Stop & Chat! Drugs, sex and violence in YA

December 14, 2013 Features & Spotlights 12



Stop & Chat is a weekly discussion here at Read. Sleep. Repeat. where I pretty much talk about whatever tickles my fancy.

Today’s Stop & Chat topic was contributed by River of River & Sam! Thank you!!!

Drugs, sex and violence in YA

This topic is such a double-edged swords I can already see that I’m about to piss a lot of people off. Luckily, those of you who I do piss off will live.

Personally I don’t mind mild sex and violence in YA. I don’t. Drugs are another topic all together so I’ll get to that in a minute, but as far as sex and violence goes I firmly believe that there is no YA book dirty enough or bloody enough to “shock” or influence a 15-17 year old. WAIT! Let me speak! I get what a lot of people are saying in terms of these topics being part of YA and being “inappropriate” for YA. Breaking Dawn was rated PG13 and there were 10 year olds in the theater sitting next to me. I get what you’re saying, but I really don’t believe the extremely mild cases I’ve seen in YA are inappropriate.

When I was in middle school, 7th or 8th grade maybe, a friend of mine brought a book called Addicted by Zane to school. I asked if I could borrow it when she was done and it’s a book I vividly remember to this day. Was it totally inappropriate for my age group? Yep. Did I run off and become a sex crazed killer? No. No I did not. I think we, as a society underestimate our children.  We work so hard on shielding them from things that could “hurt” them we don’t let them gain the experience and insight necessary to make good decisions. And yes I do have a kid so please don’t start with the “wait till you have a little girl! You’ll change your opinion then!” mess. My 5-year-old has more common sense than half the adults I know, and I like to think that’s because I talk to her. When she asks me a question I don’t tip toe around stuff I sit down and really TALK to her. I don’t think it’s right to blame the contents of a FICTIONAL book on the actions of some. In fact I think that’s the laziest excuse ever.

Drugs, however are still really taboo to me when it comes to works of fiction. I grew up around crackheads and heroin addicts. Shoot, my maternal grandfather was slipped acid in the 70’s and he’s still messed up in the head. So you can understand why I’ve never even hit a cigarette. I still don’t think it’s ok for a book to be “blamed” for someone doing pot, but I can (sort of) see how people who are not exposed to these fucked up realities become curious. Of course in my mind that’s when it’s time to have a sit down and talk through all those curious questions, but hey what do I know.

Anywho, that’s where I stand on the matter. I don’t mind MILD violence and sex in YA and drugs are more of a “shrug” topic for me. But what do you think? Do you think violence, sex and drugs have no place in YA or are they acceptable in moderation? Share your thoughts in the comments.

And a ginormous thank you to River! This topic is amazing and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of opinions on it!

12 Responses to “Stop & Chat! Drugs, sex and violence in YA”

  1. Angie F.

    I was a product of parents who pretty much let me choose my own books and movies as a kid. They didn’t censor what I did, but it’s not like I was grabbing for my mom’s historical romance novels when I was six. I was pretty good about choosing appropriate stuff, and if I did have a question about anything questionable, my mom was there. She was definitely a firm believer in talking about things rather than tip-toeing around it. I think that’s why my views on these things are pretty liberal.

    I do think sex, violence, and drugs are okay in books for teenagers. These things exist in life, and we’re kidding ourselves if we think teens aren’t exposed to them even if they aren’t reading about it. It’s certainly not the book or the author’s fault if they copy something that they read. Obviously there’s another problem, whether that lies with the teen or with the parents. As long as kids are taught that some things are bad (like drugs and violence), or need to be handled safely(i.e. sex), there shouldn’t be a problem. Plus I think teens who are regular readers are probably also smart enough to know it’s fiction and not something they should go out and do.
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Animal Instincts by Patricia RosemoorMy Profile

  2. Anya

    I’m quite with you on the what kids can handle thing. I was reading all sorts of classic sci-fi and fantasy when I was younger and blushing at the sex scenes but those books also made me think through the consequences of all that “adult” stuff since the characters had to deal with those consequences. Kids are going to be exposed to these things no matter what so having open conversations and maybe nudging them towards books you know handle matters well is the only thing you can do. Drugs are a tricky topic, I’m not all that comfortable reading about drug use (and it doesn’t come up much in sf/f fortunately, haha). Dunno about that one D:
    Anya recently posted…2014 Series Challenge – 12 Series, 22 Books, Let’s Go!My Profile

  3. Tara

    I’m a firm believer of letting kids read, watch, or play what they want in order to learn from mistakes and the world around them. Because let’s face it, shielding kids away from this kind of crap is really what makes them do it in the first place. The fact is, we try to hide kids from the “evil” of drugs, sex, and violence because we want them to believe the world is all rainbows and butterflies. It’s not. Banning books because of drugs and sex and whatever is stupid. Books are stories about life. Kids can learn from the characters in these books, good or bad. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it makes the story real. And saying kids will end up like Holden Caulfield is almost like saying (sorry if too soon) any school shooter shot up a school because he was into playing violent video games. there is NO connection. There have been studies on these things. Anyway. ahem. *steps down from soap box*
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  4. Pili

    I cannot help but think that we kid ourselves if we think that teens are really gonna learn about sex, drugs and violence in a book. The world nowadays is full of every bit of information and so is television. Unless you think you can control everything your kid sees online and on television and board him/her up inside your house, they probably know more that you can even imagine.

    The amount of 13 year olds that already have sex and have access to drugs is quite astonishing and thinking that ignoring those facts will protect children is ridiculous. Violence and sex and drugs in YA books usually aren’t glorified or made look cool, and that is something that we need more of. Also, we seem to need better communication and less “cause I say so”. After that we can only hope our kids will make the best choices possible. But we need to give them the tools to do so.
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: Review of Northern Bites by Nikki Jefford!My Profile

  5. Julie

    Agree, I don’t mind some sex and violence in YA since it is usually pretty mild. I mean if it is explicit, the books are called erotica. I agree with you that we can’t blame books, tv, etc if parents aren’t talking to their kids. So go you! I wouldn’t be able to stomach drug use in YA either. I don’t even stomach it in adult books.

  6. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    I was never shielded from topics…in fact my parents never really talked about anything now that I think about it. I think they are more of the “she’s smart enough to figure it out” kind of parents. *shrugs* At any rate I read what I wanted and for the most part I watched what I wanted growing up, and I’m kind of thankful for that. I grew up in a house of books so I think at some point it was impossible to keep me from reading.
    I don’t mind sex, drugs, or violence in YA as long as it’s done correctly. Like you said in most cases it’s pretty mild. I have read some books that have a ton of violence in them but given the recent market for TV and Movies, it’s nothing young adults can’t see everywhere else. I definitely don’t believe in blaming books, tvs and movies for behavior…parents should be parents. If you don’t want your kid reading something with sex in it make the effort to monitor their reading. Kids can handle a lot and I find it odd that parents seem to forget what it’s like to be a teen.
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  7. Mel@Thedailyprophecy

    I think some people want to protect their children just a little too much. It’s not like they aren’t aware of what is going on around them. Hell, I think they even see worse things on TV than they could read in books. Just turn on the news or a random show. I think parents often thinks their children are perhaps too soft or not able to handle this stuff, but talking about it is in my opinion a key word. I read adult books at a very young age and yes, I think I also read books that weren’t “appropriate” for my age, but I grew up as a normal kid. I could always talk about it with my parents and I soon found out what I liked/disliked in books. I don’t think I would hold my kids back. Every parent should do what feels good for them, but it’s perfectly fine if my kids go and read books with sex/violence in it. As long as it’s not fifty shades of gray, haha.
    Mel@Thedailyprophecy recently posted…Life of a blogger: Career.My Profile

  8. River

    Yay my topic! I’m so glad to see that a lot of people are on board with this! I originally proposed this because I saw some comments on goodreads about a book that I LOVED and ppl were complaining about how there were no parents and all the teens did was drink and hook up. But I was like SAY WHAT?! The book actually had very little sexy-times and super mild drinking. It was also super important to the plot of the story. So it got me thinking. Because sure, using drugs, sex, swearing and violence in books just to sensationalize them is dumb, but when it’s actually important to the story, the character development or the plot… why should it be censored then?! Teens are going to see this stuff while flipping through TV commercials… at least most books, especially in the YA genre, use these themes and topics to educate teens.
    River recently posted…ARC Review – Me Since You by Laura WeissMy Profile

  9. Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat

    For the most part, my opinion is this: Eff censorship. Because most kids 15+ have already heard it all and seen most of it through their peers. (Um, I picked up on cursing in the 6th grade because I had ‘friends’ that did it!) I think they have the right to learn about the world and know things.
    But- BUT – I think there needs to be a limit. There are certain books that should not be labeled YA, because even though most YA readers are mature, there are the select few cases that are only 12 or 13. My example here? September Girls. The F word was on basically EVERY page, to the point that it even bothered me, and I curse like a sailor on a good day! The constant cursing and talk of sex & masturbation went way too far for anything labeled YA, and here’s why I say this – a friend of mine (Melanie @ YA Midnight Reads) is only 13. She said “I did not know what masturbation was until I read this book.” That really bothered me for some reason.
    As far as violence, I don’t think there needs to be a censor at all. Just like video games – it is NOT going to turn children into killers. The world is violent and dark sometimes and they have the right to know about it!
    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted…Review: Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini TaylorMy Profile

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