Wednesday, July 6, 2011

YA ruined my life ... except that it didn't. And doesn't. And won't.

Remember how I said I'd be gone for a few days while I worked on my shiny new project? Yeah, I lied... I have something to say.

When I was in the 7th grade (which would make me what, 12, maybe 13?) I checked a book out from the YA section of my local public library. It was about a teenage girl who was sent to live with her dad in Las Vegas. He may have owned or worked in a casino, I don't really remember. I remember the cover had a girl in a convertible on it, and Las Vegas seemed way more exciting than my hometown of Maryville, TN. That's entirely why I picked it. I have NO IDEA what the book was called or who wrote it. What I DO remember is the scene where the main character goes on a date with a boy, they drive out to the desert, and she gives him a blowjob.


I read the passage maybe six or seven times, then took it to school and showed my friends while sitting in Mrs. Lawson's pre-algebra class.  I remember thinking, "If my mom knew I was reading this, she might take it away!" so I kept the book carefully hidden while I finished it. Then I returned it to my local library.

Not a very exciting story, right?

Despite me reading the passage several times, sharing it with my friends, *knowing* it was illicit and still being somewhat excited about it ...that form of sexual activity (or most others, for that matter) did not enter my world for many many (do you hear that mom? MANY) moons to come.

I also read Go Ask Alice when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. This was one I was afraid to check out from the library, so I read it in chunks every time we visited the B Dalton at Foothills Mall. Seriously, I read the whole thing over the course of a few weeks that way. Guess who didn't have a drink until she graduated from high school? I also didn't start hookin' for drug money, let the record show. I blame Sweet Valley High, which scared the bejeesus out of me with that one book about the girl who parties ONE TIME and her heart explodes and she dies ... or something like that.

There was an article published awhile ago where the author noted the quaintness of parents wanting to ban books, as if kids are turning to LITERATURE for depravity. Kids who read dark books aren't reading them because the books are dark or the kids are damaged or are hoping to be damaged. They're reading the books because THEY. LIKE. TO. READ. And the books are good. Kids know what good books are (Twilight notwithstanding), and they'll grab for them every time. The subject matter ultimately doesn't matter. If a kid is clamoring for darkness and depravity, they need look no further than the Internet. It's free and faster and you don't have to worry about wading through all that pesky character development before getting right to the BJs.  I just hope my kid is cultured and intellectual enough to look for sex in books.

And finally, if anyone out there is still trying to sing the song about dark/edgy/evil/depraved YA books being the only ones out there, think about this: You think black covers are the only covers because you've been effectively marketed to. That's like saying the Olive Garden is the only Italian restaurant out there, and you people need to keep your mitts off my library. Look for yourselves, folks. A simple Google search will give you a plethora of delightfully happy or nostalgic or light (and still totally well-written) YA and MG fare.

Oh, and does anyone know what that Vegas book was called?

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