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Language: cursing in YA books.

So, apparently earlier this week there was quite the debate on BBC Breakfast between authors GP Taylor and Patrick Ness over whether books should require ratings, much like movies. On one side of the debate was GP Taylor who is very much in favor of this and on the other side is Patrick Ness who adamantly opposes the idea.

I’m in full agreement with Patrick Ness, I don’t believe publishers should be required to label books with ratings (apparently over 800 authors agree as well, according to a petition signed on this website). I don’t think the ratings system works all that well for movies and I could see it being even worse for books. However, reading the debate triggered a thought I had while reading Miranda Kenneally’s debut novel, what about using cursing in YA books?

Her book, Catching Jordan, focuses on a female quarterback (you can read my review) and one thing that stood out for me while reading was an excessive use of foul language. It was jarring to me because it’s not often you find a teen book with multiple instances of the f-word and it took me out of the story for a moment when I came across it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-cursing in general. In fact, if you’ve ever met me in real life (or happened to play against me in an online video game) you’d know that I curse like a sailor, pretty much all the time. I like it, it’s fun and it usually gets my point across (I do keep my fouled language to myself around preachers, small children and grandmas). Yet, when I’m reading a YA book (or even an adult book for that matter) it’s not necessarily something that I want to see a lot of, even though I’m well aware that teenagers do curse. And some of them do it quite a lot.

After a lot of thinking about whether I was being overly sensitive or overreacting, I came to a conclusion. If the cursing has a direct impact on the story, I’m on board with it being included. A good example of this that I was able to come up with was Holden Caulfield in Catcher and the Rye, he cursed a lot, but it was a part of who he was as a character. If you took it out, his character would feel different and he would come across differently to the reader. Removing the foul language would have an impact on the overall story.

If the cursing doesn’t have a direct impact on the story or character, then I don’t really need to see it. For example, in Catching Jordan, if you’d taken out the curse words from the dialogue you still would’ve had Jordan. She would have acted the same, talked the same and responded to situations in the same manner. Removing them wouldn’t have had any impact on her character, or how the reader sees her character. And so the words simply felt superfluous to me.

Pretty much, my thoughts are if anything doesn’t move your plot along, or help develop your characters, you should cut it out. If that same something helps deepen the plot or display/develop certain trait your character has, then by all means leave it in. Regardless of what that something is.

And then let individuals decide what books they want to read without subjecting them to a reviews boards stuffy ratings. 🙂

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[Review] Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Book: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Publication: December 1, 2001 by Sourcebooks Fire

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (Amazon): What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though–she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she’s ever worked for is threatened when Ty Greeen moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he’s also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan’s feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart’s on the line?

This book sounded so promising and I was so sure that I would absolutely love it. I mean, it’s a football book where the female main character is the school’s quarterback. And look at that cover! What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the story overall, I didn’t love the it as much as I had wanted/expected to. Here are my thoughts in list form (sorry I’m running low on creative juices so, you get what you get today!):

What I Liked

  • Jordan. I really did like the main character a lot. She was smart, funny, and one tough cookie. I have mad respect for any girl who can hold her own on a team full of guys.
  • The friendship between the teammates. I liked seeing Jordan interact with both JJ and Carter, they had such a great bond and it proves guys and girls can be friends. They were protective of her, but also let her fight her own battles. It seemed like a perfect
  • Marie and Carrie. I loved how they threw Jordan’s mental image of cheerleaders completely upside down. They both seemed like the sort of girls I’d have been friends with.
  • The relationship between Jordan and her mom. Her mom was so supportive and at every single game and every single practice. I always enjoy seeing active parenting in a YA book.
  • Also, the relationship between Jordan and her brother Mike. I loved that he supported her both in football and when she was having personal issues. It’s good to see siblings get along so well!
  • Football. Have I mentioned how much I love Football? I’m counting down the days until college ball starts back up!

What I Didn’t Like

  • Ty. I didn’t see him as being a believable crush. I guess this is where I need to suspend my jaded adult view of things, but it seemed too sudden and it was all based on the fact that he was hot. I just had a hard time buying it. And I didn’t like the drastic personality changes he seemed to undergo, it was a bit confusing. And worrisome.
  • How the Henry/Jordan thing went down. I just didn’t find it all that realistic for teenagers, aside from the “i’m not speaking to you for weeks” thing.
  • The constant cursing. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I curse enough to make a sailor blush, so it’s not that I’m anti cursing. I just felt it was a bit overused in the book, regardless of how often teenagers actually curse, and it definitely could have been toned down.

All in all the positive outweighed the negative and I enjoyed the read. It’s definitely worth picking up if you love YA contemp with strong female characters. Also, the companion book, Stealing Parker, will be out in October.

 
 

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