I truly love young adult (YA) books, but I don’t think they are appropriate for the middle grade (ages 8-12) readers this blog is focusing on, no matter how advanced their reading level, or even their intellectual understanding of the world. Young adult books are attracting more and more adult readers. Twilight is an obvious example, and I enjoy sharing Twilight with my nieces (ages 13+) – although there is a lot of breathiness in that story, there are also some wonderful messages for young girls about love and waiting for marriage.
As a writer, I see the attraction of YA books – everything is fresh and new for teen protagonists. First kiss, first love, first broken heart. First friend betrayal, first time breaking away from parents, first temptation with drugs, sex and other dangers. There are a lot of wonderful stories to be written for those first experiences and I’ve considered writing a few of them myself. There are also some dark themes that have increasingly crept into the YA genre – rape, incest, and other brutalities. Even the parent of a teen reader needs to be aware of the books their children are reading.
YA books are in a different section of the bookstore for a reason – their content makes them largely inappropriate for Tweens (8-12). And if you’re tempted to think the reading level is higher, just because it’s a “teen” book, think again. The reading level of Twilight is 4.9. Some other popular teen books are similarly low reading levels (Uglies RL 5.2, The Wild Things RL 5.3). These books are set apart by their content, not their reading level.
There are some YA books that have Tween or young teen protagonists – Hunger Games and Ender’s Game come to mind. Just because these books have Tween protagonists does not mean they are appropriate for Tween readers. The reading levels are low (Hunger Games RL 5.3, Ender’s Game RL 5.5) but the content is more in the YA range, and that is where you will generally find these books housed in the bookstore. Hunger Games (CSM: 12+) entails teens battling it out in a bloody-reality-show-to-the-death – not a book for young readers. Ender’s Game (CSM: 12+) has murderous Tween protagonists that also torture animals – again, not for young readers. These books may pose some very interesting moral questions, but they do so with violence that makes them best saved for teens better able to deal with the content of these books.
Are there books with advanced reading levels, that tackle compelling moral questions without the excessive violence or sexual themes that would make them inappropriate for young readers?
And Ink-Spells will be hunting those books down and serving them up to you in the weeks to come!