Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Much Information is Too Much?

I did just post a couple of days ago that I'm not against lying to children. And I do believe that some books do not belong in an elementary school library. So I guess I can't write this post with quite the snotty, outraged tone I kind of had in mind before I started. That said, some things do make me think some people have way too much time on their hands.

We had a copy of Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl in the library. One of the poems has the word 'slut' in it. It's British, so slut doesn't mean sexually promiscuous woman, it means untidy person. A mother objected. Then she said maybe we didn't have to take the book out of the library, we could just white out the word. But, um, it's a rhyming book. And the kids aren't stupid.
Even our library technician questions a lot of the subject matter in books for young adults these days. Books about dealing with a parent's depression, books about bullying and drugs and such. I don't know. I tend to think kids in real life have more to deal with these days, and maybe having a few books about those things is not bad. We also have truckloads of Mary Kate and Ashley, Star Wars and Geronimo Stilton and his bad cheese puns.

Yesterday I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. I liked it as much as the other two I've read by him. I think he delineates the struggles and perils of adolescence really well -- plus he's a laugh-out-loud funny writer, who slips the odd devastating insight in.

The main character moves from his home state of Florida to Alabama to attend the same boarding school his father went to. He is intelligent and quirky and has no real friends at home, and he's in search of a new start, a "Great Perhaps", a la Rabelais. He finds it in spades at his new school -- a roommate who becomes a great friend, and a cute, messed-up, irresistibly self-destructive girl named Alaska. It was kind of refreshing that, even though he's captivated by her personality and looks, he does get tired of her being moody and bitchy.
There is mention of sex in the book. The main character receives his first blow job (and it's a hilarious, realistic description), his roommate alludes to having sex with his girlfriend, and condoms are found under someone's mattress. That's pretty much it. A few of the reviewers on Goodreads think this is way too much sex for a YA novel. That's their right, of course. "Too much information", one reader says. I think it's a little naive to think that a book written for teen-agers should pretend that adolescent sex doesn't exist. Show me a teen-ager who, even if they're not having sex, doesn't spend a good portion of their time thinking about it. And whoa -- one blow job, and a reference to someone having safe, responsible sex with her boyfriend. Call me crazy, but could it not be a whole lot worse?

Anyway, that's not even the real reason I had to write this post. The real reason was the comment left on that offended reader's review. The comment that I really really hope was supposed to be a joke: "I read Looking For Alaska and learned things about sex that I hadn't learned in 30 years of marriage".

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3 comments:

Amber said...

What's a blow job? LOL, I'm sure they were joking. Right? Right? I sure hope so. Either that or a little excitement just got added to their marriage.

Amber said...

Now I want to read that book. I've only been married for 8 years, just THINK of the tips that I could pick up!

NoisyBluebird said...

This weekend the 'Everything about Sex Show' was on in Toronto. It's a trade show - for sex. No, I didn't go but all week there were ads for the show on the radio. They weren't over the top with sexual inuendo but enough that Aidan made strange faces in the back seat. So I would just switch the station. One morning - right after I dropped them off - the radio host is talking about a guy friend of hers that is the best man at a 'swingers wedding' and that it's customary for the best man to 'do it - like have sexual intercourse - she says' with the maid of honor in front of the crowd but that the best man was married so this was a problem for his wife. Another guest comes on the radio and starts talking about 'swinger ediquette' (I'm sure I spelled that wrong). Anyway, although I was intrigued...it was 8:30 in the morning and my kids could have been listening to this while I was scraping off windshield of the car!! And people are worried about some suggestion in a book?! This was a common public radio station. My husband is sad we missed the show. I think I need my head examined.