The XX Factor

Ratings for Books?

KJ: I want to second your point about the problem with creating “rating systems ” for teen and preteen books. I was never a fan of TV ratings (though recent episodes of Gossip Girl may have led me to reverse my position!), but I’m really not a fan of book rating. As you astutely point out, reading graphic language is not the same thing as seeing graphic footage. For one thing, books are far more subjective a medium, I would argue: To me, sexual language is more subjective than sexual images are. At least those on TV. And how would such a rating system work? I, for one, would far rather the preteens and teens I know read a graphic sex scene, sensitively rendered, in a book whose values seemed humanist and complex, than have them read a PG version of such a scene in a trashy “teen” book about high school cliques.

As you point out, reading about a “manpole” is very different than seeing it-reading is, in our world, private, not public. It gives you time to process and think. Then again, the dialogue in the book Buchsbaum mentions, Will Dutton, Will Dutton , sounds kinda … terrible. I’ve got it: Don’t rate books, just stop publishing trashy YA dramas and hand teenagers real literature instead. Or do I just sound like a literary reactionary-a kind of “Lit,”per Gore-when I say that?