A Interview with Daria Snadowsky - Part 1

As part of an ongoing conversation about sexuality in YA literature, I interviewed author Daria Snadowsky about writing authentic sexualtiy in the YA novel general, and specifically in her own work, Anatomy of a Boyfriend

As a writer, how do you make a scene involving sexuality authentic? Or to put it another way, how does one write sexuality in a realistic, original, and literary way?

I’m not sure if there’s a bright-line rule for how to write a realistic sex scene because it depends so much on the story, the context, the narrator’s voice, etc. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, realism was easily achievable because Dom, the main character, is an aspiring doctor. Consequently, Dom naturally thinks in clinical terms and describes situations in an open-minded, unbiased way as if she were performing an experiment on herself and penning a lab report. I’m not sure if the scenes would have worked as is had she not been a scientist.

In your opinion, what is the place of realistic sexuality in young adult literature?

I believe all YA literature is an ideal genre to include realistic depictions of sexuality because many YA readers themselves are beginning to have sexual experiences. And even if they’re “late bloomers,” they’re probably still thinking about sex a lot, so it’s important they have outlets to learn more about it. And since young people are often embarrassed to talk about sex with each other or with their parents, books are a wonderful, private way for readers to satisfy their curiosity and find kinships with nonjudgmental characters.

This type of literature is valuable for teens because it presents much-needed unromanticized accounts of the highs and lows of love and sex. When we grow up on fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it's perfectly natural for us to expect that our first loves will last forever and that we'll know exactly what to do when the lights dim. In contrast, Anatomy of a Boyfriend shows all the humiliation and disappointment and awkwardness (as well as the magic and wonder and peace) that's part and parcel of falling in love and being intimate.

Could you discuss your thoughts about the level of sexuality and detail you used in your book?

I remember back when I was a teenager, I was naturally very curious about "making out." What happens when? What will I feel? What will he feel? What will I be thinking? How do you do everything? Is it instinctual or is it learned? For better or for worse, so many books "fade to black" after the first kiss, so we never see what happens. Or if they don't, the intimacy is often described in very melodramatic, romanticized or euphemistic terms. And that's just not reality. So in this book, I wanted to demystify in an unabashedly honest, non-threatening and sometimes humorous way what occurs, physically and emotionally, during "hooking up." Judy Blume's Forever (1975) serves that purpose to a large extent, but I wanted to get even more detailed and graphic in Anatomy of a Boyfriend. And since Dom never had a sexual experience before, it makes sense that she goes into such a high level of detail when describing her physical experiences because they’re all so new and unexpected and exciting to her.

The social ramifications of sexuality tend to play a large part in the novel, as well as in many YA novels featuring sexuality. Could you comment on how you handled this in Anatomy of a Boyfriend?

Anatomy of a Boyfriend highlights not just the physical elements of intimacy but also the emotional elements, which, unfortunately, are often left out of sex ed classes in school. Dom’s decision to get physical with Wes didn’t just have physical consequences—it affected how she saw herself and her relationships with her family and friends. The most important line of the book is when she wonders to herself, “How is it that mankind can engineer condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs but not be able to invent some sort of emotional safeguard? Is it even possible to abstain from falling in love?” Dom’s story demonstrates that although sex carries tons of physical risks, if we're careful, odds are we can avoid them. But there is nothing we can do to ensure we won't fall in love or be heartbroken. So for every line where Dom describes what happens to her sexually, I always followed it with an emotional description, because you can't separate the two.

Can you discuss finding a balance between being authentic and sensational sexuality?

Again, it depends so much on other aspects of the story, but I suppose one thing all authentic sex scenes have in common is that they’re not gratuitous--they service the theme and contribute to the characters’ development. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, each sex scene depicts a sexual “first” and describes Dom’s reaction to it. We never see Dom and Wes do the same thing twice because it wouldn’t really add anything new and would only slow down the pacing.

Thanks, Daria, for your wonderful comments, and your willingness to contribute them. You are truly is an asset to the YA writing community.

Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend - Daria Snadowsky

The Blurb: Before this all happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it's not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body. Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love. And then came the fall. Daria Snadowsky's unflinching dissection of seventeen-year-old Dominique's first relationship reveals all the ecstacy and agony of love, and everything in between.

Favorite Line: “How is it that mankind can engineer condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs but not be able to invent some sort of emotional safeguard? Is it even possible to abstain from falling in love?”

The Review: Daria Snadowsky set out to present a realistic portrayal of a young woman’s coming of age in Anatomy of a Boyfriend, and she succeeds. Dominique is a character that becomes interested in her own anatomy, after she meets Wes, who literally makes her heart throb. Snadowsky tackles every subject “in a responsible way” according to School Library Journal, from dental damns to orgasms from the female (and male) perspectives and de-mystifies many of the modern issues that Today’s teens are worrying about and dealing with. Snadowsky leaves no emotional stone unturned, either, Dominique experiences a wide range of emotion on her trip of discovery from bliss to crushing, gut-wrenching heartache.

A parallel and modernization of Judy Blume’s Forever, Snadowsky doesn’t allow the story to end during the summer, but takes Dominique off to college and shows the emotions of life “on your own.” A very readable book, with authentic scenes that detail the myriad physical and emotional qualities of young sexuality, Snadowsky gives us a glimpse of the curious, self-conscious, angst-ridden young adult.

I am surprised that this book is still somewhat “under the radar” though it did just come out in trade-paperback. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is bound to raise eyebrows in certain circles, but in the circles that count, (her YA reading audience) Snadowsky is right on the mark. Dominique is portrayed with such innocent curiosity, that it is easy for readers to empathize with her foibles, mistakes, and triumphs. Teens will want more of Snadowsky’s frank, believable narrative.

Something Extra: Whant to build your own boyfriend? You can at Random House here. Snadowsky is one of the many excellent writers that represent the YA market. She was kind enough to answer a few questions via e-mail interview regarding the state of sexuality in YA fiction, and specifically on her book, Anatomy of a Boyfriend.

Bottom Line: Teens (and adults) will devour this frank novel about a young girl and her exploration of sexuality and love, and the ups and downs of life.
Grade: A

Review: Loose Girl - A Memior of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen

The Blurb: "For everyone who was that girl. For everyone who knew that girl. For everyone who wondered who that girl was. Kerry Cohen is eleven years old when she recognizes the power of her body in the leer of a grown man. Her parents are recently divorced and it doesn't take long before their lassitude and Kerry's desire to stand out--to be memorable in some way--combine to lead her down a path she knows she shouldn't take. Kerry wanted attention. She wanted love. But not really understanding what love was, not really knowing how to get it, she reached for sex instead. Loose Girl is Kerry Cohen's captivating memoir about her descent into promiscuity and how she gradually found her way toward real intimacy. The story of addiction--not just to sex, but to male attention--Loose Girl is also the story of a young girl who came to believe that boys and men could give her life meaning. It didn't matter who he was. It was their movement that mattered, their being together. And for a while, that was enough. Kerry Cohen's journey from that hopeless place to her current confident and fulfilled existence is a cautionary tale and a revelation for girls young and old. The unforgettable memoir of one young woman who desperately wanted to matter, Loose Girl will speak to countless others with its compassion, understanding, and love."
The Review: Author Kerry Cohen bares her soul in Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, a book about the juxtaposition of sex and love and how we as humans attempt to make sense of ourselves and the people in our lives. She explores her desire, and the basis for those feelings. A good read for young women who are exploring their identity and how they relate to the opposite sex, and possibly for young men, who are attempting to understand their female counterparts. It made me consider the relationships over the course of my life, and how I have dealt with the situations over the years, from what I knew then, to what I (think I) know now.

The first half of the text is when she was in high school, the majority was from college, and Cohen is a YA author, so readers in their late teens may be able to relate, however this book is marketed for adults.

If it wouldn’t have been a memoir, I am not sure if I would have kept reading. There were moving parts to the book, but often Cohen was trying to explain through introspection why she used ‘boys’ to satisfy her need for love. It was essentially a long psychotherapy session where possibly Cohen worked out her problems on the page for ten years. Quite a bit of telling. Maybe I was looking for details. There were a lot of ‘boys’ and lists of names that really blurred together, and made the tale a little bland and generic. There were only a few instances where I could feel her fire and passion, and the rest was just washed over.

*spoiler alert*? She never really explores her past from a position of knowledge. I think it was a missed opportunity, the “I understand now, it was like this, but back then I didn’t understand…” I wanted to see and KNOW that she now understands. But maybe the need for male attention, like other types of addiction is always lurking under the surface. Her transition into the whole person she is know, is only realized in the last few pages. I wanted more.

I can see how this would appeal to certain people, maybe those who are naturally introspective, and the issues she deals with are very real.

Something Extra: Her website is excellent, and her Q & A With Kerry Cohen interview and the responses from readers are powerful. This book definitely has a strong appeal for many women. "Adolescent promiscuity is epidemic, but no one talks about why. [...] That old dichotomy of the slut and virgin is still alive and well."

Bottom Line: It takes a lot for someone to reveal themselves in this way and expose themselves to the world in such an intimate fashion. The book is worth reading for that aspect alone. Though I wanted more, it caused some deep introspection of my own life, for which I was surprised and grateful. Cohen's book opens a conversation that is long overdue.
Grade: B-

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The Blurb: “It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date. This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be—and where the next great band is playing. Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.”

The Review: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan capture the reality of teenage life in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and focus on deep characters from a male and female perspective. Nick and Norah have interesting lives, and as the evening unfolds for them, their lives and choices unfold for the readers. I loved Norah’s independent power, and Nick’s softer self-deprecating side.

Personally, I enjoyed seeing teens at this level. Nick and Norah have already been sexually active, prior to the storyline. They had made choices about drugs and alcohol, and decided for themselves that there really isn’t anything interesting about them. So now what? Now that these traditional hurdles have been overcome, the authors show us a night that changes the lives of their characters, one that is emotionally charged with excitement, sexual tension, decisions, and emotional angst and healing. Nick and Norah have to apply their prior knowledge in new ways, get over their emotional baggage, and determine how to proceed with a new love interest. By providing the reader with both perspectives, Nick & Norah is an excellent read for older YA readers, and adults.

This book struggles with some parents, and in some classrooms and school libraries, because of the language component. Levithan peppers the sections from Nick’s point of view with so many explicatives that they virtually become meaningless. I tend to think that because they make good choices throughout the book, and appear to have made them in the past, that this makes up for the language issue. Nicholle has argued that trading one vice for another is still a vice. She may have a point, but in a market overpopulated by books featuring teens behaving badly, it is refreshing to see teens making good choices. Levithan's opinion? "Who the f&*$ cares if characters use the word f&*$?It harms no one."

So blah, blah, blah, movie. It was PG-13, and the language and “feel” of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist definitely leans toward an “R”. Levithan’s narrative alone would have garnered an “R” rating. A great book for older YA readers was turned into a feel good movie for tweens. A movie that could have been like Superbad, Nick & Norah was turned into something akin to a grittier High School Musical.

Something Extra: Cohn and Levithan were interviewed in 2006 by blogger Little Willow. Their comments offer insight to the novel, and to attitudes about YA fiction in general. (Incidentally, they love the movie. Hmmmm.)

Bottom Line: A excellent read, and a great representation of life in the big city. These teens make good choices, applying their life experience for the better. Popular enough to turn into a film, and now just a piece of flotsam in the fantasy flooded YA market, this book will make you wonder why there aren’t more books out there like Nick & Norah.
Grade: B+

Review: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Blurb: “In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist who leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school. This heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written tale, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, is based on the author’s own experiences and chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he seems destined to live.”

Favorite Line: “The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.”
And: “But, you should approach each book—you should approach life—with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point.”

The Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie was one of the best reads all year. This “illuminated novel” can stand on its own, without the graphics (however they are hilarious). If only all all people could look at the world the way Gordy does in these two lines (above), as he teaches Junior to do throughout the novel. It really makes one stop and think. "I don't know everything. Even the smallest things and places have mysteries. I should be excited about life, and every thing this world has to offer."

This book deals with issues of friendship, independence, racism, loyalty, minor sexuality, relationships, family, and personal education. Also, the book is challenged in many schools. Why? Masturbation. Anytime masterbation (well and the word 'boner") is even mentioned in a book, people want to ban it. I have read two articles about banning this book recently and it just sickens me that ignorance still has influence in our society.

Alexie has been honing his craft with adult novels and books of poetry for years, and it shows in this blockbuster debut in the realistic YA fiction genre. His wordsmithing is amazing, and Junior's voice comes though the text and it feels like you know these characters personally when you are done. I think maybe that is why I am obsessed with the audio version and audio interviews with Alexie, because part of me really wants to meet the man that Junior is based upon.

Something Extra: A delight to listen to on audio, because Alexie reads it himself! (And garnered an Odyssey Award for it!) A great way to connect with an author is to listen to them read from their own work, and here Alexie becomes Junior. Also, you can purchase a great interview with Alexie and David Levithan on itunes. Oh yeah, he's writing Book II, Junior, Gordy, and Rowdy's sophomore year, right now! Check out this amazing interview:

The Bottom Line: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian won the National Book Award, and has won more awards than you can shake a stick at. This book is an excellent choice for male readers, and features a comraderie that will touch your soul. A pleasure to read and listen to on audio, buy both!
Grade: A+

Review: Stoner & Spaz by Ron Koertge

The Blurb: “For sixteen-year-old Ben Bancroft -- a kid with cerebral palsy, no parents, and an overprotective grandmother -- the closest thing to happiness is hunkering down alone in the back of the Rialto Theatre, watching Bride of Frankenstein for the umpteenth time. Of course, the last person he wants to run into is drugged-out Colleen Minou, resplendent in ripped tights, neon miniskirt, and an impressive array of tattoos. But when Colleen climbs into the seat beside him and rests a woozy head on his shoulder, Ben has that unmistakable feeling that his life is about to change. With unsparing humor and a keen flair for dialogue, Ron Koertge captures the rare repartee between lonely teenagers on opposite sides of the social divide.”

The Review: Ron Koertge's book Stoner & Spaz is perfect for the YA audience. Published five years before Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist it is every bit as good, and has entertaining characters in Ben and Colleen. It is definitely a coming of age novel, dealing with issues including independence, diversity, sexuality, drug and alcohol use, responsibility, and all this from the more rare male perspective. Colleen is the center around which everything in her life revolves, and she helps Ben grow up to his own potential. The concept that teens can have more of a life than just playing video games and munching Doritos is portrayed by Ben’s love for film, and through his quest to make one.

Being familiar with Koertge's writing style, and having visited with him on a personal level and taken workshops and lectures from him, it is interesting to see his work play out in published form. Some of the techniques that he uses to randomize his prose make parts of the novel feel natural and fresh. He does so many things right in this book; he effectively eliminates parental involvement in the plot, and uses Colleen as a foil for Ben and shows his growth against her static position. Koertge turns Ben from a character always in need of assistance and care, into a care provider. Very compelling.

*spoiler alert* An interesting point, Koertge does a “fade to black” when it comes to the actual sex act, but with credit is very frank until that moment. But he chooses not to write about the moments afterward, the scene to follow doesn’t exist here. My YA readers are very savvy and well read, and they were disappointed in this one regard. They wanted to see the reactions of the characters, and the ramifications of their actions. This is definitely played out on a more public scale in the end, but I think they were looking for something more immediate. Stoner & Spaz was published in 2002, which means it was probably written in 1999. There’s been ten years of realistic YA Fiction published since then. Times, they are a-changin’.

Something Extra: A Sequel! Yes, Ron is currently writing a second book with the characters from Stoner & Spaz. It was a treat to talk with Ron about the new book he’s writing. “I kind of thought Colleen’s story was finished and I was just going to follow Ben.” Then he smiled and said, “But Colleen is so interesting, the plot would seem to lag when I would try to cut her out of it, so she’s back!” He just shrugged, grinned with a “I do what I’m told” look, and wandered off to his faculty room during residency to write a few more pages. Can’t Wait! Also, if you want to get a feel for Ron's personality, read his interview with Sara Erwin at The Book Source.

Bottom Line: This was an ALA Best Book for YA and an ALA Quick Pick. It left me feeling that the world was Ben’s oyster and it was extremely well crafted as to how it all unfolds. Definitely a must read, but you will probably have to pick it up online, as it is a bit older and hard to find in most brick and mortar shops.
Grade: A

Should YA Books be Content-Rated Like Movies and Video Games?

These comments were originally posted at Nathan Bransford's blog, in response to his question "You Tell Me: Should Children's Books be Content-Rated Like Movies and Video Games?"

As a high school teacher for over ten years, I inevitably have students come back and visit me after I have had them in class. They often tell me “This book changed my life.” That is a powerful statement. Yet that is how we all were at that age. We experienced life changing events on a regular basis in high school. First car, first kiss, first fist fight, first drink, first bouts of depression.

I teach mostly freshmen, ages 14 or 15-year-olds. What if the book that “changed his or her life” was denied that reader because it was rated for +16 and up? Or “R”? Books can show teens that there are alternatives out there, and that the world is wide. Do books save kids from suicide? Do books encourage sexual behavior? Studies show that this really is not the case. Yet, by being presented with the vicarious experiences that some students enjoy when reading YA “problem novels” they can make their own decisions which are based on the moral and ethical codes that they have been brought up with.

When was the last time someone said to you, “This video game (movie) changed my life!” The reading experience is much different than the viewing experience. When you are viewing something, you are watching someone else’s interpretation of events. When you are reading you are interpreting those events for yourself. There is a reason why most people believe that when a film is made from a book, it is a far inferior experience. It is not one's own. The caveat to this argument is that music albums have lyrics that are moving and meaningful and are sadly labeled.

There is no substitute for paying attention to what your kids are reading, watching, playing, and listening to. Parents are the gatekeepers for their own children, not some industry or government agency scapegoat. Allow the gate to remain open.

Review: Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr

The Blurb: "When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother's best friend - Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of "school slut," she longs to escape a life defined by her past.
With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption."

My Favorite Quote: "They never tell you this part in sex ed, how to talk about what you did and why you did it and what you thought about it, before, during, and after."

The Review: In a nutshell, this is what all realistic YA fiction that deals with sexuality is about, and why YA readers read books like Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr. They want answers to these excruciatingly important questions. The social ramifications of developing one's sexuality is constantly present in the average YA reader's life. The story is about a quiet girl who made what she (and her father) considers a mistake when she was in 8th grade, and it is haunting her still, almost three years later, because no one knows how to talk about it.

Zarr portrays the complex family with ease, giving each of her characters a position to operate from, and for the most part allows them to change though the book. Zarr was able to convey feelings of despiration that many teens (and adults) can empathize with, and when the lead character Deanna was falling into her old trap again I was genuinely panicked. I didn't want Zarr to let me down, and she held up her end of the bargain.

I did find the book "tamer" than I expected, and thought the family drama was a bit high for my taste (only because it was everpresent), and the additional -Story of a Girl- sections seemed like a trope that was tacked on and a bit unnecessary.

Something Extra: Sara Zarr also appears to be one of the few authors that regularly updates her blog. At her website there is a treasure trove of material about her and her writing. And there is a great interview with Zarr by Ellen Papazian at Bitch Magazine.

The Bottom Line: With the over-all literary and thematic elements of family, sexuality, responsibility, religion, and coming of age, it was easy to see why Story of a Girl was a National Book Award finalist for Young People's Literature. An excellent read, from an excellent author.
Grade: A-

My Interview Archive

This is a list of interesting interviews from YA authors about their craft:

Sherman Alexie: A Texas Book Festival audio interview with John Jahnski on writng, featuring his books Flight, and The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

Laurie Halse Anderson: A "YA Lit Bitch" interview with Ellen Papazian from Bitch Magazine about feminism and craft, specifically featuring Wintergirls and Speak.

Melvin Burgess: an interview with Joanne Stapley on his YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality and writing, featuring his book Doing It.

Kerry Cohen: an excellent Q & A from her website, on her attitudes about adolescent sexuality, and her book Loose Girl: A Memior of Promiscuity.

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: a blog interview with Little Willow about their YA novel Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, the use of language and realism, and excitement over the film version.

Sara Hantz: an interview with Joanne Stapley on her YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality and writing, featuring her book The Second Virginity of Suzy Green.

Joanna Kenrick: an interview with Joanne Stapley on her YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality and writing, featuring her book Screwed.

Ron Koertge: an interview with Sarah Erwin from The Book Source about his writing style and his books The Brimstone Journals and Stoner & Spaz.

Margo Lanagan: an interview at with Jeff VanderMeer at Clarkesworld Magazine on her novel Tender Morsels and the contraversy over its violent content.

Serena Robar: an interview with Joanne Stapley on her YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality, the curent state of sexuality in YA fiction, featuring her book Giving Up the V.

Laura Ruby: an interview with Joanne Stapley on her YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality, the curent state of sexuality in YA fiction, featuring her book Good Girls.

Tanya Lee Stone: an interview with Joanne Stapley on her YA book review blog Once Upon a Bookcase about teen sexuality, the curent state of sexuality in YA fiction, featuring her book A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.

Sara Zarr: a "YA Lit Bitch" interview with Ellen Papazian from Bitch Magazine about sexuality and Christianity in her book Story of a Girl.

Is There "Too Far" in YA Fiction? Part I

The following comments were originally posted at Once Upon a Bookcase in response to Joanne Stapely’s question, How Far is Too Far in YA Novels?

Young Adult (YA) fiction, like all fiction, is genre specific. Real YA fiction will, by definition, deal with contraversial topics (they call them 'problem novels' after all) like sexuality, independence, violence, and more. Most reading is done with escapism in mind, and often realistic YA fiction allows readers to “try on” a persona for a while, in the privacy of the purely individual reading world. I often feel when reading articles like this one about Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, that the real fear for parents (I am one myself) is that children will be exposed to things we, as parents, would rather not expose them to, such as rape and death.

To quote the article, “the truth is that when children are exposed to deeply disturbing scenarios in teenage fiction, they are made painfully aware that the world contains cruelty beyond their experience and their imagination.” First of all, “children” and “teenage” are two different age groups in my opinion. But beyond that, don’t children and teenagers need to know the world contains cruelty? Do we just not allow them to read about the Holocaust because it was gruesome and terrible? Might as well throw The Book Thief by Markus Zusak on that fire then. Wait a second… How many awards has that book won? And the narrator is Death! But I digress… Both The Book Thief and Tender Morsels are Printz Honor books. The ultimate irony here is that Tender Morsels is about exactly this issue, the loss of innocence.

Topics are only controversial because parents have different ideas than their children about what is appropriate for them to read about. Since when do children and their parents agree on anything? I think it is the publishing industry’s responsibility to provide the full range of topics and subject matter, and the readership to decide (by buying the book, or not buying it) what is appropriate.

Here is an excellent interview from Margo Lanagan on Tender Morsels at Clarkesworld Magazine by Jeff Vandermeer