Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Call to Arms!

I am extraordinarily naive. I get that. But I like to believe that most people think like me. I know that's not true, but hello? Don't most people want to live in peace,  raise their kids with a strong moral compass,  worship how they want, etc...?

There is a terrifying trend in the YA market right now. I knew it was coming, but wasn't aware of how strong its roots had already become. I belong to a group or club called Authors Incognito. On our message board yesterday was a discussion about how many modern YA authors are writing violent, sexual and filthy scenes in their YA stories. Is that really what you want your teens reading? Really?

Recently on Query Tracker there was a first chapter contest for YA novels. One of the 1st place winner's chapters had the f-word in the first sentence. The FIRST sentence! It also described (and I mean really described) a naked girl and the mc's (a boy) reaction to it. HELLO PEOPLE?

And we wonder why there are so many problems in our country--in our world? We authors HAVE to take a stand. We have to know how influential our words are. If we write in a way that makes filthy language, underage sex, and all that other dangerous stuff look okay, normal, and finally, desireable, we are contributing to the vileness of our world.

Yes, I am aware that kids hear and see things like that every day at school and do you know why? Because some of these books are sold at book fairs in ELEMENTARY schools! They are not only getting it from TV or wherever else, but from the books they read.

Parents. PLEASE read what your kids are reading. FIRST. Our brains are computers. What goes in can never be erased.

People like James Dashner, Lisa Mangum, Jeff Savage, and Dan Wells are all wonderful examples of fun, suspenseful, edge of your seat, exciting story weavers. It IS possible to have a fantastic YA read that's clean. Come on, authors. Take the responsibility onto your shoulders to fight the rising wave that threatens (and I mean really threatens) our youth. We can make a difference. We have to.


Stacy Henrie said...

Wow - that is scary. I don't read a lot of YA stuff since I write adult fiction, but I definitely agree we need to know what our kids are reading and being exposed to and curb what we can. Great post!

Rosalind Adam said...

This is a big worry for parents but it also shows a lack of moral awareness on the part of publishers. Surely they should be policing the content of the books that they're publishing.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

How horrid. Since I was such an avid reader, it was a tremendous source of pride and joy for me that my parents NEVER censored my reading material. But even though I was reading "adult" books at an early age, I NEVER put my hands on books like you're describing, either. And I can't come up with a single good reason for exposing our young people to that kind of garbage now, either.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

That surprises me, though I don't know what it should. While the schools are banning Steinbeck and forcing changes to Twain to bend to political correctness, it would seem other things are creeping through the back door. Wow.

Unknown said...

I'm with you! Books should be rated like movies, video games and even music now.
When I was a teenager, 90% of the books I read were recommended to me by my mother. The other 10% were sadly filled with soap opera antics in the likes of V.C. Andrews. I'm happy to report that these novels filled with sex and incest didn't alter my growth... but I did plan on naming my first child "Heaven Lee" for the better part of my teenage years. That in itself could have been disastrous.

Melissa Cunningham said...

Nina. I totally get you. I was raised on romance novels that I stole from my parents. Looking back now, I think it warped my sense of what love, sex and romance really were. It took me a long time to figure it out. Sigh. I don't want my kids to have to go through that. We talk openly about sex at my house and any other thing I feel my kids are confronting at the moment, and I hope that as a parent I can nip whatever rises in the bud. So far my kids have made really good choices. I hope they continue on that path.

S.B.Niccum said...

Melissa, I agree with you 100%
This trend is bad, most parents are just happy to see that their kids are reading at all, but they don't know what they are learning in those books!
That's why I support any YA writer out there that is as committed as I am to writing good, clean, fun and adventure filled books. I don't care if they out sell me or do better than me. I will rally any good book that is printed!
S.B. Niccum
Author Website

Kim, USA said...

Hello Melissa,been lurking here since I knew your site. Now, I have to comment on this for I also love to read. And what you just describe here freaks me out. I may not have a child of my own but I have nieces and nephew too. I am also very concern about what kids are reading now. And yes you are right it begins from the author they should be responsible. I heard this recently "sex sells" geez, that's why we can see it in tv, movie, magazine, print ads, books, etc. We have to stand on this matter for who else does?


anthony stemke said...

I do not think you are naive. Sex is everywhere in advertisements; this is appalling. But in YA novels? What is wrong with these people. I don't like rude language on blogs and I recommend shunning it in novels. I understand your frustration, my BW is writing a YA novel now, and I know there is no inappropriate language in it.
Come on everybody, lets work together to combat this contemptable course of events. Monitor what your loved ones are reading.

Rebecca Blevins said...

I'm with you. Completely.

Even though as my kids age I know I won't always be able to keep up with everything they read, I at least hope there are lots of good alternatives for them to choose.

I'm teaching correct principles, but for them to have decent literature to choose from is so important!

Matthew Tandy said...

Like you Melissa, I posted on the Query Tracker announcement blog about my disappointment. Predictably, someone came around to tell those of us who thought that person winning second place was a bad idea that we were narrow minded intent on censorship, and are probably the same people who want to ban books.

I wrote a reply back on the blog taking direct aim at the mentality of that commentator, who I found was a mother of young children herself. We shall see if she or others reply, because I will use my not insignificant powers of debate to take them to task.

I'll be writing about this issue on my blog tonight, especially as it touches on my writing philosophy in a genre often full of gory depictions, heavy swearing, and sometimes random sex scenes.

Thanks for a great post!

Mel Chesley said...

I had been asked at one point to read someone's YA story and couldn't finish it due to the graphic nature of it.
Our kids are NOT adults yet and we need to preserver their innocence NO MATTER WHAT. Yes , they see things on TV or in movies that we don't always have control over, but if we're encouraging our kids to read... well.. WHAT are we encouraging them to read should be checked out. I may post about this as well, it is becoming a huge trend, far too quickly.

Mel Chesley said...

Yeah it just couldn't wait... here's the link.

Bridgette said...

That's why I still read mostly juvenille books. :) They haven't been corrupted yet.

Betsy Love said...

Yes, indeed! That's why it's so important to flood the world with moral YA fiction. Don't forget to mention Brandon Mull. I loved his series. Keep writing. There are tender minds who crave reading, whose minds need to be filled with virtuous thoughts. Great post, Melissa!

Weaver said...

Many parents I am sure don't realize these books that wouldn't get a pg13 rating if they were films are like this. And other parents don't know what the big deal is.

Gail said...

Amen. Thanks for writing this Melissa.

Melissa Cunningham said...

I would have named Brandon but his series is MG, not YA. He's a fabulous writer and so nice in person. Love him!

Carol Riggs said...

Amen! I agree with all of this. Books (and movies) CAN be popular without all that unnecessary stuff. That's what I'm aiming for in my novels. :)

Tonja said...

Hmmm...well, first I have to comment on your opening - I actually have never once had the feeling everyone thinks like me.

I also have to say that as a mother of a teenager, I have to trust her to pick out books that are appropriate and have the sense to know when they aren't. She is very smart and can/does question what she reads just like we can. I realize I'm in the minority here, but I guess I'm OK with that. I can't police every word - I think my job is to have the conversation with her.

Melissa Cunningham said...

Tonja- Everyone has their own opinion. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. And you're right in that we need to trust our kids to make wise choices. Mine do . . . so far! LOL Hopefully it stays that way. The guy's story could be a great adult book for those who like that genre. I'm not saying it couldn't. But you're a parent and I'm guessing you can get what I'm talking about when I say I don't want my children to read that kind of stuff. =)

Rob-bear said...

I have considerable sympathy for your position, Melissa.

But I also have other experiences. Like reading J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. In 1960. As a grade 11 literature text in high school! The only part of it that I liked was Holden's career-defining imagery.

Still, reading it at 15 would be some different from reading it at seven, or eight, or nine.

Jolene Perry said...

I write and read a TON of YA. I'm shocked and have taken back more than one book due to content. Scary.

Renae Weight Mackley said...

My interest caught with Donna's comment. I wonder if a new rating system would help. MG, YA, Adult don't seem descriptive anymore. Video games an movies have it. Why not books? It shouldn't be restrictive to give added info with a rating. People still have choices, they just have more info. But then there's coming up with all the rules on how to rank a story. I don't know what is the best answer, but knowledge is power. Thanks for the post, Melissa.

Marianne Arkins said...

I'm looking up the authors you mentioned at the end right now -- my DD struggles to find books to read. She's 12 y.o. and her reading ability is well ahead of her age, so it's challenging.

I absolutely agree with you. And thanks.

Hope said...

I agree! we must fight for a moral society!
thank you for your post

Melissa Cunningham said...

I think a rating system would be great. Most authors know what their books would rate. We're not stupid after all. My Pendant of Power series which is MG would probably be pg for some fighting scenes. Other than those, it would be G but if you rate it for the worst stuff, then I would say err on the side of caution, so it would be PG. Reluctant Guardian, which I'm halfway through writing, would definitely be a PG-13. It deals with more mature material such as suicide, drugs and other things teens deal with. As far as teen angst goes, it will rate up there with the best of them, minus graphic sex and swearing. That is what will make it great.

Melissa Cunningham said...

In fact, they could make new ratings like PG-15 or PG-17. You know? Because it's usually the kids who are about two years younger than the main character of the story who read that book. A rating system could work well.

Also, I was thinking about what Tonja said. It's not that we don't trust our kids. It's that our kids want to pick up a book with a catchy title and a great cover. They have no idea what's inside until they read it. They shouldn't be subjected to porn even "accidentally." It's those accidents that begin some of the worse addictions. I've seen it first hand. Believe me when I say I know what I'm talking about. Someone has to champion our children until they can protect themselves.

Maple Seawright said...

Thank you for pointing this out!! Teens are too immature these days to handle such strong content with negative undertones. I agree with Caledonia Lass, teens need time to grow and learn before being exposed to such material.

KM Nalle said...

Hi Melissa - I couldn't find an email for you. I actually see that you have a great idea here. This could be a website with a group of reviewers with defined standards for how a book can get dropped into a particular rating category. The site would have to be set up with a database that was searchable by author or title or even category. So parents could use it to FIND books for their age group as well. I'd be happy to help get this moving (although I have no idea how). Email me if you are interested

erica and christy said...

We blogged about a content rating system a few months ago - of course most of our writer friends agreed with us and some said it was the beginning of censorship. I disagree - why should books be different than movies? Most of us form a picture of what we read in our heads (ie a movie), so why shouldn't they be rated similarly. The same could be said about the rating of video games.

A valid argument that was presented to us was - if it receives an upper-age rating, does that automatically make it like contraband and therefore make kids want it more?? Personally, I think this is just another part of parenting - discussing the system and what my son is allowed to read and why (and then trusting him and crossing my fingers a whole bunch!).

And over at that contest, I virtually-know the guy who won with the controversial page. The woman who staunchly defended him is a friend of his and I've seen her make the same arguments (on the behalf of friends) on other boards, even when the work was sub-par. (sorry Quinn and Patty if you're reading this, but it's true).

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