All About Controversy

June 16th, 2009 • Kate

bermudezI know there’s a lot going on in the world right now — much of it being reported on Twitter — but between taking a hard look at what’s going on in Iran and doing your own part to help or show your support, there’s stuff going on here in the US about censorship as well. You may have already seen Maureen Johnson’s video about the attempted book banning of The Bermudez Triangle and Only in Your Dreams: A Gossip Girl Novel, and if you haven’t, please do check it out, along with the supporting links.

But did you also know that a group that calls itself the “Christian Civil Liberties Union” is suing for the right to BURN a book they think has caused them mental and emotional damage for its realistic and lauded portrayal of a gay teenager? (Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block.) You should read more about it.

You want to do something to prove these book banners and small minded people can’t win? Buy a banned book. (It’s not just for Banned Books Week!) Borrow one from the library. Tell your librarian she’s awesome for carrying the books that are under attack elsewhere.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to change my Twitter icon.

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39 Responses to “All About Controversy”

  1. ChristaCarol Says:

    Love the green heels!

    This book banning stuff is CRAZY. Seriously. I cannot grasp the way these people think. I mean, for once, I'm tongue tied. I don't even know what to say. It's so frustrating. I just wanna shake some sense into them like a blender set to "ice crush" (and yes, I actually had to look at my blender to see what the highest button was called).

  2. Jamie Says:

    I've been thinking a lot about this, and I have a huge problem with book censorship…

    I am wondering if the problem isn't with the genre age. People are saying that YA spans from 12-18. Let's think about this for a minute–that means that sixth graders and seniors in high school both fit into this reading group. That's insane!

    Would you let your sixth grader hang out with an 18 year old? I think not. So, why are we saying they read the same stuff?

  3. Karen Says:

    I'm totally with Jamie on this one. There is no way that YA should include 12 year olds. I loved Maureen Johnson reading the passages like a banded reader…and her pink jacket! Too funny. That said, from those "excerps" posted, it seems anytime the word sex is written, it's all of a sudden grounds for banning…opps, I probably just got banned then.

  4. Jamie Says:

    For me…I wonder how as parents we should handle this whole thing. I don't mind reading stuff and screening, but I also want to trust that I will bring up my child with a certain set of morals and values so that she will know the difference between reading and reality.

    I think there is a time for these sorts of books, and I've read that Gossip Girl stuff–It's a fun read. I don't want that stuff banned from the YA section, but at the same time I wouldn't want my sixth grader reading it either. (I don't have a sixth grader-but I did teach fifth graders for a while, and they know way more about sex than I wish they did.)

    So, how can this be responsibly handled? We shouldn't censor the children-but we should make sure the material is age appropriate. (But is that censoring? I guess it is.)

    I am all over the place with this. I want the daughter to be raised responsibly, but I also want her to experience things her friends are reading, etc. I don't want to limit her access to these sorts of things, but it would be nice to know if she picked a book out of a certain section of the library that she and I could look at it together, and I would be able to have a discussion with her about what she read.

    In my mind-this is a clear decision-don't ban books, don't censor books that's wrong. But, in my heart I personally want my little girl to remain just that for as long as possible.

    I guess it all boils down to the same thing it always did… parents need to know what's going on in their kids lives and be good parents–they will be exposed to these things, we just need to be there to help them understand in the way we want them to.

  5. Kiersten White Says:

    I plan on reading everything my kids do. Luckily I'm a very fast reader, so it doesn't present a problem. That way I'm not censoring them, but I'm aware of what they are reading, and we can have intelligent, rational, and NON-REACTIONARY discussions about the books, ideas, and themes presented.

    Teenagers (and pre-teens) are going to be exposed to things we don't want them to be no matter what. If there is an open dialogue and they feel like they can talk to us (without us freaking out and launching a book-burning crusade) then I think only good comes from wide exposure.

  6. Trish Says:

    I'm a mother of a teenager AND I write YA fiction. I DO agree that 12-year-olds and 18-year-olds are very far apart on the "young adult" spectrum and what might be appropriate for an older teen might be inappropriate for a just barely teen.

    But that doesn't mean the books should be separated by content. Who is the judge and what is the standard by which something is deemed appropriate? Using The Bermudez Triangle as example: Do these banning moms want the books band because the characters are gay? Or because they share a kiss? If the kiss had happened between two heterosexual characters, would it be considered age-appropriate?

    I'm in a fortunate position because I write YA and I work in a bookstore so I've read just about everything my daughter might choose to read. I'm aware of the content. But here's the thing… it's MY job as a parent, regardless of my vocation. It's MY decision what is appropriate for my child.

    Librarians and booksellers should be your ally, not your enemy. Let them HELP you find books that are appropriate for the level you and your child have chosen, instead of asking them to keep the "inappropriate" books out of your child's reach.

  7. Natalie Whipple Says:

    I think 12 yr olds are actually categorized in upper MG. I thought YA was 13-18. Not that it makes a huge difference, but yeah. And there is definitely a wide range within the genre.

    I think just like any other media form, parents need to be aware of what's out there. Sure, I'm fine if a parent doesn't want their child watching Gossip Girl, but it's not their right to ban it from TV, just like it's not their right to ban it from the shelves.

    Like Kiersten, I plan on reading what my kids read, just like I plan on watching what they watch and playing the games they play. I want to be aware of what they are seeing so we can talk about it. Because in the end, you can't stop them from being exposed to hard things, but you can prepare them for it.

  8. Holly Bodger Says:

    I understand your points Jamie. It's scary to think that our kids will be exposed to these things five or ten years before we were. Having said that, I think what you said about teaching them the morals/values to make the right decisions is the key. The media may tell them about sex but we, as parents, are responsible for teaching them whether or not they should have it. We cannot blame the media if we fail on this front.

    The alternative is that you let the censors define what is right to see and I know there isn't a censor in the world that I would trust with my child (aside from maybe myself!)

  9. Jamie Says:

    Now, see I think that is the point that a lot of us writer moms are saying… we plan to know what our kids are reading and react appropriately. That makes me happy, but should we somehow make it easier for parents to know what their kids are getting into with these books? Sure, we all plan to read it so we know what to expect, but should we be concerned that other parents aren't doing the same thing? Is this something we should even be policing?

    I think the books should be there, don't get me wrong, and I think that they are YA books… I just worry that there are kids out there that don't have parents awesome enough to pay attention to what they're reading.

    Of course, it isn't like those kids don't have full unfiltered access to the internet… and hell-o nothing in those books in any way compares to the stuff they see there.

    I would also HATE to see some sort of rating on a book that made a parent NOT let a child read it.

    I really don't think I am torn on the subject… I don't want the books censored… but I do hope parents are watching what their kids read.

  10. HWPetty Says:

    To be honest, this is about parent laziness, not about the suggested age range of a library section.

    Jamie, you will steer your kid away from the Gossip Girl books because you are engaged enough to know what those books are. As a parent, you'd better believe I'll be reading what my daughter is reading–not to censor, because my parenting style is different from most on that issue–but rather so I'm in the know if my daughter wants to talk about things she's reading.

    I'll also be exposing myself to the video games/television programs/movies/music… you name it, and I'll make sure I know about it.

    These "book banning" parents are obviously just not clued in, or they wouldn't have let their kid check out the books in the first place. And the more stringent your own standards are for your kid, the more clued in you HAVE to be as a parent. But that's NOT THE JOB of the Librarian. She can't be the parent of these kids and determine what's okay for them, because every kid is different!

    I would let my 12 year old read any and all of Maureen Johnson's books. But another parent might have a problem with the open and honest view of homosexuality that's presented in BT.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't want my 18 year old to be into Gossip Girl, but that's just because the shallow world of the rich and famous is so trite to me that eye-rolling ensues, not because I want to protect her from it. ahahaha

    More to the point, sending your kid into ANY section of the library to pick out books at random and then getting huffy is a little like parking them in front of the television, and then expecting cable channels to ban anything that isn't appropriate for your little one.

    The question always remains… BY WHOSE STANDARDS do we make these decisions?

    And just because there's a suggested age range on a shelf of books, does that mean the parents should be able to expect that every book on the shelf meets their personal standards for what their kid should read? Or do they still have to be engaged parents and at least read the backs of the books to see what's up?

    (Or, I don't know… ask the Librarian if you aren't willing to do the work yourself? I'm sure their Librarian would have warned her off it with a few questions.)

  11. Karen Says:

    Hi Jamie—

    I don’t think you’re all over the place on this issue at all. You don’t want to censor books but you want to control the information that your child is exposed to. To me, that’s just good ole parental guidance, and that’s something that ALL parents should be concerned with.

    Even though those “pink jacket” women on fox news weren’t really talking about banning the books, just moving them to a different section, it still boils down to censorship when parental guidance should be the way to solve the problem. Unfortunately, the real problem comes in when parents over there try to guide my kids over here.

  12. HWPetty Says:

    Oh, and on a side note, I totally added Baby Be-Bop to my TBR list BECAUSE of this story. I'd heard of it vaguely before the book burners brought it to light, but it wasn't on my list of books to read until now.

    I suppose that means that Francesca Lia Block can thank the CCLU for another sale.

    (Um, and they need to drop Christian from their moniker, because they're not living up to that title with this hate spewing.)

  13. Jamie Says:

    I think that's my BIG issue with the pink jacket woman (seriously–I will never look at pink jackets the same way again). I do a fine job parenting my child, and I want her to be exposed to a LOT of different things. I just want to be aware of them.

    Who are those women to tell me what is or is NOT appropriate for my children?

    HAHA and I am with you HW, I hadn't planned on reading BT–it wasn't on my list for any reason. But now, with all the heat-I am totally planning on checking it out.

    And, it's not that I want to control what my child is exposed to (I mean-to a certain extent it is. I'd rather her not watch late night skinemax or anything like that.) But, I do want to have the opportunity to have a grown up discussion with her if need be.

  14. Kate Says:

    I love this conversation, and I wanted to highlight something HWPetty sad above:

    More to the point, sending your kid into ANY section of the library to pick out books at random and then getting huffy is a little like parking them in front of the television, and then expecting cable channels to ban anything that isn’t appropriate for your little one.

    And yes, to my mind, a 12-year-old should be reading middle grade, not YA (13 or 14 and up), but I also know that I was a precocious reader, and grabbed any book that looked interesting to me — which meant Jackie Collins at a very young age.

    I think a lot of people don't realize how new the YA label really is — these books didn't exist in this format even 15 years ago, and kids went from chapter books right to adult books, if they kept reading at all.

    Call me an optimist, but I would rather kids read anything they want, if it allows us to conversation about it, than tell them anything is banned to them.

  15. Jamie Says:

    That's an excellent point, Kate.

    I think one of the big things people don't realize is that this genre has an entire group of kids reading, and that's huge.

    I remember the few and far between books fifteen years ago (I was fifteen then) that made me tune out the world to read. If they hadn't addressed the issues I, as a teen, was facing then-no way would they have had that sort of power on me!

    Often I hear people criticize the likes of Twilight, etc. and it frustrates me to no end, because they aren't the audience for the book! I say if it gets kids to read, then that's a huge step in the right direction.

    I am learning so much here today. This is the first time I have ever had a conversation like this as a mother. I thought I might have a different opinion than I did as a wacky college student protesting the book bannings in the local library, but I don't.

  16. WindyA Says:

    I am with Kate and Trish on this, especially as we look at this from a YA age perspective. 13-18. Teen. What do teens do when a parent/authority figure says no? They go out of their way to do it. Banning books is not the way to go. Trish's thoughts on becoming allied with librarians and booksellers is great. As is Kate's words regarding books opening up conversation with kids.

    Banning a book doesn't mean the book doesn't exist. It only increases the allure of the book. So maybe that is a good thing for Maureen Johnson and other? Kids will read what they read and when it covers a topic like what the Bermudez Triangle covers, it at least gives parents an opportunity to have an open conversation with their kids regarding a sometimes difficult topic.

    Take advantage of the flip side of allowing kids to read what they want, learn about things, ask questions. Talk to your kids. There are so many opportunties to make communicating with kids easier and books are one of them. (By "reading whatever they want" I mean within "parental control" reason – specifically parent your own kids, don't try to parent everyone else's kids too. )

    And overall, just because you don't talk about it doesn't mean it isn't there and happening and if you're going to make that big a deal out of it, well, great publicity for the authors/books since now all the kids are going to want to know what the big freaking deal is.

  17. Karen Says:

    As a writer of YA fiction, I know there are those parents out there who may frown upon some of the content in my novel. There’s really nothing I can do about that but write the story I want to write. I have a 19 yr old cousin who is far too immature to read my current novel, but my boss’ son, who was16 year olds when he read it, was mature enough to have a healthy dialogue with me afterward. I got his mom’s permission before I gave it to him and she let him read it before she did because she KNOWS her son and knew he was mature enough to handle anything in the text.

    It’s funny because I’m not even a parent and I get so riled up behind this topic that I want to scream (granted, I love being able to discuss it, so thanks for the outlet!). It always amazes me how sex can get people all in a snit, when, guns, murder and violence can still get a PG-rating. While I have no plans to expose my kids (when I have them) to sex and violence before age appropriateness, if given the choice between the two, I will always choose to expose them to sex (in a healthy way) over violence. I can explain sex to them because I understand it, because it will eventually be a part of their lives where I hope and pray that violence never will.

  18. Mattia Says:

    First, I've got to agree with the whole not-banning-books thing.

    BUT

    On the book burning one, even though I think those people are wackos for wanting to burn books, it seems well within their rights to do so. I'm not even sure why it was made a story.

    1) Theoretically, they'd have to buy the books they want to burn…so wouldn't they be indirectly supporting the author despite their intent to sanction her?

    2) This is a form of protest – something that needs to be protected. It's not really freedom of speech if we decide which messages are allowed. That's just another form of censorship.

    So yeah, I don't agree with the CCLU, but to me, as long as they get a permit for the bonfire or whatever they're going to do, they should get their chance.

  19. HWPetty Says:

    I totally agree about YA being new.

    I remind people all the time that when I was in jr. high and high school (oy, that makes me feel so old to say) we read Anne Rice and VC Andrews (um, until squick factor +10 made us put it down and walk away slowly). We read Austen and the Bronte sisters, Orwell and Huxley, Poe and Mary Shelley and all kinds of adult books.

    Sweet Valley High was our only teen option back then… and for those of us wearing goth princess costumes, that wasn't really our thing.

    So this new insurgence of strong teen characters facing real issues with truth and humor and darkness and emotion… it's so fantastic. I only hope to be a part of the YA authors group someday, because I think it's the greatest place to be.

    /emotional tirade … ahahaha omg.suchagirl.

  20. Casey Says:

    I think the categorization that is in place is enough. It should be each parents' job to decide what their kids may or my not read from there, if they must. Personally, I think most teens are mature enough to gauge what they are or aren't ready to read. If it makes them uncomfortable, they probably won't read it.

    However, video games, movies, and TV shows are hardly different. The small difference there is, is that pre-reading a book for your child takes more time and interest than glancing at a screen or watching one show. But really, pull up any review site – or even Amazon – and you can get the gist of just about any book, controversial material included (especially).

    The YA book I'm writing touches on things I'm certain I'll get flack for should it get published, but I'm writing the book I want to write and I'm writing true to the characters. I'm also a parent. My children can read my books or any other book they want when they are mature enough, whether that be 10 or 20. You can't tightly categorize books without alienating readers. Everyone matures at their own rate, and I'm not really sure parents should be the one to judge this sort of thing – not when it's something like a book. Something dangerous? Sure.

    A lot of kids find in books what they can't find elsewhere. People are so worried about sheltering their children when, really, they could be using all these fabulous books as educational material and an opportunity for open discussion. Who wants their kid to get slapped in the face each time they meet a new reality? Better kids discover their feelings about the world in fiction first, I say.

  21. Carrie Harris Says:

    For me, the question is who's ultimately responsible for choosing what our children read, and on a larger scale, what they watch on television or play on their gaming consoles and so on. And the fact is that I'm going to fight tooth and nail against someone who tries to take away my right to make that choice as a parent. At the core, I feel like that's what these people are trying to do. Whether it's moving books out of an area where teens are encouraged to read and browse or out-and-out BURNING them, they're trying to influence my kids' access to materials. And that bleeps me off. I'm not going to tell other people how to parent. I'm not going to interrupt when someone is teaching their child how to ride a bike or order their meal in a restaurant and make them do it MY way, and I expect other parents to show me the same courtesy. If you don't want your kids to read a certain book, then don't let them. But don't move it to a place where MY kid can't get it, take it home, and talk to me about it. That offends me just as much as I imagine it would offend one of those book banners if I had a talk with their kid about any number of taboo subjects.

    I can't decide whether this horks me off more as a parent or as a writer. Either way, it REALLY horks me off. I have both Bermudez Triangle and all of the Weetzie Bat books including Baby Be-Bop on my shelves. I'm going to read them now, and I'll be thumbing my nose at the book banners while I do it.

  22. Christie Chambless Says:

    I thiinnk that it's absolutely absurd that these "mothers" are causing such a fuss. What they object to is the choice of the author to write about lesbians. As the mother of three girls, the oldest being 12, I I would have no problem with them eading theses books. It is vital that we have a wide range of books exspressing a large variety of opinions so that young adaults can expand thier minds. I think that cesorship is the weapon of a small minded person and am appaled that it's something that this nation is still stuggling with

  23. dust Says:

    Twelve isn't very young.

    When I think back to what my life was like when I was twelve – what was happening, what I was reading – I can't say that life was protecting me from its dark side, or that I was letting my parents know about everything I was reading.

    I have to wonder about people who pull their kids away from reading material – at age twelve. Twelve! Kids in seventh grade are developing critical thinking skills. They are being exposed to far more perilous things than books. At age twelve, kids have to make bigger, tougher decisions than whether to put stock in a book about homosexuality – they're having to decide whether they are homosexual. Or do drugs. Or have sex. Or kill themselves. Whether to diet themselves to death. And they can't figure out what books to read on their own?

    Taking away books – and movies and games – is taking away the tools kids need to make good judgment: a place to experiment, a place to consider. And, as a parent, you're giving up your right to have an honest conversation with your kid about what she is reading, let along what's happening in her real life. And good book recommendations ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Christie Chambless Says:

    Sorry about the state of that last comment, my 2yr old daughter hit the submit comment button before I could finish. Just wanted to end it with the fact that I thought we were past this now.

  25. Scott Says:

    First – banning books for whatever reason, in my opinion, is wrong.

    Second – did the person actually read the book in question, or, as with many people when Harry Potter gained popularity, do they just have a general idea about what the book is about and are requesting a ban on principal alone?

    Third – well, see 'First'.

    There was an article in our local paper a few weeks ago about a librarian who found a box of books in storage room of the library. When she questioned another librarian about the box, she was told those were the 'banned' books that had been pulled off the shelves. Well, the first librarian put all those books back on the shelf. Yay, for the gutsy librarian.

    My whole philosophy is – if you dont' want to read the book, find, but don't take that opportunity away from other individuals. I am a reasonably intelligent adult. I can make my own choices what to read or not read, just as I make my own choices what to watch or not watch on television. I don't need a Watch Dog group looking out for my (i.e., their) best interests. I'm perfectly capable of making those decisions for myself!

    S

  26. Jamie Says:

    Loving the points here! I am really glad I am getting to read all these author POV's. I think the most interesting part that we've uncovered here is that YA is still SO new that its still being established in what its going to be as a genre.

    Ya know, it isn't just about fiction anymore. It's about urban fantasy, paranormal, mystery, etc. and with ALL these different books falling into these categories, they are going to be about different things-and that's what makes the genre SO cool.

    I am glad that librarian stood by her guns and made sure those books stayed in the right section.

    I've learned a lot today! Thanks guys!

  27. TereLiz Says:

    My biggest problem with this issue– aside from the fact that there are people out there who actually feel burning books makes society a better place– is the amount of energy that's expended. Is it so difficult to sit down and talk to your kids about your beliefs, your experiences, and let them make their own decisions, whether they differ from yours or not?

    Why is there the need to force libraries not to carry books that you've told your kids not to read? It seems to me to boil down to not being able to trust your kid to make the best decisions. Mistrust and disrespect is all book burning is going to teach those children.

    Hopefully, this controversy has earned FLB some more readers that will see themselves in her book, kids who never saw themselves in a book before, not really. And the book burners just keep looking like jerks.

  28. laine Says:

    I just wanted to add my name to the list of people who will be reading those books out of sheer curiosity now.

    I have four kids, the oldest 19, the youngest 10. We are pretty radical in our parenting views anyway, (the kids are "unschooled" etc….) but I've always been horrified at things like this.

    I live in GA, and the "book burning mentality" seems to be a little more widespread down here in the bible belt than it was in PA. My husband actually has a friend who grounded his ten year old by taking all her books. Lol. I couldn't believe that. He should be thanking God he's got a kid that wants to read, but instead, he's using her desire for information and creativity to gain control over her.Pretty unbelievable.

    Since my two girls are older I can safely say that I agree with what a previous poster said.We were totally open minded with our kids. The only thing I ever tried to steer them away from was drugs/drinking. So what did they do the second they were old enough to go out? You guessed it. Luckily it never turned into a problem, the point is, most kids are going to do the opposite of what you want them too.

    Hmmm…maybe I should start banning books in my house…

  29. Megan Says:

    It's stupid to ban books. If parents want to censor their kids fine, but don't censor what everyone else can read!

    Check my blog: I wrote on this issue

    http://bookworm-megs.blogspot.com/2009/06/book-ba

  30. Let’s keep talking! | kt literary Says:

    […] different — I mean, yes, I suppose I *am* blogging today, but only to tell you to go back to yesterday’s post and join in on the conversation about book banning. It’s fascinating to read everyone’s […]

  31. mb Says:

    As a parent, I never tell my almost-12-year-old what not to read. I have been known to look through her library books and say, "You know, you might find that more interesting a few years from now" — mainly because I'm afraid she'll decide a book is boring when it's really just too old for her — but I let her read it if she wants. Usually she will self-censor if she's not comfortable or interested in the content. The 10-12 age range is a time when kids are becoming more aware of the world at large — politics, social justice, sex, all kinds of stuff. I want my daughter to be able to discuss and ask questions about these "adult" subjects. If I snatched away a book because of sexual content, why would my child feel comfortable asking me questions about sex?

  32. Mandy Says:

    As I'm not a mother but was recently a kid, I suppose I might have a slightly different perspective. I was quite the voracious reader. When I was in the 5th grade I discovered Timothy Zahn, and it was all downhill from there. By the end of 6th grade I had read every Star Wars book in existence, and I started in on Wheel of Time and the Dragonrider's of Pern. I read two books a week all of my middle school years, two at least 300 page books a week. Do you really expect my parents to keep up with that? My mom tried to stay ahead in Wheel of Time, but got lost after the fourth book. My dad was regularly two books behind. If they made me wait for them to read a book I would have waited for years. As a middle schooler and teenager I actually liked talking to my parents (never the rebel, was I) so I told them everything I was reading. But if I had been slightly more rebellious, they would have had no idea. My parents both worked. Does it make them bad parents that they can't read 500 words a minute like I can?

    As a middle schooler and teenager I actually wished that books were rated. I found myself in books I didn't understand and exposed to things I never wanted to be exposed to. But books don't have warnings. When I go to the movies, I know what I'm getting into. Rated R for sci-fi violence, excessive cursing, and sexual content? Rated PG-13 for violence and slight nudity? Good to know. I know what I'm getting into. That's all I'm asking for.

    When my little sister started middle school I grew very worried about what she might read. I read every single book she brought home from the library, so that I could monitor what she was reading. I still read five times faster than her, so it was never a problem. She brought a book home and I would read it on the first day. When she finished a week later, we could talk about it.

    We rate movies. Is that censorship? Maybe, but I don't see anyone protesting that. Should we check IDs on books like we do on movies if we do rate them? Debatable – but it’s not like I was the one buying the books at age 13. My parents paid the money. They're definitely old enough to buy the book.

    I'm not saying ban or burn books. I read Fahrenheit 451 in the 5th grade. Even then I knew better than that. But I remember reading Han Solo curse for the first time and crying, because why would my hero use such language? Perhaps knowing what I was getting into, knowing there was cursing in the book would have better prepared me. I guess my feelings are strong on this because I remember thinking in middle school "Why aren't books rated? I wish I had been warned."

    Twelve years after I read Heir to the Empire, I still wish I knew what I was getting into. I never read a book without a recommendation, because there are just some things I don't like to read (aka, heavy sexual content – I don't like it in my movies either). It's sad that not having a rating system often keeps me from reading new books. But I guess I can always reread the Wheel of Time one more time.

  33. Carrie Harris Says:

    Mandy, thanks so much for that different perspective! I'm sitting here hoping that my kids care as much about each other as you obviously do for your little sister.

    I completely understand what you're saying; I remember being taken aback by a few books when I was in late elementary school and junior high. In a lot of those cases, I knew I was reading up too, picking out things that were really meant for older readers. In others, I was completely taken by surprise and not always in a good way. Perhaps some kind of warning system would have saved me from picking up some of the books that disturbed me, but I think it could have also stopped me from picking up books that I ADORED, books that changed the way I look at the world for the better. That's a really tough exchange for me to contemplate.

    Part of the problem with ratings for me is that they're subjective. What constitutes too much violence-wise? For some people, that would be a smack across the face. For others, it would be using a gun. So where do we draw the line? I think it's at a different place for each person, so is that label really valuable if your line is at a completely different place than the person who labeled it?

    I run into the same problem with movies. There are some movies out there that are rated PG that I don't want my son to see. But he's seen some PG-13 movies that were terrific, and I was happy to let him see them because my lines are set at different levels than the ratings commission. Of course, I don't have to read 500 extra pages a week in order to evaluate a movie, but do we really need to do the same thing with books? I can ask a librarian or a bookseller, check out some online reviews, talk to other parents, or even flip through the book a little and skim bits and pieces. In fifteen minutes, I could get a pretty good idea of what's in that library bag and if I need to do something about it.

    For me, knowing that a book is in the YA section is kind of like knowing a movie is rated PG-13. Booksellers are telling me that it's rated for ages 12-18-ish. The rest is up to me. Any further labeling isn't going to negate my need to keep track of what my kids are reading.

  34. Karen Says:

    Great post Mandy. I agree, there should be a rating. I wouldn't mind at all if my book got a PG-13 rating and a warning for mild language, some violence and mild sexual situations. It's all true and I'd rather have people know up front than have some 12 year old tramatized because my MC used the F-word and made out with a girl in the book.

  35. Christie Chambless Says:

    I agree with Carrie, it's my job as a parent to make sure that I know what my children are reading. Also, rating books would be counter productive, for exactly those reasons. Your idea of inapropriate might be different then mine, and I don't want to deprive my children of the oppertunity to read some sensational books because of that. So I think the problem lies in how we teach our children. If we don't teach them to be able to choose a book that they know we would approve of, or to come to us if they figure out that a book is inapropriate for them, then it is our own fault as parents if they read things that we would rather they not. Mandy asked "Does it make them bad parents if they can't read 500 words a minute like I can?" My answer to that is no, but as parents, even if they couldn't actually read every word that you did, they had a responsibility to be informed. A responsibility to track down as much information as possible about what you were reading if they had any question as to the apropriateness of the material. I consider that my job as a mother of 4 kids, 3 of which are very fast readers. Doing this has introduced me to all kinds of books I never would have read on my own, and most of which I enjoyed. But when I couldn't read an entire book fast enough, I googled, checked out reviews, and talked to the parents of my childrens friends.

  36. Danielle Says:

    I don't believe in censorship. I think it's healthy to be offended by something. Why? Because it lights a fire under your…okay. So maybe I'll be ironic and censor that. =)

    There is no way that everything out there is going to sit well with everyone. We are too diverse and different. This is what rocks about our world. The down side is intolerance and close-mindedness (is that a word?). Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books. Do we all really just want to live in a happy little sheltered world with no depth or meaning because it's safer that way?

    I completely agree with the parents in this thread though. Talk to your kids, yo!

    Books aren't any worse than the other forms of media, of course. They will be exposed to it. And if kids are going to be exposed to something, I think through a book, through reading, is the best way to go.

    No book burning please…that's just depressing.

  37. Tim White Says:

    Banning is silly and ineffective.

    Quickly portraying what a book contains in terms of themes is important, especially in a longer book. I prefer to preview what a book contains before I give it to my 10-year-old, because I know there are certain things that are guaranteed to give him nightmares for a long time.

    But as YA books get longer and longer, and he becomes increasingly voracious, it would be of great help to have a site that captured the themes and 'standout' scenes for a book, so I could quickly help my kid (and me) decide what he should be reading, and evolve that over time.

    A great example from my youth – I read a lot of Piers Anthony. And then I read Anthonology, including "On the Use of Torture". I wish I had not.

    It's the "Surprise! It's graphic torture!" "Surprise! This book is nothing but 15 fairy sex scenes loosely strung together!" "Surprise! This book take the position that the Catholic Church is evil!" that gets people wound up…

  38. Tilly Says:

    It seems to me that every so often there is a major fuss over a book. Each time the Christian Coalition makes a fuss, the writer gets rich.

    They tried it with Harry Potter. See how well that worked out for them?

    They tried it with The Golden Compass. That didn't work out so well either.

    Many movie stars have stated that negative press is just free PR. I have to agree. The bigger stink they make, the more people will get interested. The only reason I read the first Harry Potter book was to see what all the fuss was about. Guess what? I own all of them now. The first one hooked me right off the bat. I don't generally read YA. If they'd let it go, that purchase wouldn't have been made.

    As far as banning books? This is the U.S.A. Our constitution provides us with freedom of speech. When rights that important are piddled away, we tread on dangerous ground. The only thing that makes this country unique is the freedom it provides its citizens. I would never put my name on a list to ban a book, TV show, movie, etc. Regardless of how much I hated it or thought it was wrong.

    The bottom line (for me) is this: Parenting involves ummm…I don't know, maybe parenting? Read the books, watch the movies. If they arent what you want represented to your children, don't let them read or watch them.

  39. fantasy books Says:

    I am looking for book suggestions along the lines of sci-fi or fantasy strategic novels. Along the lines of Ender’s Game.. I have read the Ender’s series. Let me be more general, I am looking for sci-fi/fantasy books where the characters have to employ complicated strategies to achieve their goals. Twists are welcomed too, but mostly I like reading about brilliant strategists..