Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Question: How do I feel about THE HUNGER GAMES Trilogy being marketed as YA?

Good question. Thank you snitch-n-stitch for asking it. My response was so long that I decided to just post about it. ;)

The reality is, Children's literature is not defined by content. It is defined by the age of the protagonists.

Sex, drugs, violence, abuse, etc. are all a-okay in the publishing world for YA literature.

In general you try to steer clear of the really heavy stuff for Middle Grade, but in YA anything goes.

That being said as the industry opinion is - it all depends!

I have read some really intense gripping YA books about some hard topics - namely abuse, anorexia, suicide, abortion, etc. and those books usually are the ones that affect me the most.

What I don't like is crass content, sexuality for the sake of baseness, lude comments/content and excessive expletives. In fact my favorite books about hard content are really clean books.

With THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy I have no problem with it being marketed as YA. Here are my reasons:

1) Although the content is violent by nature, it is written so well, and so beautifully that it isn't gory, but still makes you FEEL the content. It doesn't glorify violence, rather depicts it in a very sad and real way.

2) The protagonists really are YA age.

One thing I was told at a conference is chances are unless your book is a BIG hit like the HUNGER GAMES, your audience are those 2-3 years younger than your protagonist up until their age. If you're lucky you can go one year older.

So Katniss in book 1 is sixteen yes? So the audience is 13-17 year olds. Which is around 8th-12th graders. I think that is an appropriate age for all the content of the books.

3) In the end it is up to the individual reader and if a juvenile, their parents, of what content is appropriate for them to read.

4) I find it interesting that people argue that YA books aren't for YA kids, but what do we throw at them in schools? Adult novels with adult content. Is MACBETH any less bloody than HUNGER GAMES? What about LORD OF THE FLIES when Piggy is sacrificed by the other boys for vicious reasons? We shouldn't shy away from hard content with our kids, but rather talk to them about it.


Sara said...

I so agree with you. I think we try to guard our kids too much these days. I know parents freak out about their kids reading inappropriate things, but those are the exact things they talk about at school. This is a good chance to talk to them about it so they feel like they can be open and honest with you.

That being said, you have to take each child into consideration. Each parent should know whether their kids can handle a book. I look at my own nieces and nephews and there are three all the same age, 10, and they are all at different levels. I think there are things one of the 10-year-olds could handle where another one of them couldn't. We all mature at different ages.

I agree with you about the Hunger Games. It was written well and it is marketed to the right audience.

Anita said...

Everyone's trying to one-up the next one. It's all about money at the expense of kids. That means things are getting more and more graphic; TV, music, books, clothes, etc.

I've watched my daughters grow from toddlers to the their current ages of 10, 12, and 14. I've tried to let them form their own ideas and react naturally to the things that go on in the world. Their natural inclinations tend to be mostly innocent, and they tend to be disturbed, grossed out, and embarrassed by so-called teen or adult issues. But as they get older, I notice them hardening because of all the stuff they're exposed to.

So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? In other words, are they naturally "hardening" to life as they mature, or is life feeding them anorexia, suicide, etc.; planting unnecessary seeds that some kids try to emulate, causing them to harden?

Yes, it takes LOTS of conversations to let kids know that life can be fun without violence, abuse, etc.

Aubrey said...

Anita, thanks so much for your comment!

In many many ways I agree. I also think though, that sheltering your kids from all of what is going on in the world won't help them either.

I was a good kid. I grew up in a Christian home and we lived very strict morals. But that didn't mean that I didn't know about sex, drugs, abuse, etc. In fact, if I didn't know about those things and the negative consequences I think I would have fallen into way more traps than I did.

I think it relates to Sara's comment. I could handle learning about it, because I knew that it wasn't going to harm me, but help me be more empathetic and make better choices. If a child is going to be disturbed by it, and/or if they have the inclanations for a book to plant a seed that "it's okay" then yeah, it might not be right for them yet.

I don't beleive in publishing censorship, I believe in the power of PARENTS.

Randi said...

Aubrey-I agree with you about the book. I think that in this case it is ok for a YA book. I also agree with the dislike of lude and base sexual content, I feel that is definitely not needed to bring across the points in most books. I sometimes think that I would want my own children to read certain books when they are the age of the protagonist (not sure if I will be able to enforce that or not.
I think that as these books will be made into movies though that the type of violent content will most likely need to make the movie rated R however I believe that it will end up pg13 anyway.

Marcia said...

I especially agree with your comments about clean language and your point #4. Too much vulgarity pulls me out of a story. The books with the most impact achieve that impact without swearing. And it amazes me when people think certain content isn't right for young adults, when in their HS English classes they're getting heavy adult literature.

Anita said...

Aubrey, I don't believe in censorship either, nor in sheltering kids from life - which is impossible.
Everything is filled with adult themes, including the required reading in schools that everyone in the post is mentioning.
I'm handling my kids as best I can, hoping that they'll be strong and confident young women and not succumb to a lot of the situations I've read in books. I have no argument with any of the content in the post or the comments. Everyone has a right to their opinions.
I still question the fine line between art/creativity and dollars that are offered by the publishers.
I don't know the business like you and other authors, so this is just my opinion as a consumer.
Oh, and I'm sure I've gotten away from the point of your post - so forgive me. :)

Aubrey said...

"I still question the fine line between art/creativity and dollars that are offered by the publishers."

Anita you bring up a whole new can of worms. ;)

I can't say I know ALL of the ins and outs of the industry, but I certainly feel like in the last 2 years, delving myself into almost ALL aspects of it has helped me understand a lot.

Books are art. The author is the artist. The editors are artists to a degree. The rest is as you say buisness. The best book ever written may never get published, and the worst book ever written may. In the end I think it works out pretty well, though. ;)