Dishing Junk: Themes in Young Adult that are Inappropriate?

I will be the first to admit: I have no idea how to rate young adult books as far as what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Mainly because I’m an inappropriate type of girl. I might get some “bad mommy” points here, but I really can’t lie to my child. I can’t feed my child false “truths” to shelter her mind. I’ll never sit her down in front of an R rated movie and say — “enjoy” but I’m not going to tell her a story about spaceships and baby planets that deliver babies in parachutes.

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, is a book I read in my AP English Lit class. BNW is one of the top ten banned books, challenged for Racism, Religious Viewpoints, Sexually Explicit, Insensitivity and Nudity. Still today BNW is one of my favorite books and I never would have read it if it wasn’t for that English class. Source.

I think the best choices are made with an informed mind. There is nothing like that realization you have been lied to, especially as a rebellious teen. The stunning come-to-Jesus-moment when you realize adult-hood doesn’t necessarily constitute wisdom, it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll get hooked on marijuana after smoking one joint, you can’t get pregnant by lying naked with a boy, or through oral sex and your parents aren’t always right.

So, how do teens come to these realizations? Weeding out the fact from the fiction? For us bibliophiles, we read and we learned. Nothing was restricted from me. I was reading Stephen King in 6th grade, sneaking Romance novels in 8th grade and as a big fan of Anne Rice in ninth grade had an eye opening moment when I picked up her A.N. Roquelaure novels. I had never even kissed a boy — but I suddenly knew what a sex slave was.

I am not saying this is right. I’m just saying this is my reading experience.

Would I want my fourteen year old reading The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty? No. But, did it mess me up? I don’t think so. Anne Rice’s book didn’t lead me into BDSM as a teenager or lead me to any other “outside-of-normal” social behaviors. The divorce of my parents at fourteen had more detrimental repercussions than anything I could have read. The fact that I was ferried back and forth from mom to dad as they began to date, led to bad teenage behavior. Not, the fact that I had read about very graphic sex in a novel.

So, as a reviewer how do I guide “normal” readers in the right direction? What is inappropriate for a young adult novel? Should anything be censored? Should their be an age limit? 13+ allowing for some profanity — etc. 17+ anything is allowed?

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is one of the Most Challenged Books of 2012. With challenges that include, Anti-Ethnic, Anti-Family, Insensitivity, Occult/Satanic, Offensive Language and Violence SOURCE

These have all been taken from banned books, to look for and label with a “parents beware” according to school systems across the country:

  1.  F-bombs
  2. Other profanity, excessive cursing
  3. Sexual language (excessive descriptions of sexual acts)
  4. Violence (descriptions of violent or horrific scenes)
  5. Drug and Alcohol abuse
  6. Characters engaged in sex
  7. Criminal activities
  8. Criminal sexual activities, rape, pedophilia etc.
  9. Homosexual themes
  10. Child Abuse
  11. Prohibited Dog Breeds (Yup Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs was banned from Logan, Australia West Library)
  12. Smoking
  13. Racism

I have always taken the liberty to list what parents might be concerned with. “This novel contains sexual interactions, strong-language…” that sort of thing. I’ve even gone so far to suggest ages. I’ve recently thought about constituting a rating system like movies. G, PG, PG13, R & NC-17

This would place books in these categories:

Book RatingsG – All Ages. There is nothing to offend anyone.
PG – Some Profanity, light depictions of violence, brief sexual references. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking…
PG-13 – Some Violence, sexuality, profanity and adult interactions. No actual sex activities, unless it is just mentioned, but not described. No extended violent scenes, or explicit drug use scenes.
R – Intense sexual interactions, described, violence, drug abuse, smoking, drinking…all described in detail.
NC-17 – Explicit sex scenes, usually obscene or pornographic. Very violent and criminal behavior, usually considered an aberration.

I think this might be the answer for me. What do you do as a reviewer?

What do you think? Should we censor young adult novels? Are you a mom or dad of a teen? What do you allow them to read? Do you monitor their reading, or are you just glad that they read?