Tag Archives: Censorship

Don’t Panic!: 5 Tips for Parents about Young Adult Fiction

catching fire
credit: Carissa Rogers

On Monday, the TODAY show drew attention to the wildly popular Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, posing the question: Should parents let their children feed on The Hunger Games?  “-or any of the dark, disturbing young adult fiction now crowding bookshelves?”.

The article above goes on to discuss how “content is more frightening and gory than ever” how impressionable youth are, and even speculation that Collins must “have issues” to write such a violent, dystopian trilogy.  What should parents do about their children reading such things?

This is certainly not the first time YA fiction has come under fire from concerned parents (or school boards, child health practitioners, religious groups, literary critics, or book sellers), but concern isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Censoring, or limiting access to books based on subjective opinions?   That may be going too far.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with parent or guardian being concerned about what their child reads (or watches, plays, listens to, ingests, etc.) Since we all want children and teenagers to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, the question isn’t should we be concerned, the question is:

What does a parent do with that concern?

Before we talk about mandating a  rating system for young adult fiction books or discrediting authors by reducing their creativity to a deranged mental state, let’s talk about a few helpful first steps:

1.  Remember your high school reading list.

If you believe that young adult content is getting darker or more gruesome, take a moment to consider the required reading from your school days:  To Kill a Mockingbird Lord of the fliesCatcher in the Rye.  Beloved. Any thing by Shakespeare. Racism, sex, loss of innocence, drinking, murder, savagery and colourful language. Lots of colourful language.  This isn’t meant to equate the literature of Toni Morrison to today’s dystopian teen reading, but it is to say that serious or dark content is not new to the eyes of young adult readers.

2.  Read it (or at least read about it).

If you’re concerned about a specific young adult novel, the best way to understand exactly what its about, is to simply to read the book yourself. If you lack the time to do so, try Google.  You’ll be sure to find a few reviews to give you the gist of the story, and a better grasp on its content.

3.  Accept the young adult realities.

Teens and preteens are confronted with larger issues than a high school dance or failing a math test, more often than we would like to believe.  Sex, drug use, prejudice, bullying, violence, eating disorders, depression, poverty and crime are just a few of the scary subjects that they are already familiar with.  Not every teen or preteen directly experiences these issues, but sheltering them from other perspectives is not the answer… which leads us to the next point:

4.  Talk about what they read.  

This is one of the suggestions the TODAY Show got right. Engage with your kids about their book selection.  What they like about the novels they choose, their themes, the characters, etc.  If you didn’t like something in the story (provided you read it) tell them, and ask about their opinion on it! Make yourself available to discuss the good, bad, and the ugly about the book with them. Critically thinking about the novels they have read will lead to critical selection of their book choices in the future.

5.  Give kids a little credit.  

Don’t worry about the content of young adult fiction being too difficult for adolescents to understand.  It’s Harry Potter, not Finnegan’s Wake.  Most youth are perfectly able to process the difference between reality and fiction while acknowledging the elements that connect them.  While they understand that the settings of stories like The Hunger Games, Divergent or Ender’s Game are fictional, they can connect on a very real level with the themes of the books, or the emotions of the characters. Fear.  Loneliness.  Confusion.  Hope.  Perseverance.  Resourcefulness.  YA fiction is a great way to identify with these messages and ideas.  Extend to them that opportunity.

Sadly, not all young adult fiction will be well-written, thought provoking or helpful.  Not all books will instill virtues in their readers, or align with your sensibilities, but the solution isn’t restriction or censorship.  It’s asking questions.

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Butterbeer, Jeter’s Book Love and the Triumph of Google Books

Google Books Takes the Win.

More than eight years of litigation and a decision has finally been made:  Judge Chin has ruled in favour of Google Books and the Library book scanning project, to the dismay of the Authors Guild.  Chin dismissed the Guild’s lawsuit, believing not only that the scanning project “enhances the sales of books to the benefit of copyright holders” but further asserting that Google Books “advances the progress of the arts and sciences”.  The American Library Association is celebrating along side Google, praising the advancement to research and learning.

JK Rowling: No Plans to Top Harry Potter

This week, JK Rowling admitted in an interview that her Harry Potter series was the pinnacle of her success.  Although she will continue to write out of a love for writing, she shared that she had no interest in trying to prove herself as a novelist to anyone.    The Telegraph went on to discuss how the liberating the financial success of her magical series has been, allowing her to pursue other passions such as her children’s charity, Lumos.

Starbucks and Their Not So Secret Butterbeer

In other Harry Potter news, excitement broke out earlier this week at the mention of an unofficial “butterbeer” drink available at Starbucks.  Based off of a beverage enjoyed by Harry and his friends in the series, the novelty frappuccino has been met with enthusiasm, as well as disappointment at its potent sweetness.  Perhaps it’s something just not meant for us muggles.

NSA Making Writer’s Wary

A survey published by PEN America has indicated that writers are more worried than ever before about their privacy rights and freedom of the press, and have actively started to self-censor themselves.  While it isn’t suprising to hear that 85% of writers are concerned about the levels of government surveillance, more startling findings have taken root: of the PEN members surveyed, “24% have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it”.

Derek Jeter to Start Publishing Imprint

It’s a whole new ballpark for the NY Yankee’s shortstop, Derek Jeter: he wants to get into the publishing business.  Partnering with Simon & Schuster, Jeter Publishing is set to start releasing books in 2014, focusing on children’s books, middle-grade fiction and non fiction for adults.

What’s your favourite publishing story of the week?  Let us know by tweeting us @sumbolacosi.


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A BN Baby, A Microwave Cookbook, and an Appeal to Boycotters

Bookish Baby News

Early this week, a pregnant book shopper in a Los Angeles’ Barnes and Noble gave birth amidst the bookshelves.  According to USA Today, fire fighters arrived on scene and helped to deliver a healthy baby boy, after establishing that time had run out to make it to the hospital.

Apple Not Loving the Numbers

The potential damages of Apple’s price fixing scandal could cost the company more than originally anticipated, Publisher’s Weekly, reports.  Apple attorneys are lamenting that the $307m damages estimate made by Stanford economist Roger Noll, upset that it is more than 40% higher  than the original $218.9m estimate the plaintiffs stated in July.

Iran Plans to Ease Censorship 

Thursday morning, The Guardian shared news that Iran could be expanding the list of titles available under the new president, Hassan Rouhani.  Books that were previously banned by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from being stocked or published will be reevaluated, and new decisions will be made.

Ja Rule Wants to Write A  Microwave Cookbook

The hit rap artist, Ja Rule has expressed his interest in turning his microwave cooking skills (as learned during his recent jail experience) into a cookbook, for everyone to enjoy.  The National Post goes on to share how he would join the ranks of other rap artists with a love for the culinary world, Coolio and 2Chainz who have already released their own cookbooks.

The Ender’s Game:  To Boycott or to Embrace?

Earlier this summer when news broke of Ender’s Game author’s anti-gay stance, activist group Geeks Out called for boycotting the book based movie being released next Friday.  While Orson Scott Card’s homophobic history and his article comparing Obama to Hitler have deterred some potential movie-goers, there are some voices asking for the boycott to be called off, including attorney, writer and HuffPost columnist, Emma Ruby-Sachs, and the award-winning writer/LGBT campaigner Dustin Lance Black  (of Milk).

Did we miss your favourite publishing news story?  Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @sumbolacosi.