Last night, I attended a Skype event at my bookstore with Richelle Mead. It was fantastic and I was able to ask many questions. The fact she wasn’t there in person might have made it easier to keep going. I could barely contain my excitement when she came in person last year. I spent most of the time trying to come up with the perfect thing to say while she read my books. “Hi, I love you,” sounds kind of creeperish, you know? I needed something with more class.
One of the best aspects of the event was the hour or so before where I was able to chat with other fans. When I come to these events, I sometimes fear it’s going to be full of tweens who have only read her young adult books. It’s so odd to me, seeing 13-year-old freaks out about the book.
Yes, Richelle Mead has earned much of her fame due to her YA series, but, if you ask me, her adult series are so much better. I particularly love Succubus Blues. Then I think about that 13-year-old again, who, like others at the event, may have traveled for a few hours just to talk to their favorite author. Does she love Richelle Mead enough to try and read ever book she ever wrote? Should a 13-year-old be reading an adult book about a succubus, however reluctant?
While I never read anything with as many sex scenes as Succubus Blues in middle school, I did read my share of adult books. I favored these big, thick volumes and all my parents had was pride. I remember one of the first times I gave my father money to buy a book for me at the store (he worked in the city, meaning he had access to a Borders or Barnes and Noble). He was beaming when he came home, talking how he had told his work buddies about this 800+ page book his tween daughter wanted him to buy. I don’t know that it ever crossed his mind that an adult book may, while being at a higher reading level, also include adult themes.
Sometimes, I felt like I was getting away with something when those scenes popped up. Also in middle school, I read a manga series about a romance between a brother and sister rebelling against God. They didn’t ask what the books were about, though, and I didn’t share. They were just thrilled I was reading so much.
Despite that, I now sit in these author events hoping the youngest there haven’t ventured to Richelle’s adult books. In my experience, parents rarely ask too much about books their kids read. I’m sure they could read all her adult books if they really wanted without any concern from their parents.
Should they be able to? A very long time ago, I wrote about how books influenced who I am today. They opened my mind to different worlds, different lives and the struggles of those different from me. I never liked cut and dry ideas of good and evil, meaning I often read books where villains had redeeming qualities and heroes had flaws. Just like that, I lost the ability to think, “gay people are the devil” even if, at the time, I thought being gay was a choice and was wrong. I lost the ability to think, “Your religion is evil, so you’re going to hell” because I understood how a faction of evil could rise in a belief founded on peace.
My ideas also shifted when it came to sex. I lost the ability to think, “you’re having sex, so you’re going to hell,” because I had fallen in love with these great characters who weren’t celibate. Of course, my evolving world views included more than just reading, but what I read did carry a lot of significance. In my 24 years, I’ve found people who read a lot tend to be more open-minded and accepting than those who don’t. I really wonder if there’s something to that? Is there something about reading many books and/or a diversity of books that makes a person more open to different people?
When it comes to sex in books, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s okay. If that 13-year-old reads all of Richelle’s young adult books and decides she wants to break into her adult books, that’s great. Maybe that’s surprising after I talked about the power of influence books have. The thing is, reading has always been the pure thing to me. When I was a teenager, no one bothered discussing the content or rating of books like they did video games and movies. All the adults were too worried about getting us to read to bother worrying about the content we were reading. As such, I was able to explore my own ideas, my own concepts of morality and ask questions of the world I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
Knowing what books can hold, I’ll probably pay a little more attention to what my children choose to read when I become a parents. I don’t think I will ever be able to tell them no when it comes to books. Instead, I just want to be there to have a conversation with them about how what they read influences their ideas about the world.
Do you know of any authors who have written both adult and young adult books? Know that adult fiction often includes more mature themes, do you ever worry about young children reading them? If you knew an adult fiction book had a handful of sex scenes, would you feel comfortable with a child around 13 reading it?