Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Middle School & Young Adult Books Are Weird

The other day I got my whooping cough vaccine and it pretty much knocked me out of commission. The result was I ended up reading the entire Percy Jackson series in two days instead of writing, editing, or anything else. Well, okay. I did nap...alot.


Even though I wasn't working on writing in the literal sense, I don't feel that reading through a middle school age series was a waste of time. I haven't read anything that was meant for middle schoolers for some time. It reminded me of my own reading habits as a child and the kinds of topics that my reading covered.

Percy Jackson may be violent - well, excessively so - but it doesn't deal with sex at all (though it hints at it, I mean, how could it not? It's premise uses Greek mythology!).

And one might hope that middle school students wouldn't be reading things about sex, but I don't really think they should be reading such gruesomely violent content either.

And then I think of my own reading habits at that age... I was reading things that were not meant for middle school students. I was reading things meant for adults. Middle school books were things I devoured when I was 9. They began to bore me by 11. And by 12 I was reading fantasy and science fiction that was distinctly adult - dealing with adult themes, like sex, war, gender roles, and ethical dilemmas that can only be addressed adequately through the fantastic plots of Asimov or Le Guin.

All this makes me wonder about my own potential readers, particularly of Khloe - though the Rollins books aren't immune from this line of thought.

I know that certain books are meant for certain ages, but the idea seems specious. Who am I to decide a certain book is inappropriate for a particular age group? And yet I know parents these days would disagree. They would say, along with so many others, that children should be protected from adult content. Children should stay children.

That said, I would argue that visual media - like video games, movies, and television - is much more problematic than literature. Words require imagination to come to life, but images created by studios can be permanently lodged into young minds. But can the same be said for literature? It depends. I can think of certain images that stick in my mind from books read during my preteen and teen years, but there are just as many that don't.

And these are from "adult" books.


The reality is that a good book is a good book and a bad one is well, bad. Some people will read ahead of their assigned age range. I might as a parent decide that some books are appropriate and others aren't, but it won't necessarily have anything to do with labels decided by publishers or authors. No doubt the most important thing will be to have conversations about the themes of a book, no matter what the designated age range.

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