Monday, October 10, 2011

Too much adult reality in kids' books?

Check out this New York Times Op-ed piece on the amount of adult reality in children's books. I must admit that when I first picked up Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. The idea of child sacrifice didn't sit well with me. I mean, kids killing kids was just so, so wrong that I couldn't quite wrap my brain around it.

Anyway, I read the series and loved it. Really, really loved it. Still, I don't think I could have written these books. I think that if the series idea had popped into my head I would have quickly dismissed it. It's just too dark for me, and there's just something about kids killing kids that I'm not sure I would have been able to overcome. And, to be honest, I would have questioned if an agent, publishing house, or parents would have been interested in a book so dark, if they would have even thought there would be a market for it.

In my book "The Lion Awakens," the kids kill an adult or two, but it's because they are defending themselves. It's either the bad guys or the kids. This didn't bother me. Yes, it was dark and scary but because it wasn't a kid against a kid I was OK with it.

 Read the piece when you get a chance. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I think for YA at least, dark themes liking killing and death are okay. Kids are pretty mature and my daughter (a 9th grader) really likes those kind of more mature books.

  2. In my first novel, Tirfo Thuin, I have tried to address some of the larger issues with the world (like war based on religion, genocide etc) but in a quite subtle way. I think there is a general desensitization with movies, TV and video games but I do think there is a line when introducing shock into a novel can, potentially, be damaging to its success. I must caveat this with the fact it also depends on the age of the child. For example, even in Harry Potter there are some quite scary and dark moments and millions of young children bought and loved this series.

  3. I totally understand this argument--except I remember reading Lord of the Flies and The Red Badge of Courage and such in high school. Sure, we don't want really young kids reading adult content before they're ready, but adult content in books for youth is not new! I think it's great to have constructive conversations about it, though, and to avoid the knee-jerk, hand-wringing, censoring approach I've seen elsewhere.