Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
The case for raunchy teen lit
Salon - Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 16:40 ET
A study warns parents about sex in YA novels, but these books can educate -- and spark a passion for reading
I started out with classics like Nancy Drew and "The Boxcar Children," but at some point in my fledgling reading career I became less interested in fictional young detectives than in solving some mysteries for myself -- namely about sex and romance. Raunchy young adult novels were just the thing to satisfy my curiosity, cement my passion for books and, of course, titillate with descriptions of, oh my God, open-mouthed tongue kissing.
Not everyone shares my gratitude toward the sexy subset of the genre, though. A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research warned that more than half of popular YA titles include some sexual content, defined as everything from kissing to intercourse. Researchers also noted that 94 percent of sex scenes involved "non-married partners, and over a third of those were non-committal." It's worth noting that the study was conducted by Brigham Young University, which is, ahem, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The dubious source aside, this is far from the first time concern has been raised over the prevalence of sex in teen reads, which is unfortunate.
Today I would hardly defend the particular visions of sexuality in the books I devoured as an adolescent. Christopher Pike, for instance, liked killing off characters shortly after they lost their virginity. But I was oblivious to the moralistic and outdated messages hidden in some of these stories. By the time I cracked open these edgy books I had already developed my ideas about what it meant to be a boy or girl and what to expect from relationships. I just wanted to know more about what it was like to go on a date, kiss a boy or even to have sex, which seemed then like a scary and mysterious thing (and, who am I kidding, it still does). Rest at Salon.