Nastygrams From Upset Parents #yalit #youngadult #teensexuality

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Nastygrams From Upset Parents

    After my book review of Num8ers by Rachel Ward I received a nastygram. I’ve been sitting on it for a while, wondering just what I should do with it. The person didn’t leave their name and their reply email looks suspicious, but obviously they feel very strongly about sexual activity in young adult books. After finishing Th3 Cha0s, which deals with another aspect of sexuality – incest- I decided it should get its own post.

Here is the comment:

As a parent whose 15 year old daughter picked up this book from the public library in the youth section, I would like to point out that it contains a lot of material which is grossly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18. Among other things, it includes an explicit sex scene involving a pair of underage teens. If this were a movie, it would definitely get an R rating if and only if the sex scene were removed. With that scene left in, someone would be serving jail time since such depictions are illegal in cinema. Rachel Ward may or may not be a pedophile, but her work is garbage.

     For those of you that didn’t read my book review I put this at the bottom:

Please note: Parents please note there is a sex scene in this book. Rachel writes it with taste and portrays the awkwardness and excitement of the moment.

     In all honesty I thought the scene was well and tastefully written. There was not a lot of graphic detail. It was simple, awkward and sweet. I would have no problem with my high school age teen reading this scene. But, I’m of the philosophy that acting like teen sexuality doesn’t exist is just asking for more problems. 

    There are a few things that confuse and concern me about this comment.

  • First, the comment that anything sexual, getting in trouble in school and running from the law is inappropriate for anyone under 18 to read. My response- Does this person live in reality? Teens are bombarded with sexuality and authority 24/7. Putting these things outside your comfort bubble does not make them disappear.
  • Second, is that this scene would get an R rating. My response– First I’m not sure what country this person lives in as they decided to leave an anonymous comment, but here in the US it would most likely get a PG-13 rating. But truthfully Vampire Diaries shows more sexuality and bad behavior than this scene/book does and that is on regular Prime Time TV.
  • Third, is that somehow this person is equating a Young Adult writer depicting two teens who truly love each other as ‘maybe’ a pedophile. My response – This scene involves two teens having intercourse, not an adult having intercourse with a teen. A Young Adult writer writes books geared for teens to read, not adults that have inappropriate sexual desires. In NO way are the two related.

So, now that I’ve vented I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.



10 Comments Add yours

  1. adampb says:

    People separate visual story telling from written story telling and therefore create artificial boundaries on what is acceptable and what is not.
    The bombardment of sexuality on television does not seem to worry some parents, yet on the page, it is somehow transgressing the “sacredness” of reading.
    As a teacher of high school students, the depravity of Shakespeare is as bawdy, or more so, as what you hear on the playground, yet its canonical status exempts it from criticism.
    There needs to be open and frank discussion by parents about sexuality on the page and on the screen.
    There’s a whole essay wanting to be written.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      I agree Adam. The classics, such as Shakespeare, Tennesse Williams, and so many more deal with controversial subjects, sex is often one of those subjects. I think you may be on to something here that reading it is different than seeing it. In Tony’s comment he mentioned that one of his readers stopped reading at a non sexual nude scene. It got me thinking what this person watches and reads. Maybe it was reading it and using their own imagination made it more real somehow, or more uncomfortable. You’ve brought something up that definately needs more investigating.

  2. clarbojahn says:

    Sounds like you covered the bases with your comment about the sex on the bottom of the review. If anyone’s out of line it’s your nastygram person.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      The person was way to emotional when they wrote that comment. Always best to let thoughts brew so you can properly word together what’s stewing.

  3. I found it more interesting that she (why do I assume your correspondent is female? I guess I also stereotype inappropriately!) addressed the comment to you. It sounded as if daughter picked the book at random in the library, not based on the review. The hazards of making assumptions with too little information.

    As a writer. I too have the problem of how to be discreet while describing the sexual nature of those under eighteen. I failed at that for one of my reviewers; he stopped reading at a scene with underage nudity, not even in a sexual context. But most others got by that and went on to point out more significant problems for me to correct.

    I found it interesting and revealing that in my twitter time line, the tweet three above yours was from the Huffington Post: “Sexual harassment in middle schools and high schools has become an epidemic.” So, playing at being an ostrich doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect – if we assume that abstinence or even respect for others is the desired outcome.
    I believe, as clarbojahn said, you covered your bases. I would hope – without much justification – that the daughter grows up rising above her parent(s).

    Thanks for sharing. Always interesting!

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Tony, I agree I don’t think she picked it up based on my review. But, she (for some reason I think its a woman too – LOL) found her place to vent her frustrations. Which is good, as a writer of young adult myself, I need to be aware of what may be thrown my way. You can’t make everyone happey and as Rachel pointed out her 100 to 1 ratio of teen emails compared to parent emails tells her she is writing subject matter the teen audience wants to read about. Thanks for sharing your bit about the reader who stopped reading because of a non sexual nude scene. You’ve got my inquisative mind going with that. I can’t help but think what this person watches or reads in regular life. Was it an adult? a teen? Very interesting comment about the twitter time line. Yes, being an ostrich doesn’t work. Thanks for commenting!

  4. First and foremost, parents should be the main influence in their kid’s lives. If the parent is involved enough, a single book is not going to greatly impact the kid. That being said, it’s each parent’s responsibility to determine what is appropriate for their kids. My wife and I are on the conservative side, so we err on the side of caution. I do think teens shouldn’t be exposed to anything and everything.

    Not sure where the line is, though. That’s the tough part.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Yes, parents should monitor what their kids read, text, watch etc. I do this with my own kids. My 11 year old step daughter loves the TV show Legend of the Seeker. ‘When the show was cancelled she was dying to read the books to find out what happened next. I was so excited to see her take her become so interested. So I asked around and found out the books were pretty racy. So my husband decided she’d have to wait until she was older. I think for this no-name commenter her big issue was that her daughter picked up the book on her own at the public library. It seems to me that this person assumed that whatever her teen picked up would be “ok” for her to read, but when she found out it was against her values suddenly it was the authors fault, not her own lack of monitoring. The last time I checked libraries are NOT about banning. They’re about spreading the love of the written word. Heck, Shakespeare is considered a classic, but his plots and subject matter can be very controversial and as far as I know are taught in English classes throughout the US and I’m sure most European countries.

  5. Rachel Ward says:

    Hi Lara, First of all I’m sorry that you received this nastygram as really the writer should have taken this up with me or my publisher. However, I’m almost glad you did receive it, because you put together such an eloquent response. I echo everything that you say. I’m not a pedophile – I’m a writer writing for and about teenagers, trying to keep my work relevant and real, and also trying to get some big messages across (actions have consequences, love is what matters, etc.) without preaching. It is difficult getting this stuff right, and I’m very sorry if my work causes anyone offence because that’s not my intention at all. I’ve had a few complaints from parents before but they are far outweighed (at least 100 to 1) by emails from teenage readers who are wrestling with the sorts of issues I write about every day and who relate to my characters and their struggles, and who love the books. Thanks for blogging about this – it’s really important and it’s not something I, or I’m guessing any other writer, takes lightly.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      You’re welcome Rachel, thanks for responding. One of my good friends always tells me when someone is really emotional and makes comments based on those emotions “its about their issues, not yours.” With this no-name commenter it definately points that way. As an adult who has read two of your books and has step-kids I help raise I think your books bring to light issues that many teens are faced with, and if not, should understand. Keep on writing about the big messages!

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