Real Details For Real Readers

Welcome to the I Live For Young Adult Literature blog and my first post. Because I am a librarian and a writer, I read a lot of books, in just about every genre you can think of: realistic, dystopian, sci fi, graphic novels, silly, stupid, and just plain boring. By far my most favorite genre, though, is Fantasy. I love losing myself in another world, especially if there’s magic involved, and if there is a love story, well that’s okay, too.  (Of course I’m the one who’s been arguing with young people since it came out that Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games Trilogy is not about who Katniss will pick, Peeta or Gale, (what do I know) but a cautionary tale about the horrors of totalitarian government, the dangers of messing with nature, and the slippery line we all walk between kindness and cruelty —more on that in another post.)

My purpose, then, in starting this blog, is not to add my opinion to the thousands out there that discuss YA literature (although you will find that, too.) My purpose is to give readers actual data about a book. I will rate what I’ve read on the facts so that parents, teachers, readers and librarians will know just what they or the children who are entrusted to their care are getting into when they read a book.

I have tried to use neutral language in devising my rating system. I do not intend to be a censor or an enabler. I do not intend to offer advice or warnings, nor to dismiss adult concern for what children read. What you do with the data is your business. My intent is to be clear, concise and reliable. Let’s face it, there are a lot of really great books out there. And there are a lot of books that are worth reading even if the content might not be right for a particular child. My hope is that with a little bit of information readers can make informed decisions about what to read or to suggest to the young people they know and love.

I have been talking to children and their parents and teachers about what to read long enough to know that just because a kid can read a book, does’t always mean that they are ready to read it. When a fourth grader who is reading Twilight doesn’t actually realize that Edward is a vampire, you know the book is over the child’s head.

I hope to help you avoid confusion, discomfort, and to maybe inform you about the kind of issues a book might bring up (sex, drugs, and rock and roll) so you are ready for the discussion.

The other thing to keep in mind is that I can’t read everything. If you have a suggestion for a book that I haven’t read, but you’re dying for info about, leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to either read the book or get more information for you on it. That’s the best I can do, since I do have a full time job, a family, and my own writing to do. Oh, and did I mention that I also am finishing up a doctoral degree on, you guessed it, YA literature.

With that said, here’s what I’ve come up with as far as how my rating will work. I rate books on a scale of one to three on all of the big categories of concern to most readers: Violence (V), Sex (S) , substance/alcohol abuse/troubling behavior or difficult issues (?) and the maturity level of the material (Grade). The greater the number of the V’s or S’s or ?s, the greater the amount of material that falls into those categories you’ll find in the book.

So for example, one V means there is moderate violence, three S’s means there are passages with body parts mentioned or specific actions described explicitly. And a question mark or two will tell you that some of the behavior the characters engage in may bring up some questions for you to discuss with your students or children. Occasionally I might have to invent a category.

I am not here to judge. My goal is give you a scale to inform you about what to expect. Remember, there’s no harm in suggesting that a child wait a year or two to read something. Sometimes they just need some time to grow up a little. The beauty and pleasure of a good book is that it will still be around when the child is ready.

So with those ideas firmly in mind, I’ll just get on with it, then.

Oh, one more thing. You certainly can and should comment if you disagree with me. Comment if you agree, too, of course, it’s a (relatively) free country after all. All I ask is that if you do leave a comment, you keep it specific, clean, and announce any spoilers before hand. That way this little rivulet in an eddy of the vast ocean of information about books for young people out there can remain a relatively safe and focused place for those of us who just want to know what we’re getting into when we open a book. I promise to tell you the truth, if you’ll promise to remember that these ratings are not rocket science and reasonable people will disagree.

It’s just a place to have a conversation, folks.

Ok? Great.