The answer is no. Books are not regulated and graded like movies, music, and video games, and it’s up to the authors and publishers to choose the genre. A young adult novel usually means the main characters are in their teen years. However, some books with older characters can pass as a young adult read if they’re clean–such as the Alissia Roswell Series.
Although most people believe a young adult book keeps to certain standards–no sex, low violence, and mild cursing–that’s not the case. I’ve stopped reading many books only halfway through, because I was disgusted with the hard cursing, sexual content, and lack of morals in the main characters. I know of one book that I put down without finishing the first chapter. The main character’s mouth made me cringe with R-rated cursing, and she was a horrible person.
I’ve read many books where the main characters are assassins and considered people of bad reputation, but the writer kept it clean. Even in my Alissia Roswell Series, where I touch on alcoholism, child abuse, rape, and murder, it’s still a clean read.
I read half of a young adult werewolf book where the main characters spent a LOT of time completely naked while making out, but they couldn’t go through with sex until after their wedding ceremony. (Shaking my head in frustration.) Just because there was no actual sex, the author considers naked make out sessions a teen read. If her book was a movie, what rating would that get?
While volunteering at my daughter’s middle school book fair, two girls were standing behind me talking about books. One of them pointed to a book and said, “Fifty Shades of Grey right there. That book shouldn’t even be in here.”
While reading the reviews of a book I considered downloading for my daughters, a lot of the reviewers complained that the main teenage character had a low self-esteem from abuse. She then befriended a group of boys and winded up becoming “their girl.” Instead of choosing one boy, they shared her (which seems more abusive).
As for language, many self-published authors believe in “keeping it real.” They defend the heavy cursing in their young adult novels by saying, “All teens curse.” However, they fail to realize that most of the young adult books that make it to movies don’t have any curse words in them. They also fail to realize that many teens don’t want to be saturated with those words. They hear enough of them at school and often feel pressured to use them.
How can you be aware of what you’re purchasing for your teen–or yourself? Check the reviews on Amazon. I always go to the lowest ratings first to see if they’re complaining about the mature content. If I don’t find anything there, I’ll go on and read a few of the five-star ratings to see if they praise it for being a read for young and old. Some reviewers, like myself, specify what type of content they found in the book.
If you’re reading this and getting upset with me for trying to control what my children read, you should be aware that I’m also trying to control what I read. I don’t want to read intense sex scenes, and I honestly don’t want my children reading them, either. It really doesn’t have a place in our home, and I hope you’ll respect that. Please don’t spam me with your opinions and argument.
In fact, one of my daughters wrote in a book review on her Goodreads account that she felt uncomfortable reading a make out scene in a middle school book. I didn’t know anything about it until after I read her review. I’m not forcing her to stay away from those books. She’s choosing it for herself. We all have different opinions 🙂