Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fire and Ice

How far can you go with sex and violence in a YA novel?
Kids today are saturated with this stuff and are certainly doing things a lot earlier than even when I was a kid. (Which wasn't really that long ago...) Things that are acceptable on TV and in books now, definitely weren't as commonplace then. Or perhaps they were and I was just oblivious. I know that I read books like The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith. There was definitely romance going on, but nothing hard core or descriptive.
**possible spoilers below**
And there are books now, like Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann and Graceling by Kristin Cashore, that have sex (handled quite adult and very sweetly, I might add). There is a fair amount of fighting and violence in YA books as well. Obviously with Harry Potter, as the series progressed, there was a lot of death, but not so much description on the violence. In the Twilight Saga there was both sex and violence. But the sex here waited until marriage. And again, the violence was toned down - though I believe there was mention of James' head being yanked off and his body burned and some other such activities.
So, this leads me to my point: How far is too far in YA literature today? Can it still be YA if your leading couple goes "all the way", perhaps on more than one occasion? - of course, keeping the sexiness and passion toned down and to a minimum in descriptiveness for sensitive eyes. And if chapter 3 has "the bad guy" doing some very bad and evil things - such as ripping out a heart of an underling - is that going too far?
Of course we don't want to condone kids' bad behavior - the point is, kids are going to do bad things anyhow. It's a fact of life. You live and you learn. Just because you read about sex and death doesn't mean you are going to think these things are ok. In fact, I would think that kids that take the time to actually read are smart enough to know what's right and what's wrong - that the books are actually fiction, after all . I also feel the parents hold a certain level of responsibility here.
I guess no matter what, there are going to be critics out there who say a novel was taken too far on some level. Look at all the folks who say Edward from Twilight was abusive and that little girls that read that will think "it's ok to be in an abusive relationship now". I'd better not go there today...
But, what is your opinion? Is there such a thing as too far with teens and what they read today? How hot is too hot for love, and how cold is too cold for evil?


  1. I've been thinking about this post and I think that some of those things are okay for the older teens. It seems to me that there should be a distinction between 12-14 and 15-18, though they seem to be lumped together. I think a lot goes on in those beginning years and you are in a more mature state in the latter years. Kind of like with movies that are rated NC-17, though maybe not that strict that age, but something to indicate which are more for older teens... Though, I also agree that it is up to the parents to monitor what their children are reading. And, even read the book first if they are uncertain. I think even twilight is a bit much for a 12 year old, though they bought and read them. New Moon especially would be hard to get if they haven't dated and experienced lost love. I was raised strictly though and didn't even see the full version or Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman until I was 18... yep, just the tv versions, ha! I think though that reading books is a great way for young adults to learn about society and morals and form their own opinions. And most are able to do that in the right way and take from it what is good, and what is bad.

    I guess what I'm saying is that Twilight is kind of on the in-between line...anything below is 12-14 and anything above is for the older teens. I'm interested to see what others think as well! And let us know what you decide is okay for your story. Well, without giving it away, ha! :-)

  2. I think, for my story, I am aiming at the older teen group. There will be some darkness and some violence. There will be some cussing. There will be young love (and possibly some sex, but nothing explicit or detailed). I agree that there should be a distinction in some YA books. I am reading House of Night now and w/o giving anything away, I was a little shocked that w/in the first 100 pages there are some pretty racey things mentioned as well as some course language and one or two words I am a little shocked are even used! I am ok with it, absolutely, because I am an adult. But I am not so sure I'd want my 12 or 13 yr old reading that. 17 and 18 sure, because they're probably already exposed to worse by that point. It's a tough call though. I will keep you posted on my progress...I do agree, though, that while Twilight is mild mannered, I dont feel a 12 or 13 or even 14 yr old can really grasp what's happening. But, times, they are a changing...maybe I am just naive and old fashioned!

  3. Yes, times are changing! I just started House of Night series too; you and another friend are reading so I thought I'd check it out too since it's on my reads list. I still need to organize that darn list, anyway... I forgot you mentioned which book here though, so, when I started I was like, THIS must have been the book you were talking about, without talking about it... Yes, shocked by a few things! Yes, as an adult I'm okay with it, but also it's weird because there are some adult things mixed in with younger adult slang so kind of an interesting mix. I think in the end it is up to the author and I'm guessing editor/publisher and it would be great if there was some kind of distinction however authors probably want their books read by as many as possible. It seems to be a fine line to walk... I may be naive as well, but I think great stories don't need so many shockers to be great stories. ;-)

    Also, just to let you know; I hope it's okay, but I gave a little shout-out to your blog on my blog (comments section in new post about book giveaway) to Tynga at Tynga's Urban Fantasy Reviews. She reads and reviews a lot of vampire stuff too!

    Have a good week. I'll be in surgery Tuesday so it may be a bit until I'm back online... I hope not too long though! Read and write for me, LOL!

  4. Also, in case you noticed, I am switching all my blogs follows to my new slkcivilrwr account so I'm a member as shauna instead of slkcivil. Shouldn't make a difference, same pic even, just didn't want you to think I was droppin ya (I would never!).

    Okay, happy blogging... ;-) My hubby has been making fun of the word blog and I guess my recent blogging habit. He, he.

  5. You should definitly try to organize your "wish" list while you are recovering. Maybe your hubby will feel sorry for you not feeling well and buy you more books. :) It's funny. I originally posed the violence/sex question THEN started reading House of Night right about that same time. So, it just sort of worked out. Ha! That'd be my psychic abilities showing off. Hahaha! Just kidding. But there ARE a lot of coincidences...
    Anyway, there is a lot of language and stuff going on in the HoN series that I am surprised to see in a YA novel. I'm totally ok w/it as an adult, but I can imagine what some parents/critics have to say. That's the point I was making, I guess. How raw can you get and still be ok? Now, if Zoey would just make up her mind on the guy she's hot for... :)
    I STILL need to burn a copy of that cd for you AND find that funny gift I wanted to send to you. Argh. I am such a slacker! Where does the time go?
    Have a good recovery and I look forward to seeing you back here in no time!