Wednesday, April 7, 2010

YA Books-Should they teach?

Here are a few more emails/opinions from a discussion on writing YA:

"I strongly feel there is a huge difference between YA that connects with
teenagers' strong emotions and possible past trauma and YA that simply
employs edgy (and downright explicit) topics to gain an audience and be
considered cutting edge. I completely agree with Barnes and Nobles'
assessment of Living Dead Girl when it says:

"Reading this novel won't help girls or women who are victims of sexual

"This book does nothing to empower, empathize, strengthen, or connect
with its reader, nor do many books like it in this genre. Not liking the
repetitive description of sexual abuse in a book has nothing to do with
the fact there are lots of LDS people in Utah and we aren't used to this
sort of thing. It has to do with the fact that the plot focuses on the
actual abusive action and not on how the victim overcomes and heals from
what she/he has experienced. BTW, abuse of children in Utah is right up
there with the rest of the nation, give or take a few percentage points
either way depending on who did the study. The number one predictor of
whether there is abuse in a home is poverty. Religion has very little to
do with it.

The best way to approach these types of subjects is education,
education, education. Does education of a child or teenager happen when
he/she find a graphically explicit book in the library, reads it, and
then has to make sense of it in his/her head? No. Despite all the talk
of "you just have to have an open and frank conversation with your
child," that is rarely the case and parents who think their teenager is
coming to them with all her/his questions about disturbing things she/he
has read is mistaken. There is an effective, open way to tackle these
problems. Books about abuse and sex can be helpful. Some simply create
curiosity and can be damaging.

In addition, the book that began this discussion wasn't about sexual
abuse but it was about a frivolous sexual encounter between two
teenagers on the beach. I have not read the book. However, these are the
questions I would ask myself if I were to make a judgment on it. Does it
teach the repercussions of such an action? Does it show the physical,
mental and emotional grief that happen to teenagers who participate in
this type of behavior? Studies show (and not just those from Utah)
that early-teen sex often leads to many other problems in life including:
STDs, emotional abandonment issues, teenage pregnancy,which often leads
to no education and poverty, etc.

I fully believe a responsible author and publisher SHOULD be very
sensitive if their material is age appropriate. This type of adult
responsibility is completely different from the overused cry of censorship."

"I'm more concerned when teens are reading things for leisure that can
teach bad habits, foster poor self esteem and define an unrealistic
sense of self worth and ability." - Well said!

From another email:
"My parents tried to shelter me from everything. Instead of talking about
things like sex we were simply told not to do it. I got into a lot of
trouble as a teenager and while my parents wanted to shelter me from the
world they didn't have a whole lot of control over what I checked out
from the library. I remember reading books that talked about suicide,
drugs, sex etc... None of these books influenced me for good, perhaps
they would have if I would have gotten some adult commentary to go along
with it. I sometimes think that these books were not helpful in
understanding the real world or my volatile feelings but more like "how
to" manuals. So while I don't agree with the way my parents addressed
this issue I will be very careful about what I let my children be
exposed to."

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