In reading Young Adult Literature in Action generally very strongly agree with Rosemary Chance’s criteria for young adult fiction. I particularly enjoy how she describes books for young adults that explore sexuality at a teen level in romance. In light of of other discussion threads, I know that elementary teacher-librarians feel much more cautious about providing reading material with parent-approved issues. My fear is that students are so misinformed (on any number of topics but sex is a big one) that I can hope to provide reading material that will help inform. That’s not to say that I provide only non-fiction about sexuality, but I try to provide reading material about sexual situations that is realistic and diverse. But not necessarily divergent….I’ve had 2 teachers and 2 students ask if I would please buy 50 Shades of Grey and I won’t. From what I understand the sex is verging on sado-masochistic and I don’t believe that a first book of sexuality should portray that particular fetish. That’s not a popular decision, but I think having the book itself in our collection would be even less popular.
In “Writing Backward“, Anne Scott MacLeod describes the balance perfectly saying: “Too much historical fiction for children is stepping around large slabs of known reality to tell pleasant but historically doubtful stories. Even highly respected authors snip away the less attractive pieces of the past to make their narratives meet current social and political preferences.” While MacLeod is talking about historical fiction, the same can be said of all subgenres of realistic fiction. I recently finished reading The Rock and the River and it ventures into very nuanced areas of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 60s. It presents a very fair view of the religious demonstration groups and the black panthers. It is not written to be pretty. Because of its vulnerability, and perhaps its risky steps into politically questionable actions, I liked it even better.
The same can be said for romantic realistic fiction for young adults. Realistic exploration of sexuality, like the scene in Judy Blume’s Forever with the aftershave (if you haven’t read it you need to) which is funny and messy. Real romance is often complicated and full of grey issues of morality. It may not be glamourous, like much of young adult romance, but it’s real.