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Young adult fiction: are books that deal with topics such as sex and drugs appropriate for teens?

(7 Posts)
chrisyoung91 Wed 21-Jan-15 10:20:24

Hi everyone,

I was thinking here about two young adult books in particular - 'junk' and 'doing it' by melvin burgess. One deals with drug use and the other with the sexual experiences of four boys in their late teens. Has anyone read these books and if so what did you think? Is their content appropriate for teenagers of any age or do you think that books should have age ratings if they deal with more adult subject matter?


Colyngbourne Wed 21-Jan-15 20:29:44

I think both books are for older teens but I would never put age ratings on YA books or children's books. I would suggest age 14-15 for both books. I wouldn't recommend Burgess's book "Bitch: My Life as a Dog". There are very few books I would disrecommend, but that is one - entirely unsuitable for teens at all, though I'm sure it would prompt a lot of interesting discussions with older teens in a small-class context.

Booksteensmagazines Thu 22-Jan-15 09:00:36

I read Junk as part of a course I studied on YA writing. It is for older teens and although the subject is tough I think it is a good book with a powerful message. Ultimately it did not glamourise drug taking and I would recommend it to older teens.

I haven't read doing it or my life as a bitch (although I heard an extract and it made me uncomfortable). I think these are books that I wouldn't recommend to a teen unless I read them through myself.

Takver Thu 22-Jan-15 15:16:31

If we're talking 15 and up, then surely they're also likely to be reading adult books anyway?

I've said this before - but given that the series of choice when I was dd's age (12) was Flowers in the Attic, frankly I think that well written YA books have to be an improvement! (If you don't know it, be grateful, think rape, incest, child abuse, and very bad writing . . . )

FriendlyLadybird Fri 23-Jan-15 10:45:57

Not only do I think those subjects entirely appropriate for teens to read about, I think they should be compulsory. Reading about sex and drugs in a well-written novel is the way to get them thinking deeply about the issues and perhaps affect the way that they approach them (or, hopefully, in the case of drugs, reject them) themselves.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 23-Jan-15 14:32:38

I think Junk is superb and it's certainly not going to suck teens into a life of drug use - far more likely to do the opposite.

I don't think we need parental advisory stickers or age ratings, though, because it's fairly obvious what the subject matter is.

I wouldn't be worried about any actual teens reading it. Though I do think parents of younger children should be careful - IME plenty of kids in the top two years of primary read YA, and I wouldn't really like my 9 year old to read it these. But what can you do? It's clear the books are for teens and if their parents let them ignore that fact, they'd ignore age ratings as well. And bookshops now tend to shelve YA away from the kids' section, so it's not like they're going to wander over there by accident.

BlueChampagne Sun 01-Feb-15 22:46:55

Mary Renault's Alexander books offer a sympathetic view of homosexuality, as well as ancient history and fine writing.

Alternatively Robert Graves's I Claudius if you want Roman politics and poison!

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