Racy Reads?

Navigating the Harsh Terrain of Young Adult Literature

As the individual responsible for serving the YA population at OWL, I’m often asked by well-meaning and overwhelmed parents for “clean” books for the teens and tweens in their lives.  Young Adult literature (always known for its edge) has been frequently mentioned as of late in conjunction with the pejorative terms “trashy,” “racy,” and “shallow.”  From an article in the New York Times titled “Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things” to its answer in the Horn Book Magazine (a professional resource for youth librarians) “The Lit in Chick Lit,” this topic has had parents, librarians, and critics clamoring to have their voices heard regarding the merit and appropriateness of Young Adult literature.

So why not create a “safe” list of YA literature to put parents’ minds at ease?  On the surface this may seem to be a simple solution, however if you carefully consider the consequences of this method–the way my favorite library school professor, Amy Pattee, did in her eyeopening article “Rethinking ‘Racy Reads'” in School Library Journal–then you might decide against this course of action for the basic reason that “by forcing a reader to accept any prejudgment–of ‘cleanliness’ or ‘dirtiness’–of expression, we are playing a dangerous game with reader rights.”  As a librarian, I understand and sympathize with the plight of parents wanting to protect their kids from literature they are not developmentally and/or emotionally ready for, which is why I encourage you to seek me out when you come to the library.  I’ll help you choose books based on your child’s taste and developmental level.  I can booktalk titles for you and your teenager and we can find something that will be a good match for both of you.

For parents of tweens, I also recommend “Request for Good Younger Teen Reads” a blog post at www.popgoesthelibrary.com (using pop culture to make libraries better) for a list of great picks.


Here are some of my favorite YA titles (to please both teens and their parents):

1.  Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

2.  A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

3.  Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz

4.  Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

5.  Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn 

~Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and loves books, movies, Motown, Bowie, knitting, blogging, 24, and learning how to be a better cook.

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