Banning Books and Defining YA Today

Canutillo, Texas, struggles with what is acceptable

Paul A. DeStefano

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As soon as what was soon defined as ‘pornographic imagery’ was found in a graphic novel (a comic book format) titled Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, targeting LGBTQ teens, parents demanded the book be removed from shelves.

It was.

Unsatisfied, in mid-November, 2021, a group wants a complete review of over 15,000 books to remove all content they have deemed unacceptable. Parents showed up to meetings with wheel barrows full of books they decided needed to be removed.

The battle rears again. What is YA? What is acceptable content?

A quick set of definitions for readers not familiar with industry words. Graphic Novel — picture a bound comic book. NOT a comic with graphic content. Graphic here means picture, not explicit. YA — Young Adult- Traditionally 12–18 years old. MG is Middle grade, which is younger readers. NA is New Adult, which is older.

Decades ago, the definition was clearer. YA was Young Adult. The topics were written at an easy reading level and stayed in fairly ‘wholesome’ territory. There was minimal violence, no cursing and definitely no sexual content.

YA once was defined as G rated kids stuff. Not anymore. The market, if not the readers, matured, and technology grew to allow the spread of material without caring about what is age appropriate. Restricting access and controlling what those young readers come into contact with becomes an uphill battle.

YA today deals more with the main character’s age and developmental struggles than how family friendly it is. Many modern YA books contain cursing, drug use and sex at various levels of explicitness. That’s what today’s youth is coming to face at all angles and which the publishing industry has grown to recognize as topics that need discussion.

In 1979, Flowers In The Attic by VC Andrews drew the public’s attention, throwing an incestual brother-sister relationship to the forefront. The bannings and school board meetings bloomed. The book is uncomfortable, and designed to be so. It may well be a young person’s first contact with the concept of incest. While the topic is off-putting and hard to wrestle with, it is…

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Paul A. DeStefano

Author, Board Gamer/Designer. Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn on FB for geeky stuff. Represented by B Swanson The Purcell Agency. Riftsiders. www.PaulADestefano.com