If Only The Real World Had Such Lines by Sydney Salter

I regret a mention of beer drinking on page two of my novel Swoon At Your Own Risk. Despite messages of responsibility throughout the book, conservative watchdogs labeled it with a warning on various blogs. I'd leave out the drinking reference, which wasn't integral to either plot or character, knowing that too many people try to protect teenagers from unsavory words and behaviors.

Personally, I raised my daughters to read about all sorts of tough issues in the hopes that they could learn without doing. I knew that CRANK by Ellen Hopkins would give them an honest look at addiction. I consistently presented them with books about drugs, sex and gender identity, abuse... Read, so you can learn!

I hate the line in YA. Real life does not have lines.

Real teens get pregnant because they can't talk to their parents about sex or birth control. My oldest daughter shocked her college classmates in New England with the number of teen moms from her high school in Utah (dozens!). Real teens commit suicide because they can't see how to live life as a gay person. Our suicide rate in Utah is way too high because our religious community is way too intolerant.

So much of what I've witnessed among my daughters' classmates and friends would be nearly unbelievable in fiction. I am utterly relieved to have gotten my girls through their teens years.

I hate the line because it leaves too many teens without the information they need to negotiate a complicated world, largely lived online and unknown by the adults in their lives who are always several steps behind even when they try to be vigilant.

After raising two children in a conservative community I feel so strongly that YA writing reflect the reality of being a teenager in the world. Real life is hard and ugly and filled with tough choices. Wanting our children to be protected doesn't protect them. Knowledge is the only thing that can help them make informed choices. Novels that "cross the line" show readers all kinds of possibilities and consequences from all sorts of different behaviors and life choices.

It's too bad that far too many well-meaning adults get up in arms about things like a reference to beer drinking on page two - and miss the main point.


  1. This is such an important post, Sydney. Thanks for this.

  2. Excellent post. Silence, secrecy and rigidity are no friends to teen growing years.


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