Recently a lot of people have been blogging about rating systems for books, similar to those put on movies, TV shows, video games, ect. There is a part of me that cringes at the idea of this. I mean can you imagine kids getting carded at the library. Hello 1984. Another argument against a book rating system is that anything that is read has to be imagined by the readers. So if a little kid accedently read some erotica, it wouldn’t be like they were watching porn, they simply wouldn’t understand what they were reading and therefore wouldn’t see anything in their minds eye.
This people have to understand what they are reading in order to be effected by it idea tends to break down once kids get old enough to actually be able to read most adult content books. Teenagers know what sex and drugs are even if they are vergins who have never even taken a sip of beer. These are the readers who could probably get the most out of a book rating system. Because YA books tend to really run the gontlet content wise.
Since I am writing YA, I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately, and let me tell you it really runs the gontlet as far as content goes. Some books written for young readers are trashy. It doesn’t matter if they are G rated and involve no bad language and build to an errotic hand holding scene, or if they are 100% smut they are still frivalous tales ment to entertain not to enlighten. But lets face it, sometimes people want to be entertained, even young people. So many of these trashy teen novels are very populare.
Other books are extreamly compelling and address real issues that children and teenagers face in very read and powerful ways. In the past month alone I have read books (written for teenagers or children) that have dealt with the topics of rape, drug use, child abuse, death of a parent, concentual sex, friendship, abandoment, death of a friend, eating disorders, war, sexual orientation, family relationships, alcohol addiction, and more. I think that kids should read these books, because they are good books. And if a kid is being abused having access to a book about child abuse is probably a great thing. Or if a kid is feeling pressured to become sexually active reading about the complications of sex might help them make a more informed desision about their own future. But if somebody wants a G rated happy story 300 pages all about grieving the death of a best friend might not be the best thing for them to read.
Granted slapping a PG-13 rating on the back of a book isn’t going to let someone know if they are getting “Gossip Girl” or “Just Listen”. The first being a fun and frivialous book that happens to include sex, drugs, and generally wild teenagers, the later being a very serious story that includes a graphic rape scene about 3/4 of the way thorugh the story. But at least they will know they aren’t getting “The Princes Diary’s” which is definately rated G.
So what do you think? Should books have rating systems similar to other media forms, or should people be alloud to judge for themselves the value of what they are reading?