middle Grade" and "General Fiction" at the bookstore (I tend to find it, in actuality, between "Middle Grade Fiction" and "Home & Garden" for some odd reason. Why? Well ... actually, all of the explanations I have thought of include aliens and/or mind control, so ... I haven't an idea.)
I write YA. I read YA.
And here's my beef: I have read YA for about as long as I've read (I was never a picture book person - not sure why, but as soon as I understood that reading = freedom, I picked up novels and never looked back), and I genuinely like them - but I hate the implied censorship of them - always have in fact - when it comes to things like sex, drugs, dysfunctional families, swearing and other such taboo things.
I get the arguments - kids should not be exposed to certain things.
And to that I say - I'm sorry, what? Says who? And why? And why is it that our culture suddenly has this overly developed sense of protecting children for "their own good"? And where do adults come off as thinking that isolating teenagers from this will somehow make them less likely to engage in behavious these things allegedly encourage?
I was a teenager not too long ago. By that time, I was reading everything, not just YA. And I avoided YA for a while because I felt it was too ... baby. I mean, who says "Golly!" anymore? (K, so I can't remember reading that outside of those Gidget books and movies, but honestly, think of this as a metaphor for the wider issues). I started reading my Mom's romance books (without her knowledge) by the time I was ten or so. I started with So Worthy my Love by Kathleen Woodewiss, and it still sits in my bookshelf.
Why did I read that when I could have stuck with the Babysitter's club? I think, mostly, because I looked around and realized that a lot of the YA books were just ridiculously unrealistic.
More to the point, I desired something more to my reading. I didn't want this sunny and happy perspective where the biggest thing that went wrong meant being sent to your room without tv. My life was not like that, and I didn't want to read about kids who were like that.
I wanted sex and drugs and complications - I would read parts of books over and over, just for a hint of that. Like Caroline B. Conney's series of Christina novels (Snow, Fire, Fog) - the love triangle, the kiss in the cafeteria! - and her Milk Carton series - where they end up in a motel, trading sexual barbs - nothing happens, but the tension is there and it's complex. (I am a huge fan of Cooney's work, it must be said).
I didn't want to be protected from these things! Why would I? They just opened up a whole new world for me - a world that I was on the verge of exploring.
And that is why, when I write YA - I write for the teen I once was. I write in the sex, and the drugs, and teh swearing - when my characters talk, I hope they are just as awkward as teenagers are supposed to be - when they love, I want it to be with all the pomp and circumstance of a real teenagers.
I would never presume to protect my readers from the world - I am offering them a glimpse of what I have seen, a small taste of what the world could be - with all its complications, dirty and clean, smart choices and bad decisions - and I do this because I respect them. I have great respect for readers in general - and I would never presume to hide from them, things they would want to know about.
I guess, the point is - why are we really trying to protect our kiddies? And why from these specific things? Why always the triade of Sex and Love (you know, the bad kind) and Drugs? Is it that we do not trust our kids? Or do we just want to protect them in a world that becomes increasingly harder to cope with?
Anyways, food for thought.