Thursday, February 25, 2010

Opinion Time

In light of the Common Sense Media thing going on... and just how often the topic of YA Book content seems to come up, this is a post where I speak my mind. If you wanna read it, go ahead. If not... no hard feelings. These are just my view on all this... well, crap.

First of all, I think some of the things CSM rates in YA books is ridiculous. Product promotion? Really? Does that matter? I stared at that category for awhile trying to figure out why the heck it mattered, especially when the things listed are brands of chips, sodas, etc. Who. Freaking. Cares. That alone makes me want to write the rest of the rating system off but alright, I'll bite. Looking at the rest of it, well, it's still stupid. Reading the reasons for the rating of the Mortal Instruments Series, I actually laughed. They bring up the whole incestual feelings thing and honestly, I think Clare deserves huge props for even adding in that element. Incest is taboo and what not because of the genetic crap that comes along with inbreeding and not providing the gene pool with enough variation. Now, is a teenager who reads this book going to run out and kiss their sibling. No. So does it matter in the rating? No. Go listen in history class and.. wait for it.. there's inbreeding! Holy crap! Who knew! Oh wait, that's how we figured out it screwed the offspring. Also referenced for Mortal Instruments... gay characters and even a gay kiss! Holy crap, we better ban that book! Parents, don't let your kids read it because they kiss! Yeah, um, no.

I'm sorry but I think all this "controversy" is just downright stupid, if you couldn't tell from the snarky, sarcastic remarks up above. Yeah, teenagers are impressionable and blah blah blah but so what? Does that mean they are going to center their values and beliefs around what they read in a fiction -yes, that's right, a FICTION- book? Probably not and if they do, there's bigger things going on. If you want my opinion, and I figure you do if you haven't clicked me off yet, it's just parents looking for an excuse for why their kids do bad things because heaven forbid they can't just be teenagers. It has nothing to do with what they face at school everyday- which is sex, drugs, swearing, bullying, and plenty of other things that crop up in YA novels and are causing all this drama. No, it isn't that- it's clearly the video games they play, the movies they want and the books they read. Following this line of thought, you'd almost think reading is a bad thing but I am pretty sure my elementary classrooms were plastered with posters about reading. Read, read, read! Don't watch TV, read! So now that everyone is reading, why is that being blow out of proportion too? If your kid is stupid enough to go out and sleep with half the class, drink regularly, and get knocked up at 15 because she read a YA book, that isn't the book to blame.

Do I think 10 year olds need to be reading YA books? Not necessarily. But that's why its YA and not middle grade or independent reader. The category gives you the age group- CSM is a waste of time, pinpointing it further. I also think when a YA book comes up as having "iffy" subject matter for even 17 year olds, that just blows their credibility right out of the water. That is sheltering to the extreme and that is not going to bring anything good for your kid. None.

I also want to point out that all these same topics show up in plenty of other books- books that young adults can get their hands on. Why is this one genre being attacked like this? Just a decade ago when I was starting high school, I didn't have the luxury of going to the bookstore and having racks and racks of YA books. It wasn't nearly as big then. What did I read? Adult fiction. Take out the YA genre and all these teens who love reading aren't going to suddenly stop reading. They'll find other books and drag this out and it leads back to banning books which I am also very, incredibly opposed to. At least when I was a teen, I would have loved to have available many of the YA books out there now. Even the fantasy/paranormal ones can have some great points and perspectives on things. The "raw and edgy" ones would have been perfect for when I really wished someone would just take the time to understand. Do I think these books will change the world? No. But do I think they are a great way to remind angsty teens that they aren't alone? In a way, yes. Books are an escape and an outlet so why is their content thrust under a microscope?

But now that I've blamed the overprotective parents who don't want to just deal with their kids... I know it's hard being a parent. Honestly, I think it has to suck. Everythign falls back on the parent. You can do everything for you kid, love them to death, make sure they know it, etc, and still end up with a kid that gets bullied and snaps- or the kid that does the bullying or any other crimes. All those criminals we hear about? They're someone's kid- somebody loves them. And when it comes out, the parents are scorned and people say they must be bad parents. Maybe it is true in cases, but not in every single one of them. Face it, there are bad parents out there- so why is it so horrible that YA books have bad parents in them? More importantly, what is the definition of the horrible parent?

If you love your kid too much, you smother them, push them to rebellion, make them want to be a punk. If you don't love them enough, that's your fault for having them and maybe you shouldn't have and what is a kid supposed to think about that? My parents suck so I shouldn't be alive? That's the implication I would take from that. Yeah, I know- the trick is to find the happy medium but I'm pretty sure that medium doesn't exist. As a parent, you are going to have make choices all the time and if you make the wrong one, you're clearly a bad parent. But how many of those situations back the parent into a corner where no matter what they do, something comes out wrong? For all the joys that parenthood brings, there are plenty of crappy things it brings too (this is from the opinion of a pessimist who doesn't want kids, many of the reasons you've seen above). Does that make them a bad parent because their kid made a mistake? NO! It means they are letting their kid figure things out on their own and learn and grow. It means their kid is LIVING! Yes, "good" parents are a rarity in YA books but they are a rarity in the real world too. Why is it overlooked that teenagers are just that- teenagers. Humans. People. With motivations and desires. They lie- maybe you raised them to know it's wrong but does that mean they never will? Of course not. My parents had plenty of rules in place that I thought were incredibly stupid although now that I'm out of the situation and older with more experience, I get why it was like that. It was to protect me and keep me safe but I hated it at the time and did I sneak around it? Absolutely. Does that make my parents bad? Definitely not. Are my parents perfect? No. Did they do a lot for me? Yes. But if I were to write them into a book, I am betting that some of the things they did- especially if its in the POV of a 15 year old angsty teenager- would have critics shoving them under the bad parent category that everyone seems to be obsessing over. And that, my dear readers, is absolutely stupid.

One last thing... I know another big part of all this scrutiny comes from a relgious perspective- especially a Christian one. I was raised Christian- I know the beliefs and values. And if a church is going to insist its members don't read things like Harry Potter and Twilight, I would be inclined to push them towards the "occult" category because that's trying to get their members to follow exactly what they think, down to a t. Should Christians read YA? Why the heck not? If you let a book change all your beliefs and values, obviously your values weren't nearly as strong. And if you feel threatened because you read a book about witches, vampires, etc- a book with "bad" parents and teenage sex and drinking- again, your beliefs aren't that strong. That isn't a problem with the books, that's a problem with you. If you really are so strong in your faith, a book isn't going to change it- not even ones that pull in the Nephilim, The Book of Enoch, etc. These are works of fiction- products of active and determined imaginations. And personally, I think it's downright stupid to attack these authors for writing brilliant works.

Just my opinion. If you agree, you rock. If you disagree... you suck. No, I'm kidding. You're allowed your own opinion. You can even make your own post and negate everything I said. I'll just keeping what I do. It's how this crazy world works, in case you missed that part of school too, choosing instead to obsess over what is showing up in fiction books rather than our history books and even, wait for it... The Bible! Complete with sodomy! *gasp*

Now back to your regularly scheduled program which will consist of a review tomorrow... and a contest post. And hopefully I will be better about reviewing more books soon. I think there has been a book blogger wide slump going around this month but maybe we're all coming out of it now.


  1. Powerful post Kari. Very well said. You know I agree right with ya! We pretty much talked about most these issues through our chats so I'm glad you addressed it. Screw CSM, what the hell do they know!?

  2. Interesting post. This is the first I am hearing about this. Will have to go check it out to learn more. Thanks.

  3. Great post. I completely agree. When I was in middle (back in the 80s) I read Harlequin romances. The only YA books during that time were Judy Blume, Francine Pascal and VC Andrews. VC Andrews books were not tame and neither were some of Judy Blume's (hello...Forever). These folks need to get a life.

  4. I agree. I love the part where you mentioned that teens are not going to model their lives after a fiction book and if they do, then there are larger problems at hand.

    I for one believe that you need to educate your children as best as you can and then send them out into the world hoping for the best. I don't think hiding them from what truly goes on in real life is beneficial to anyone, especially not them.

    My parents were always honest with me & I was allowed to read anything and everything. I've learned so much from reading novels that deal with difficult subject matter. If anything, books have made me realize what kind of person I want to be and what kind of situations I don't want to place myself in.

  5. YA books project things that teens sse in everyday life. We can't ban everyday life now can we? I totally agree with you. This is just ridiculous.

  6. Uhm...what more can I say but amen, girl. great post.

  7. I SO agree with you. My mom and dad let my read what ever I want and we are a Christan family too. I only use the CSM for seeing what's in the movie so that way, My younger sisters and brothers can watch it too but I NEVER use it for looking up books becuase I don't agree with them about the rating of the books. like this, all of the Sarah Dessen's on there are ONLY for 15+ and I let my 13 year old sister read it and she LOVE it. Really? Come on, 15 and up???? CSM, you suck.

  8. The thing I don't like about Common Sense Media is that it takes everything out of context. It can make a book look different then it actually is.

  9. Rating systems like this one (admittedly I've been blessedly insulated from this particular controversy) strike always remind me of SparkNotes- condensed versions for people who don't want to spend the time to actually read the book. Apparently using notes to write a paper is bad, but using notes to damn an entire piece of literature is not. Go figure.

    What Book is That?

  10. Hmmm ... this is the first time I've heard of this controversy. I like Common Sense Media, and my daughter I sometimes refer to it when considering movies and video games (I never thought of reading their reviews of YA novels) I don't necessarily follow their recommendations -- my kids have plenty of books and movies they rate "not for kids," but I appreciate the information they provide. We factor it in -- along with other things -- when making decisions.

    That said, there is a lot in your post that I agree with. And I think we need to respect the intelligence and integrity of teenagers, who are capable of handling serious issues, both in literature and in life. And whether we like it or not, teens ARE dealing with difficult issues. One of the important roles books fill for us is to talk about those tough subjects people often won't touch and give us the message -- when we're struggling -- "YOU ARE NOT ALONE."

    Interesting discussion!

  11. Kari are you sure you are only 24? You have this well thought out and while some older people like myself may think what you posted is a tirade against my age group I personally salute your insight. I grew up able to read and watch and play with anything I wanted in a Christian household to boot!
    My parents did treat me with cotton wool in some areas because as an only child I was very sheltered, the books I read were given to me by my father and some of them should have Never gotten in my hands as a teen, ever!
    I did not turn out to be sex maniac because of the erotica I was allowed to read and BTW these books I refer to were MMPB WESTERNS no less!
    Granted I also did not grow up to be a mass murderer or violent criminal even though my Dad and myself watched the most violent movies and shows on TV at the time over and over.
    Teens are not as easy to corrupt by books, games, movies, tv and other outside influences of these types as they are portrayed now a days. Teens however can be pushed into doing "stupid stunts" today just like they have always been by their peers. It is very hard to be a young person in any time period because there will always be outside influences that are questionable and the best parenting and mentoring in the world can not completely take them away and make our children safe, I wish it were so. Books though need to be read, the good, the bad and the ugly ones have some kernels of wisdom in them for someone and you never know until it is found what they might be.
    Enough of my personal rant, you did good and keep it up in your posts.

    jackie b central texas