Edgy fiction and the young reader

The following is a re-post of a piece I wrote before on a website I'm no longer using, but since it helps to explain my writing philosophy I wanted to share it here:

Whenever I write about what's wrong with children's fiction today, someone invariably asks: "What's wrong with edgy fiction? Don't the great classics of literature feature adult themes and language too? If a seventh-grader can read Shakespeare, why can't she read the latest YA paranormal romance title?" I could easily write pages on this topic, but to keep things brief, here are some guidelines when evaluating whether edgy fiction is right for your kids:

1. Does the work have excellent overall literary merit? Is it thoughtful and thought-provoking or is it mere "fluff" for entertainment purposes?

2. Does the work contain graphic sexual or gratuitously violent content that is well beyond the level your child is ready to read? Is there an extreme amount of crude or obscene language or swearing?

3. Has your child read enough classic adult fiction to be able to put modern works in context, or is he or she still just beginning to venture beyond children's fiction?

4. Does the work explore universal themes and contain at least some clear moral values, or does the fictional universe promote immorality, situational ethics, and wrongdoing as things that are actually good when the protagonists indulge in them?

These ideas are just a start, of course. What things do you pay attention to when evaluating modern intermediate or YA fiction for your child?


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