Friday, April 16, 2010

Age Appropriate

How do you know if something is age appropriate in a book? My book, The Circle, is YA, and that's recently put a bit of a hold on my writing. By definition YA is 14-20. However, I remember reading YA books when I was 8. I'm certain that my book isn't appropriate for the standard 8 year old. I wrote a few thousand words, and moved beyond a key scene. But now I want to go back and get rid of it to make it more age appropriate for your standard 8 year old.

Even when I was a kid, I found myself second guessing everyone I said to kids younger than myself. I couldn't remember what I had known about when. I was afraid to swear for fear that they would be scared. I found dirty jokes to be the funniest thing ever, but I was afraid if I even hinted at them around kids a little younger than me, that I would either confuse them or horrify the. When I was 12 I wrote in giant letters in my diary "TWELVE IS ENOUGH" meaning that if I was talking to someone who was 12 or older, I shouldn't be afraid of saying something that the kids didn't know. Those words have stuck out in my head since then. I remember eating lunch at school with my best friends and making all sorts of sexual jokes. Pointing out second meanings of things, and swearing like a sailor, just because I knew that school lunches were minimally supervised and I could get away with it. The funny thing is that I was the "good girl" the one who wasn't supposed to know about anything. The one who at 16, you'd still wonder whether she had even heard of sex.

I'm not 12 anymore, and I'm thoroughly embarrassed thinking about all I said then. I'm questioning the wisdom of "Twelve is enough." I'm also wondering how deep into it I can go, logically with my writing. I'm not talking specifically about sex, but things that surround it. One my characters, Christine is pregnant. Christine isn't a kid, she's 30, but she's childishly stubborn, and refuses to take responsibility for her actions. On top of that she is ashamed of her pregnancy, because of her current life situation. She confides in Missy, my narrator who IS just a kid. Christine is considering abortion. I'm considering skipping that part of the story. Unfortunately that puts a huge plot hole in the story. If Christine isn't pregnant adn questioning abortion, the events following it wouldn't happen the way that they did. So she HAS to be pregnant. and she HAS to be considering abortion. Should I just scrap that whole bit and then try and find another logical reason for hte events that follow? Should I just scrap the events that follow adn change the entire plot-line of the entire story? Or should I just say I don't care about the 8 year olds who read my story. But then what about the non-8-year-olds who find it inappropriate to even put a controversial topic into something like this? Because I'm sure there are a few. I'm actually quite certain family members of mine wouldn't approve, and I really do want my family to approve.

I know the standard rule is "Don't write for the reader, write for yourself," but how can I be proud of my book if everyone I know thinks I crossed an uncrossable?

This is unfinished. I haven't yet decided what to do. I'll touch back on this once I figure out what the right thing to do is. Meanwhile, I'd totally love to hear your take on this.


I agree with the quote. Especially if you're writing YA, which is 14-20. They definitely know what an abortion is. You can't worry about the random few kids who are above reading levels that will get their hands on your book. Chances are if they're above reading levels, they're a bit mature for their age as well.

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