Daily Archives: March 23, 2011

Room on the Shelf: Why Edgy Books BELONG in Young Adult Fiction by Guest blogger extraordinaire, Cherylynne Bago

Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University.

I thought I’d talk about why teens should (not just “should be allowed to” but “should”) read edgy books.
Let’s face it, the teenage years are difficult. You feel like an adult, but adults treat you like a child. You’re supposed to make decisions that will affect the rest of your life before you’ve even figured out what kind of person you’re going to be. Peer pressure is a constant in your life, and everything that you either give into or walk away from determines your reputation, and your reputation is everything. Add to this the fact that your hormones are completely psychotic and over-the-top, and…well, let’s just say that you couldn’t pay me enough to relive those years. 

Now, I can see why parents don’t want their children reading certain books. They’re trying to protect them, keep them from learning about particular evils in the world, keept them as pure as possible for as long as possible.

I hate to break it to you, though, but teens have already been exposed. Unless your child never leaves the house, never speaks to peers, never watches TV or listens to music, they’ve been exposed. I was hearing explicit sex jokes in the third grade. Being fairly innocent, I didn’t know what they were, and just laughed along with everyone else in order to fit in…I didn’t actually understand those jokes until years later.

“Well, I can’t stop that kind of exposure, but books are something I can control, so I should control it.” I disagree. The difference between books and movies or lewd jokes is that books generally work themselves out. They take these issues and work through them. Edgy YA that is done well is a constructive way of working through these kinds of problems. Even if the character makes the wrong choices, we are able to watch it, from a safe distance, and point out exactly what they did wrong.

Now consider how much more likely a teen is to make the right decision when they’ve essentially “lived through” the wrong decision.

No matter how much we would like them to, teenagers are VERY unlikely to come to adults to figure out their problems. They want nothing to do with adults. How limited will they be if they only have the advice from their peers? I admit, edgy YA books are a hidden way of getting teens to take advice from adults. And as long as the moral isn’t heavy-handed or didactic, TEENS WILL LISTEN.

I really think we need to change our views on edgy young adult fiction. It’s not damaging our teens. It’s giving them an opportunity to work through bad decisions and difficult times without negatively affecting their lives.


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