I recently read a post by Natalie Wright offering some tips for writing and marketing YA. In the post, she mentions how she changed the explicit language in her YA novel because the parents of her readers didn’t approve.
The push back came from adults. Parents protested that a single use of the “F” word (at a point where the MC was hit with a cane and she said “What the f***?”) was inappropriate. And librarians said they couldn’t shelve it in the YA section because parents would complain.
To solve the problem, she asked her readers to help her replace the swears with less colorful language and released another edition. Since her target audience was eleven to fourteen years old, I can totally understand why some parents and other adults would have a problem with the F bomb. The thing is, as a teen, I liked my books to be realistic, and teens swear. While I think we writers have somewhat of a role model responsibility to our readers, I don’t believe in babying readers with less abrasive language.
There’s been a lot of debate lately on rating YA. I find the idea kind of weird, considering YA means “young adult,” which consists of high school age people. You would never find a swear in middle grade or early reader fiction, for example. I think of YA as a step below adult age fiction. You’re going to have to concede that some subject matter is going to be controversial; there’s a lot about being a teen that walks the line of childhood and adulthood, and at that age, you’re exposed to a lot, no matter how much your parents have tried to prepare or protect you.
I think it should be up to parents to decide how much is too much in a YA novel their teen wants to read. Authors should know their market and decide based on that how far their book should go—if you write for eleven-year-olds, you should probably watch your mouth. I also think that teens should be given some freedom to choose what they want to read. I’m lucky that my parents didn’t stand over me at the book store. I got to read Stephen King (and he has quite a potty mouth).
Do you think YA should come with a warning?