Throughout May, the authors here at YA Outside the Liens are offering you advice.
Like all advice, use what feels right to you, ignore the rest. I can take it!
As an author myself, I am completely against banning books. I was invited to speak to a private school's entire student body about my novel, SOME BOYS, only to be contacted hours before the event, after I'd arranged time off from my day job, and told NOT to come because the organizers only then realized I use profanity in my novels.
Every year, books are banned from schools, from reading lists because some folks freak out about the content.
I think this is the wrong approach.
First, when you ban a book, you virtually ASSURE teens will read it. Trust me on this. You've just made it forbidden fruit.
Second, when you ban a book, you're missing a golden opportunity to connect with your teen about issues, situations, and events they're likely facing every time they leave your home. Profanity? They're hearing it daily. Sex? They are wrestling with decisions surrounding sex -- body image, attractions to classmates, angst wondering if their feelings are reciprocated, etc. They may have friends or acquaintances dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, sexual assault, coming out, bullying, and so on.
Just because you forbid something does not mean it does not exist. Stories about such situations can arm your teens with tools for managing them in real life. Banning the books does not remove those threats; it merely disarms your teens.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was banned in some school districts when it is one of the most effective instruments in existence for bridging racial divides.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is routinely banned for sexual content when it's a story about surviving sexual assault, something 1 in 9 girls under age 18 will experience.
Harry Potter by JK Rowling is often banned because people believe it encourages satanic workship when just the opposite is true. Harry is a messianic figure who sacrifices himself (repeatedly, I'll add) and manages to resist temptations, ultimately emerging from his trials with his soul intact.
Parents, your teens are statistically not likely to share all that's going on with them. During this period of life, biological processes like puberty and nervous system maturation produce emotions that are often jacked up to 11. This is why we have teens who make dumb choices, who act out, who melt down, and who rebel. It makes no sense to ban or forbid them from seeking help from the safe world of novels.
When my sons were born, bedtime began with stories. We read all manner of stories together over the years. My youngest son and I still read books together. We've shared all of the Harry Potters, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and 13 Reasons Why. We discuss themes in novels.
I used to think this was a way to spend time together. But I quickly realized I was learning as much from him as I was learning about him.
Don't believe me? Check out our review of 13 Reasons Why. My son is grown up now.
We still read books together.
Don't miss the opportunity to share ideas and bond with your children because a novel contains some bad things. Use fictional situations in books to arm your children with tools they may need out there in the real world. Books are safe places. Read them together. Discuss what you like, what you don't like, what you found horrifying and why.
Your children will surprise you, as mine did.