Being a teenager IS uncomfortable

So, the world kept turning while I was away recovering spoons.  But thanks to the power of bookmarking, I kept track of a few things I knew I’d want to comment on when I came back.

First up:  the Into the River ~~~~~scandal~~~~.  Craig at Public Address had a great post about it, which led me to Emma Neale’s great post about it, and Edgar Wolf’s great post about it, and I don’t intend to repeat any of the points they made.

What I want to talk about is the notion, put forward in comments on Emma’s post, that some teenagers need to be protected/sheltered/etc from content which is “raw”, or challenging, or unnerving.  I want to be as reasonable and understanding as Emma, who responds really well to those comments, who agrees that parents are in a good position to judge what their kids are prepared for … but teenage!QoT has other plans.

No, the book isn’t going to be perfect for everyone.  No book is perfect for everyone.  Some books contain themes or scenes or stories which just aren’t going to work for every reader, things which some readers want or need to avoid.

On the other hand, though, being a teenager is pretty fucking unnerving in of itself.  It’s a time of grappling with who you are and how life works and what’s right or wrong and why your brain is full of weasels.  In a way, teens may be desperately craving things which are “raw” – because it’s not being delivered through their parents’ perspective – and unnerving – because they know there’s a huge world out there and they want to understand it.

I was a geek of a pre-teen/teenager, and I devoured the works of Tamora Pierce.  There’s plenty of scenes in her books which made me squirmy.  Not full-blown sex scenes, just sexual scenes.  Sometimes uncomfortable sexual scenes.  Uncomfortable because the protagonist is grappling with her emotions, or being told to ignore them, or not knowing if she’s doing the right thing or if it’s going to be worth the fallout afterwards, worried about pregnancy, worried that being a sexual being will change the way the other men in her life treat her.

Yeah, it was raw, and it was unsettling, and it was a lot to process, but fuck, I’m glad I got to work through all that vicariously rather than enter teenagehood completely unprepared for the idea that emotional decisions aren’t always black-and-white and sex can be complicated but doesn’t have to be.

Of course, there’s the other side of things:  the side of things where teenagers aren’t toddlers.  They can get out of the house and go to libraries, and if there’s one thing pretty universal to them, it’s the desire to do things which look fun and are forbidden.  Teenage!QoT just wants to know this, parents:  do you want to be the parent your teen knows they can’t talk to about the messed-up shit going on in their heads?


  1. Tamsin B-G (@Tansy91)

    Moral panics about YA books never cease to amaze/infuriate me, as does the policing of what counts as “real” literature. I also devoured Tamora Pierce’s books as a pre-teen/teenager; I still return to them from time to time. Mum was also a Pierce fan so we often used the books as starting points for conversations about Important Life Stuff. I’m extremely grateful to have had those books in my life.