March 31, 2006

3 Questions with Tanya Lee Stone (and then I get on a Soapbox)

School Libray Journal STARRED its review of Tanya Lee Stone's new YA book, A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl and with good reason. It's a book that's being touted as the new FOREVER, and indeed, Judy Blume's watershed book on teen sexuality is a touchstone inside Stone's book. I sat down with Tanya to talk about her book, and then right after, I got up again and leapt onto a soapbox because she said, very casually, a remark I disagree with down to my marrows. The results of the sitting and the leaping are below.

JJ: Your book has been favorably compared to Judy Blume's Forever (which was passed to me under cover of darkness in the 8th grade, read practically to tatters). Did you have a book like that, that told a story while answering questions about sexuality you didn't even know you had?

TLS: Yes, and it was the same book--Forever! We had a special loose board at sleepover camp where we would hide the bunk's copy so everyone could get a turn to read it if they wanted to.

badboycov.jpeg


JJ: You deal with some pretty mature themes, but this is a book where actions have consequences. How young is too young for this book...in other words, how high do you think a person needs to be to ride this ride?

TLS: Actions do have consequences, but I'd like to point out that none of the characters are punished for being sexually aware human beings. No one gets pregnant, or sick, or dies. I wanted to explore female characters who were enjoying the fact that this new territory, which can be scary, is also exciting, and that that's okay. It's marked as 14 and up, and of course every reader is unique. Kids are amazingly good at picking books for themselves. If they're not ready for it, they put it back on the shelf. But if they see themselves in any of the characters and are grappling with any of the issues, they're probably ready for it and will want to read it.

JJ:A lot of writers read this blog---You've been on both sides of the desk, working as an editor before selling your first novel. Can you talk a little about the transition?

TLS: The transition happened when I moved away from a publishing hub and needed to rethink my career goals. I always wrote, and it didn't take long to come to the realization that I wanted to focus my energies there full-time, if possible. The transition wasn't hard as I had spent a lot of years editing children's books before I ever seriously attempted to write my first one. I was hooked fast. My editorial brain continued to brainstorm ideas and my writing brain got busy.

Thanks, Tanya.

I got a little fussy over one of the lines in this interview, and Tanya left a comment to clarify her position which I think needs to be put up for you to see BEFORE the part where I go off like a rocket...

TANYA: Thanks Joshilyn. I'd like to clarify something. I was referring to kids 14 and up deciding for themselves whether they are ready or not to read my book. It is marked 14 and up right on the book, is categorized as upper YA, and I would not recommend it for kids younger than 14. I would definitely not give it to a 6th or 7th grader simply because they are advanced readers as they are likely not ready for the content. It was in the context of the book being meant for high-school age readers that I was answering your question. Also, I do not believe that trusting a teen to make reading choices for themselves automatically cuts the parent out. Absolutely, parents should be there to offer opinions and talk with their kids. I was keeping my answers short for the interview, but in the interest of clarity thought I'd speak up as I don't think we're too far off from being on the same page.

Me again: See, I read
"It's marked as 14 and up, and of course every reader is unique."
as
"It's marked as 14 and up, BUT of course every reader is unique."

Those are two VERY different things. It was MY misunderstanding. I left the following rant up even though it seems Tanya and I are in agreement because I think it's an important topic to talk about...censorship v/s parenting, where one ends and the the other begins...

Not to be belligerent, but I do have to say, okay, well maybe SOME kids are good at self-censoring, and in MANY cases the fact that the average 6th grader reads on the 6th grade level will protect that kid from reading something that is for adults, but if you have a bright sort of academically enthusiastic kid who is reading well above grade level, you can't assume they have the maturity to choose appropriate books. I can't let "If they're not ready for it, they put it back on the shelf" be said on my blog without addressing it because I disagree SO strongly with the concept. Kids have NO thoughts about whether or not book is thematiaclly appropriate for them, and they may not be "grappling with the issues" so much as "wanting to know what the issues even ARE at an age where they don't stinkin' need to be worried about it or even know those issues exist."

I am speaking here more as an early reader here than a mother....and let me be REALLY clear: I am not talking about worrying that your never-even-been-kissed 14 year old might get her hands on a copy of FOREVER or Tanya's book and realize that boys are different down there. She already knows. She's probably reading A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL right NOW in fact, while you are busy on the internets, and that's fine, she's not going read this book and get on IM with her friends and tell them they must now all become " pRon starz LOLZ!!!! one111oneone." A book is a MUCH safer place to explore her fetal sexuality than say, at a boy-girl slumber party, which is, PS the stupidest idea I ever heard of. If you find this book while vacuuming under her bed, you should probably walk away because she would DIE if she knew you knew that she knew that you knew etc etc. But if it was me, I would get my OWN dern copy, and then, without referencing the fact that I had CAUGHT HER READING A SEXY BOOK, I would be SUPER available and create opportunities to talk about some of the book's themes. Just sayin'.

I passed around FOREVER with my friends at an age where I had French-kissed a grand total of one boy and he had been so incredibly BAD at it that his drill-like tongue and plunged down my throat and hit my easy-to-trigger gag reflex, causing me to hurl. I was nowhere NEAR emotionally or even physically ready to DO any of the things in FOREVER, not just the physical things near the end, but not ready for "having a boyfriend." But I had a zillion questions, and the book was a MUCH safer place than the back of a smooth-talking 16 year old's car to explore my burgeoning sexual self. Thirteen or fourteen, incidentally, was about the same age my MOTHER and her friends passed around a read-to-shreds copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover. Which I am sure they read for the, um, literary themes, and not the heaving flanks that bounce and sweat all over the place and, to digress, what the heck is D. H. Lawrence's THING with the word FLANKS, I ask you? Everyone in D.H. Lawrence novels seems to possess flanks that are acrobatic to the point of being prehensile.

SO, I'm not saying this book is evil, wrest it from your daughter's grasping fingers. And to be even clearer, while this book contains sexual scenes, everythign I have read about this book assures me the scenes are NOT graphic, and while the book deals with mature themes, it isn't done in an exploitative or gratuitous manner. THis book deals with real issues that real kids face. And that's a GOOD thing. But--- I'm speaking here as a person who was reading on the college level while in elementary school. I am thinking of the time I cleverly decided it might be cool to read Alex Haley's ROOTS under my covers with a flashlight (because I knew my mother would MURDER me if she caught me with it, and rightfully so.) I was in NO WAY ready for the themes and images in that book, I was NOT grappling with slavery, rape, torture, the nature of evil and man's inhumanity to man as relevant issues in my life. I was NOT prepped for emotionally or mentally for this material, even though I had the vocabulary and the reading skills to injest it. And at 9 or 10, I should NOT have needed to be prepped for it. I had no business reading that book. Period. And IF my mother had known, she would never have said, "Well if she isn't ready, she will stop reading it." I read the damn thing cover to cover and came away from it with some of the ODDEST misapprehensions about sex and some intense nightmares... At the same age, I had the ability to READ Forever, and had I found a copy, I would have read it in a heartbeat, but I don't think it would have been AT ALL good for me at that age. I read FOREVER right when I needed to, but that was LUCK, not an internal SENSE for I was ready for. Kids think they are ready for anything and PS, immortal. They are neither.

Now, am I still in therapy over ROOTS? No. It was a book. No permanent harm was done. But you could say the same thing about a scraped knee, and yet, if your kid begins to stumble, do you grab them by the arm and steady them, or do you let them go ahead and scrape a small chunk of themself off because it will not cause PERMA-damage? Parents need to be reading what their kids are reading, ESPECIALLY If the kid's ABILITY strongly outweighs his/her maturity, and parents need to be available both to say "This book is a tough book---let's talk about it," or "Let's put this book back on the shelf for the next year or two, okay?"

And I say this not only as a reader, but as a writer who is not afraid to explore some, say, mature themes. I found out gods in Alabama had been misfiled and was being sold at a middle school bookfair on the kid's table, and some people were yelling censorship when parents kicked up a fuss. I am with the parents on this one. gods was sold at MANY bookfairs, but they were high school bookfairs, and in most cases, even in high school, the book was on the "for parents" table. I don't think gods is appropriate for middle school kids. It's rated an emphatic R, and if you wouldn't let your kid see a rated R movie, then they are not ready for my first book. Period. I say this as a mother, a reader, a writer AND as a person who would REALLY like to sell a lot of copies of gods when it comes out in paperback in June...I just don't want to sell them to your curious, bright-eyed, essentially innocent creature with more brain-smarts and reading ability than sense about what she's ready to process.

Once again. just to be clear---I think like a book like Tanya Lee Stone's is important. Every generation of girls has a book like this---and they NEED it. It's a milestone. I am grateful to Judy Blume, she answered a LOT of questions for me and my friends that we were not ready to answer via the hands-on type of research. *cough* But at the same time, I think it's important that parents not be afraid of the word censorship to the point that they stop being PARENTS and abdicate the job of making choices FOR their kids when their kids don't have the maturity to make the right ones themselves. In fact, with the possible exception of HOGG, I can't think of a book I would take away from my son or daughter and say "NEVER READ THIS IT WILL HURT YOUR BRAIN." But I can think of a lot I would gently peel from their fingers and say, "You know what? Next year." That's my job.

One day I will tell you a couple of the bizarre things I ended up believing because I read ROOTS too early, but right now my feet are hurting from standing on this soapbox for so long...

Posted by joshilyn at March 31, 2006 8:17 AM
Comments

Thanks Joshilyn. I'd like to clarify something. I was referring to kids 14 and up deciding for themselves whether they are ready or not to read my book. It is marked 14 and up right on the book, is categorized as upper YA, and I would not recommend it for kids younger than 14. I would definitely not give it to a 6th or 7th grader simply because they are advanced readers as they are likely not ready for the content. It was in the context of the book being meant for high-school age readers that I was answering your question. Also, I do not believe that trusting a teen to make reading choices for themselves automatically cuts the parent out. Absolutely, parents should be there to offer opinions and talk with their kids. I was keeping my answers short for the interview, but in the interest of clarity thought I'd speak up as I don't think we're too far off from being on the same page.

Posted by: Tanya Lee Stone at March 31, 2006 8:45 AM

I completely agree with you that parents need to be involved in their childrens reading habits, and not afraid to parent. You can't be a good parent if you're afraid they won't like you. Parents aren't supposed to be friends with their children, until those children are adults and no longer need to be guided and told "no" when they need to hear it.
Personally, I think 14 is too young to read material of a sexual manner. 14 is too immature, no matter how intelligent that 14 year old is. Maybe that 14&up rating should be raised to 16&up?

Posted by: Vixen at March 31, 2006 10:05 AM

Fourteen is not too young to be thinking about sex and to be wildly curious abotu sex and to be talking about sex with friends and to know people who are actually HAVING sex. I had several friends lose their virginity at 14 and that was back in the relatively innocent 80's...poor little things. They weren't physically or mentally or emtionally able to even understand what they were doing...

Now me, I read books about sex including FOREVER and Mr. and Mrs. BoJo Jones etc etc, and yes, at 14 or 15 I read Lady Chatterly's Lover with all the FLANKS and everything. I was innocent, but it was an informed innocence... and I had a good basis to decide to NOT sleep with my first serious boyfriend when I started dating at 16.

I think 14 is way to young to be HAVING sex, for the love of God. I would never let a 14 year old go out on a DATE, even, but by 14, the estrogen is running, boys suddenly start to smell good, and it's a hard thing to sort out. Books are a safe place to to ask and get answers. Dates aren't.

I really think a girl needs to have her ideas about sex forming and some decisions made before she starts dating, or those decisions will be be made for her, or she'll panic and make bad decisions, or not decide at all and take the path of least resistance, all of which are not good places to be at 15 or 16.

Posted by: Joshilyn at March 31, 2006 10:16 AM

I should add that I also had PARENTS who talked to me about sex, and told me I flat had no business having any, and who weren't scared to answer my questions.

Last year I gave my son a book with the low down on how people make babies, and it KILLED ME, KILLED ME, I was PURPLE with KILLEDNESS that's how embarrassing it was to talk with him about it, but it's vital, and I did it, and I hope it's a dialog that will stay open with me and his dad (though more PLEASE GOD with his dad than me as he matures---I'll get mine when Maisy is older).

Posted by: joshilyn at March 31, 2006 10:21 AM

Great post, Joshilyn. I read Forever at about the same age you did, and I think it was the right age. My mom didn't want me to read it, but at least she did have a pretty open attitude about talking about sex with me and my sisters. FWIW, I think the same thing applies to movies. I hate being in the theater with kids who are seeing movies they're clearly not ready for. Back when Jurassic Park first opened, my sister and I were sitting next to a little kid who was TERRIFIED, and his father didn't take him out of the theater. I can't imagine why you would take a child that age to a PG-13 movie without seeing it, yourself, first.

Posted by: Aimee at March 31, 2006 10:36 AM

Very nice interview!

Btw, I adore that li'l graphic on your banner!

Posted by: Faith Bicknell-Brown at March 31, 2006 10:36 AM

This is such a great post. I think that people (parents included) are sometimes so afraid of being too extreme in one direction (say: censorship) that they pendulum swing ALLLL the way to the other side (say: letting their children read, watch, listen to whatever the heck finds them). People forget there can be, must be, a balance. I think we all know this. We know when it feels like our children are treading a little far from our reach and influence but we talk ourselves out of it concerned that it is we who are being overprotective or ultra conservative or just not cool enough.

I really loved the way you discussed it. Again, great post!

Posted by: Em at March 31, 2006 11:10 AM

Can I just say this...

I was a very early reader. I was reading Stephen King novels by the time I was a fifth grader. Not appropriate material if you ask me. Swear words! Nakedness! Death and Malice! One particular book of short stories scared the crap right out of me and I didn't read another SK book for a loooong time.

I remember reading Watership Down when I was in fifth grade and being totally disturbed by parts where rabbits actually died.

Then I found Sweet Valley High books and Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew and spent my summer competing with my cousing to see who could finish the books first (she always won). Thank goodness I found something a bit more my age...

Posted by: Heather Cook at March 31, 2006 11:43 AM

I was also a terribly early reader, and ended up reading all sorts of things too early (for example, it ruined J.R.R. Tolkien for me, because I wasn't ready for that level of complexity and description). I never read anything that ruined *me* though, despite stumbling on some fairly descriptive sex scenes in a book I got at the fourth grade book fair .

I also read a lot more of my mom's novels than I should have, but missed the innuendo, and skipped the sex scenes. I was self-censoring, and my folks never got involved. Like everything in life and parenting, I am sure it depends on the kid.

I don't know what I will do as a parent - probably a lot of parallel reading as you suggest.

Posted by: redzils at March 31, 2006 12:12 PM

I think parents also need to know their kids and what kind of "no" they'll respond to. My mother FORBID us to read 'Jaws' and it resulted in my sister Aimee (of the earlier response) and I sneaking it out to the garage and reading it by flashlight. Also, 'The Godfather'. And kids who are really advanced readers tend to have fabulous imaginations. For example, reading such books could cause a child to be afraid to use the toilet for fear a preternaturally large uber-shark might come up through the bowl and bite her butt off. Or, say, cause an exagerrated fear of Mafia hitmen. In a preteen Irish girl. In Weymouth. Massachusetts.

I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: Laura at March 31, 2006 12:21 PM

This issue strikes a nerve with me. I have a YA book under contract right now, although I didn't realize it was for a YA audience until the publisher who accepted my manuscript suggested we market it that way. It's rough. I wrote a story that I wholeheartedly believed in, mostly imagining 20-year-olds picking it up. Now I'm learning that, if it's in the YA section of bookstores, 14-year-olds might be reading this thing. If I wasn't a mother of an eight-year-old who is DYING to read her mommy's novel, I probably wouldn't give so much thought to how it's marketed. But I am what I am. And the novel is what it is. I have tried to remain faithful to my characters and the story (which has violence and language flags all over it), while keeping this newly-realized audience in mind. It's still being revised, so keep your fingers crossed for me that I do a good job.

Posted by: Cathy at March 31, 2006 12:22 PM

Let me start this post off by saying I had sex very early, and all for the wrong reasons. I was raped at 13, and my parents made some very bad choices in dealing with it. It only got worse when I was raped at 16. I was a very early reader, a very early everything and I survived being me. I had to learn for myself, books helped a lot,it's not that they didn't want to do right, they just weren't equipped to have a daughter like me.

I didn't read Forever (to my knowlegde) I'd never heard of it before. But I did read Lady's Chatterly's Lover, I wasn't impressed. And I did read a lot of other books. What I did learn was that everything is not as it seems and to ask questions. When I became a parent I remembered this and determined I would be an accessible parent, there to answer questions. To ban something only makes a child want it more, a teen want it more, a husband want it more. The answer I thought was being up front and dealing with it together.

My credo for parenthood was and is to be honest as I can possibly be, address things in advance, never stay mad, and to not judge. This is as true in book choice as it is in sex, drugs, and rock n' roll.

And for those of you who think you can't be your child's friend. If you taught them respect first, listened to them, and talked openly friendship and respect will be your best allies when you're a single parent.

Posted by: Cele at March 31, 2006 12:50 PM

Okay, so I was an early reader who read Forever at I think 13 or maybe even 12, intentionally bid adeiu to my virginity at 16, and still don't regret it lo these many MANY years later even though the thought of my daughter who is halfway to 16 NOW doing either of those things fills me with a horrible crampy tummy ache.

But I am not writing to talk about me.

I am also the mother of an almost 10 year old son with Asperger Syndrome. He is VERY high functioning and is reading at a high school level now, in 4th grade. He does not like fiction at all and really STRONGLY prefers encyclopedias and things of that nature, but recently he was assigned a book report, and the book had to be fiction. The teacher was very clear that each kid should choose a book at his/her reading level, and my son chose a book in the Left Behind: The Kids series.

I didn't know about this until he was 3 chapters in. My concern was that the religious themes presented in the book veered SO incredibly far from our religious beliefs as a family (we are lapsed UUs) that he would be totally weirded out by them and by the very idea of Christianity altogether, particularly the flavor represented in the books. So I told him that if he had any questions or concerns about anything in the book, or if anything in the book made him feel "weird and icky" (his terminology), he should tell me.

You should have SEEN the look of relief that washed over his face. His little voice even broke as he told me that YES, many things in this book made him feel weird and icky. So I was all prepared for the religious history/tolerance discussion when he started talking about all the smoking, drinking and drug use in the book. I mean, this book was about the BAD kids who get left behind at the Rapture, and so they were doing BAD things in the book. And my little semi-autistic boy has a very black and white sense of morality. There is no grey for him; things are either GOOD or BAD and BAD things freak him right out.

SO, after clarifying that the religious stuff did not bother him AT ALL, I had to launch into the smoking/drinking/drugs discussion, for which I was not prepared AT ALL, and I probably flubbed it up horribly. And then I suggested that he ask the teacher if he could pick another book, which he did, and she said okay so all is well. I think.

And somewhere up there in that long-winded mess, I am agreeing with you about the parenting/censorship thing. I think.

Posted by: Badger at March 31, 2006 2:00 PM

As a nonparent, I get it. I have siblings, and ahve worked with kids for years. Right now I have friends with children, and I can hardly imagine them reading the stuff I sometimes read when my parents weren't looking. (When I got grounded as a kid, my mom took my books away.)

I agree whole heartidly that each child and parent needs to be taken on thier own, and parents should know what their kids are reading, watching on TV, and doing in general - without being overly nosey or critical because that leads to hiding. (So sorry for the runon there.)

I can not believe gods got put on a kids table. I imagine you were upset...

Posted by: Autumn at March 31, 2006 3:40 PM

I'm just chiming in to say that I did not self-censor AT ALL. I read stuff that made me very, very uncomfortable, but I kept reading. I can still feel that yucky sense of discomfort when I knew I was reading something I was not old enough for. And kept reading anyway.

Posted by: laura at March 31, 2006 6:34 PM

"Personally, I think 14 is too young to read material of a sexual manner. 14 is too immature, no matter how intelligent that 14 year old is. Maybe that 14&up rating should be raised to 16&up?"

I would respectfully suggest that to say a fourteen-year-old -- most of whom are in or about to enter high school -- shouldn't be reading anything of a sexual nature isn't very realistic. Unless that fourteen-year-old has been raised in isolation, she knows about sex and is interested in how it's going to work for her when she gets around to it, assuming she hasn't already experimented, either alone or with someone else.

Keeping in mind that I'm not advocating a return to the days and ways of old, a century ago, fourteen-year-old girls were considered ripe for marriage and child-bearing in many communities. Our discomfort as adults and parents with adolescent sexuality does not automatically make that sexuality, in and of itself, wrong.

Joss, you've got the right idea. Openminded guidance, the willingness to say "not yet, but not never" lovingly, and a determination to avoid disapproval or judgment is the way to go.

Posted by: Selah at March 31, 2006 9:33 PM

We just had a multiple killing up here, and the youngest who was shot was 14. Her curfew was 3:00 a.m. but she got killed at about 7 in the morning. She hadn't been home. The second youngest, same situation different family, was 15. These weren't throw-away kids. They came from good families, and the parents here trusted their children to do the right things. There's no protection from insanity.

I taught high school for ten years. Now I'll grant you, it wasn't your typical high school, since it was on the US/Mexico border. The student population was about 2200, and we had a class on managing daycares, complete with babies. Students' babies as well as teachers' babies. I had a young man come in and for his informative speech, he taught us how to change a baby's diapers, and he brought in his six-month-old daughter. He was great, incidentally. I had a freshman come in, heavily pregnant with her second child. Their parents approve. The generation gap there averages about 15 years, which means you can be a grandmother by 30, great grandmother by 45. It was typical, not exceptional.

My points here are that in an ideal world, kids should be exposed to sexual themes when they're ready. But regardless of what we want or how carefully we monitor things, unless we keep our kids in their rooms, cut off from the outside world - which might be attractive on the surface but really isn't - they're going to be exposed to things they're not ready for, things we're certainly not ready for! You might be appalled at what's really going on in your child's school, the level of awareness each child has, and that's in some of the best schools, not just the border ones.

Shelter them if you can, but don't be surprised if the questions you get are more detailed and go off in darker or more frightening directions than you anticipated, provided they'll speak candidly with you. I don't mean to be a doomsday sort of person here, but I've seen the side of schools that parents don't get to see, been on the buses with the kids when they think I'm just an old lady who's not listening. Even the most innocent kid out there has a savvy or pseudo-savvy friend or acquaintance who can find stuff on the internet. If this book is informative and candid, it may be all the information some kids will get, especially if they can't talk about sexual stuff with their parents.

Posted by: Fran at March 31, 2006 11:27 PM

Frankly, I don't think that because the book in question is one where "none of the characters gets punished for being sexually aware human beings" makes it a SAFER book for young teens. Speaking as a person who suffered myriad consequences for having sex before it was appropriate (and no, I'm not going to detail WHICH consequences) I have to say that a book that doesn't address these issues is doing teenagers no favors. Teenagers always think that it can't happen to them...and it can SO happen to them! A book that furthers the idea that anyone is immune to the painful, sometimes lifelong consequences of too-early sex is just not one I can get behind. Thank God my kids are way too young for this yet.

Posted by: Amy-GO at April 1, 2006 9:03 AM

Oh, boy. I have a lot to say about this. I am much more ambivalent on this subject than I used to be. I read everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) as a kid, and some of it disturbed me, but I don't regret any of it. (Except reading Story of O when I was 13. That was freaky.) I would have been furious if someone had vetted my reading, and would've found a way to read the books anyway. The only book my mom ever gently peeled away from me (she didn't know about Story of O) was Sybil, when I was 10 or 11, and of course I had to know what was so terrible about that book that it was the only one she forbade, and I skimmed through it and read all the creepiest parts and decided that maybe she was right. Of course there was nothing she could have done to make me *more* determined to read it, but I felt comforted that she'd made a protective judgment call.

So I came to adulthood and librarianship very much feeling that kids will read what they're ready for, and put down or blip over what they're not (Except for The Story of O), and that "age-appropriateness"--while I had to respect it professionally--was really code for "overprotectiveness/censorship/not wanting kids to have any information on anything that threatens their parents."

After eight years as a school librarian, and now as the parent of a nearly-literate kid who has been trying to be OLDER since she was a baby, I'm coming around a bit, though I think my inclinations are still way less literarily protective than those of most of your commenters. Every kid *is* different, and that means that anyone doing mass recommendations (librarians, booksellers, book publishers) needs to be cautious about what's good for what age.

It still irks me when well-meaning adults take a book out of a kid's hand and say (as I heard one teacher tell a smart, thoughtful 3rd-grader about "Because of Winn-Dixie") "That's a fourth-grade book." I plan to let my girl read whatever she wants to, but to make recommendations, incuding recommending that she wait with some books. I don't think reading about sex early made me want to have sex early (if anything, it made me more self-conscious about it, but there might not have been much to do about that); I think more information is better than less. But yeah, there are kids who will be disturbed by sex (and violence! just as disturbing or more so!) in books. And even if they sneak a look at those books (as I did) it will make them feel protected and parented to know that someone's looking out for them, that they're not all alone in the big world of text.

Also--even more important to me as someone who LOVES kids' books, I get concerned that when kids want to read "up" very early, they miss some of the terrific kids' books that they won't have the chance to read later, and that they won't enjoy the YA or adult stuff as much when they hit it early, and won't go back to it later because they read it already.

But enough about me and my rants; what bizarre ideas did you get from ROOTS? Middle-age wants to know...

Posted by: elswhere at April 1, 2006 1:49 PM

Ya know, Mom let me choose my own reading material. Heh. Probably wasn't her best move. In 6th grade, I discovered the cheap romances and read them BECAUSE they were cheap. They were basically soft porn. I spent middle school with a skewed idea of what love and sex were like. LOL! In 8th grade, I was addicted to VC Andrews. I think she is part of why I was such a drama queen.

Posted by: Heather at April 2, 2006 3:21 PM

I found "Go Ask Alice" when I was 10!
I haven't decided if this was good or bad. I came away not EVER wanting to do drugs! (and didn't) But, like your "ROOTS" experience, came away with some really different ideas about some of the situations in the book. My 10 year old self wasn't aware existed in this universe. And shouldn't have known. I'm not sure at 40 I want to know they exist.
Of course, I would read the back of the asprin bottle if it meant having something to read.
Which brings me to having found my grandmother's "True STory" magazines! NOW, that is not for 10 year olds. I'm pretty sure this is what whorped my brain! But that's a different story.
If you have an asprin bottle reader, watch them very carefully. They really will read whatever they come across. (I did not have this problem with my girls, as the joy of reading TRUELY skips a generation. I would offer them money to read, at which they turned turned up their noses)Yet another story.

Posted by: Desi at April 2, 2006 7:30 PM

Oh, man, VC Andrews! "Forever" is, like, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, compared to "Flowers in the Attic." That is one twisted book.

But...EVERYONE read it. Even the intellectuals who pretended we were too cool for it.

Posted by: elswhere at April 2, 2006 11:23 PM