Controversial Issues in YA Novels.

There has been a fair amount of controversy within recent times regarding the subject matter in young adult novels.  Being both a writer and a reader of young adult fiction, I tend to find myself giving it quite a bit of thought.

I was probably about eleven when I read the controversial book Go Ask Alice.  Of-course at that age, I had no idea that it was controversial, but I remember it to this day.  Did I want to go out and try drugs after reading the book?  No.  In high school I was fortunate to be with a group of friends that never did drugs and in all honesty, we weren’t interested.  Did reading the book help prevent me from doing drugs?  I can’t be certain, but after having read the book twice, it certainly stuck in my eleven year old mind to stay away from them.  Mind you, my parents were completely unaware that I was reading this book, after having sneaked it out of my older sisters’ bedroom!  Lucky for them, I’d like to think that I had my head screwed on.

Recently I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Yes, I found it disturbing, but at the same time I felt for Lia, as in my teenage years I was slowly working my own way towards anorexia.  The author evokes the reader’s sympathy; we don’t want Lia to slowly kill herself, nor does the young reader have to endure such pain themselves.  Without preaching, books can do what they do best – educate and entertain.

Way back in June, I read one of Lisa Mcmann’s posts regarding this issue and I completely agree with her.  Having two children of my own, it’s only natural I want to protect them, yet there comes a time when a parent has to learn to let their children find their own way in life.  It’s one of the hardest things a parent has to do, but it is necessary in order for their children to learn and experience the world around them.  Personally, I would much rather have my children deal with some of the realities of what life has to offer them through the world of books than face the alternatives.

What are your thoughts regarding young adult novels lately?  Have you ever read a controversial book that helped you make certain decisions?

2 thoughts on “Controversial Issues in YA Novels.

  1. I don’t remember too many controversial books, but I came from a family where there was no such thing really. Books were books. You read them, discussed them, and reached for the next one. I do remember my mother having some misgivings about my reading adult books when I was ten or eleven. There were sex scenes in them. I just screwed up my nose, wondered vaguely why people would want to do something like that, and got on with the story.

    I did read Go Ask Alice when I was about thirteen. It wasn’t actually as “shocking” as I’d been promised. I don’t know that it ever affected my ideas about drug use. I was a fairly good kid though, so maybe… But then I also had an alcoholic grandfather who I’m sure influenced me a lot more than any book.

    There is an award for you over on my blog.

  2. Debbie Johansson 13/10/2011 — 3:30 am

    Hi Jen. Sex scenes always seem to be a turn off for younger readers – I even get that way myself when I see too much of it in movies/television! I do agree with you that there are some things in life that can have a bigger impact upon us than some issues in books. I believe that lately some people want to live a ‘Pollyanna’ type of existence with it comes to younger readers, which doesn’t help them at all. Thanks for your comments and granting me an award – much appreciated. 🙂

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