Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Book Police

The Twitterverse was all abuzz yesterday about young adult books and book ratings.  (Yes, Virginia, sometimes you can actually find interesting information on Twitter.  Who knew?) 

Remember that post last week when we discussed f-bombs in young adult books?  Seems like we're not the only ones talking about it.  Except now people are actually discussing the need to rate young adult books à la movie style--you know, PG, PG13, R, etc.

Apparently there was an article in the US News & World Report about rating YA books like films, which spurred some interesting commentary, including one in the  Huffington Post and another by YA author, Gayle Foreman, among others.

What's not clear is whether there is a move to rate strong language or rate the content.  In my humble opinion, rating either is tricky, even dangerous, and takes away yet another level of responsibility for parents.  You want to know what your kids are reading?  Read the books they read.  Talk to them about the books they read.  To anyone who says to me, "But I don't have the time," I say, "Turn off your damn cell phone, get off Facebook, and shut the TV.  You'll have plenty of time you never thought you had."

If a book is just a string of curse words with no compelling story, trust me, your kid won't want to buy (or borrow) that author's next book.  But don't miss an opportunity to have a discussion about it with your kids.  They might not realize the importance of that conversation today, but they will appreciate it in ten years--maybe 20 years, for some. ;-) 

Rant over.



Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I was raised a cowboy, worked as a welder's assistant in the summer as a kid...talking about a potty mouth.

I married a Pentecostal. Go figure...and learned how big an issue a little 4leterwrd can be.

My wife reads my work before my last edit, when I make adults sound like adults, teens talk like they want to be.

I wouldn't mind ratings like FX does on its programs. (language, nudity, adult situations...)

You can never help some see that a setting sometimes needs to be realistic. For those who want puppies and daisies, they are going to miss a lot of drama...whether we rate our books further, or not.

Daisy Carter said...

To anyone who says to me, "But I don't have the time," I say, "Turn off your damn cell phone, get off Facebook, and shut the TV. You'll have plenty of time you never thought you had."

Well said! If you didn't want to parent, why did you have kids?

It's just another step towards censorship.

Heather M. Gardner said...

No. No. No. No. No.

It's not anyone's responsibility but mine!

I'm the parent.

Stop making decisions for me and my family!

Rant away, Liz! Rant away!

Michael Di Gesu said...

I couldn't agree with your more liz...

Parent do need to take action with what their kids read. As an author of a highly charged Y/A I would surely want to make sure a parent doesn't let a younger teenager read my book.

This is for sixteen and older. Although I see your point about rating, I also see where informing readers of content can be helpful in purchasing a novel.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I think books should have a rating. I would rate mine an R, and I would seek out other kinds of books that have either a PG-13 or R-rating to read. I'm just not interested in G to PG stuff and am very disappointed when I pick up those books.

Carol Riggs said...

Oh, no way. Not only would it be time-consuming and fraught with problems of how to rate, it would mirror the movies in that kids wouldn't want to read the more "tame/baby" books. They'd feel adventurous and "mature" reading the "R-rated" ones. Gah.

I agree the parents need to be involved, as long as that in itself isn't a form of censorship (preventing kids to choose and make wise reading decisions for themselves). Guidance, not parental censorship. I still wouldn't want a younger child to be introduced to content that would be shocking or even traumatic to them. But I don't think ratings are the answer.

Marianne Arkins said...

If I ever have questions about a book or movie for my DD, I read or watch it first. Period. Because what might be a deal-breaker for me wouldn't be for someone else, and vice versa.

Rating movies doesn't work for me, either -- for the same reason. Two PG-13 movies are NOT the same. Period.

It's part of being a parent. Deal.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the idea of a rating system similar to how TV does it with language, adult situations, etc. It's a guide. It's not the end all be all of what my kids will or will not watch (or read in this case) but it helps me make my decisions. I'm the queen of parental controls...drives That Man crazy but with kids 6 to 13 I have to monitor.

On the other hand it is a slippery slope. Where does it stop? Who draws the line?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well said! Parents need to take responsibility and get involved in their kids' lives. Besides, do you know how long it would take a ratings board to read and rate books?

Tracy Jo said...

I agree! I also think people live in bubbles and denial. Kids know more than they are given credit for and if they don't read it in a book, they will hear it at school. It is all about communication...just like you said!

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

(Thanks, Liz, for the get well wishes for my baby)


LTM said...

oh, wow! I just had this conversation with my mom. She'd downloaded some book and was all bent out of shape over all the language. Anywho, I also talked to Agent Kate about the content of my books and the voracious reading habits of my #1 daughter. It's impossible for me to keep up w/her. I'm still trying to finish Warriors #1, and she's on #6 of the THIRD series. Yes. So I'm down w/a ratings system.

I remember when Tipper Gore was going after the music biz for parental warning stickers. It was all a big deal, but ultimately, I don't see that it hurt anyone. And it DOES let parents know what's up.

So there. Throw the tomatoes! I'm OK with it. :D <3

CA Heaven said...

Words are not dangerous. I'm against censorship in general. It's the kind of stuff that belongs in North Korea.

Cold As Heaven