It is a miracle; I am posting. Actually posting. Thanks to Matt over at The Little Engine That Couldn't and his wonderful Blog Party, I have an actual idea for a post. Hurrah!
The blog party is all about a genre known best as YA, or Young Adult. I've seen a lot of talk on YA review blogs lately about what is actually appropriate for books for teens, and it's made me wonder: do the writers have a responsibility for the appropriateness?
My first answer would be very loud and very in the negative if you asked me this question. In fact, I might even slap you upside the head for comedic effect. Unfortunately, my second reply would be a quiet and begrudging yes. But not in the way you might think.
A lot of aforementioned bloggers have talked about the sexual and explicit content of books. In fact, I'm pretty sure the (what seems to me when I have done no research whatsoever) rise in the 'Christian' genre is linked to this. Adults want their kids to read something 'clean' that affirms their own views and makes them accessible to what one adult calls 'the people of the tunnel', who laugh cynically at anything they need to believe in that isn't a fanon OTP. And that's good for them. I'm not going to go into that because it's a whole different kettle of morals.
What I am going to go into is this idea that our young, impressionable minds can be dirtied and manipulated more than those of adults. This is where my emphatic, instinctive 'no' came from. Our society acknowledges that the media can manipulate us... but they also think that our generation -- the turned on generation, the one that will go and look for its own answers if it doesn't like the ones it finds -- are more likely to be twisted, simply because of our age. I have a giant issue with this. I may be gullible, but the rest of my generation aren't as stupid. If we see sex in a book, we're not going to be ruined like a maiden in Victorian literature. If we read a swear word in a book, it's not going to make us go around repeating it (after all, by the time you've made your way into the 'Young Adult' section of WHSmiths, you've already learnt a lot of things your parents never wanted you to know). We don't, as much as adults might feel it is their duty to do so, need to be protected from these things in our literature.
We need to explore them.
And this is why I think that authors -- and not just the authors, but their editors and publishers too -- have a responsibility to us, their young readers. These people have a responsibility to show us the entire world, preferably objectively, and let us make up our own ideas. Like I said before, we're the internet generation; if we don't like what we hear, we'll Google search until we see something we agree with more. But we need to know we don't like it before we go a-looking. And we can't do that if we have clean, or even worse, biased novels shoved down our throats. The longer I spend on this earth, arguing my views with opposing parties, the more I think that, however right my political and philosophical views seem to me, it is wrong to try and force people onto my side. As a writer, I don't want to be writing novels as propaganda for my own beliefs. Not any more. I want to write something that will make people think about -- explore -- something. If they happen to find that they believe what I believe, then hurray. But that shouldn't be the main aim.
In short, authors do indeed have a responsibility to their readers: not to censor things they don't need to know, but to let them think about the very things that the rest of the media restricts and come to their own conclusions.
At least, I think so.