Something I've been thinking about so I thought I'd throw it out there for you guys to noodle on...
We have rating systems for going to the movies, for the video games teens can buy based on the content, and for the music they're listening to. But what about books? Aside from outright pornography, what's stopping a teen from going into a bookstore and picking up literature that is graphic beyond what they're prepared to handle or really comprehend.
I read Flowers in the Attic when I was twelve as well as even more graphic stuff-things I bought at the bookstore because the cover was cool or the back cover teaser caught my attention. My Mom and Dad had NO clue what I was reading.
The label Young Adult itself might be part of the problem. No matter how big they are, or how mouthy, or how much we may be tired of the battle monitoring their behavior involves, the bottom line is this: They're not adults yet. The human brain doesn't finish developing until we reach age 25 and the last part to finish is the prefrontal cortex. You know, the part responsible for rational decision-making?
There are a lot of kids skipping straight from tween to adult behaviorally, but those kids are readers, too, and sometimes what they read can save a life. The books themselves aren't evil. There's a place for us edgy, controversial YA authors, and it IS in the YA section, but should who picks it up, buys it or checks it out of the library be guided, just like we protect teens in other areas of their life?
I'm a YA author and a therapist who works strictly with adolescents, and there are definitely YA books that I would say are inappropriate (and border on unsafe, to be honest). I also tell parents (colleagues and parents of my clients who find out I'm an author) that my published work, Finding Eve, is not appropriate for tweens or young smartypants kids (aka future writers.)
Personally, I think parents need to know what their kids are reading and read it with them and talk to them about it. It creates an opportunity for new dialogues, dialogues the parent may be unsure how to start otherwise, or ones parents may not know their teens needed to have. But if that's too idealistic, should something be in place that helps "warn" teens about the content they're picking up at Bord...er...Barnes and Noble?
What are your thoughts?