If you include profanity or adult situations in your book, would you please put it in the first few chapters? You see, I’ve got a new class I’m planning for. It’s a seventh and eighth grade honors English language arts class. I am looking for new books to read. The books need to be challenging – it is an honors class, after all – but the content mustn’t be too mature, for my students will be between 12 and 14 years old.
It’s been difficult to find good books to read. Some things I had read and remembered liking (such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) are littered with profanity, so that’s out. Others (A Gathering of Old Men was one) were great until the last few chapters when there was language I simply could not justify giving to a young teen. Some have sexual references – some vague and some more explicit. I can deal with some of that, which I must do when teaching The Giver, and To Kill a Mockingbird, and Romeo and Juliet. But I don’t want to have those discussion with every book.
Others have interesting content and appropriate material and are very thought-provoking (I’m thinking now of Till We Have Faces) but are so slow and cerebral that I’m concerned the kids will get bored. More contemporary titles (such as Graceling) are action-packed, but lack the challenge and substance I’m looking for.
I fear that I may end up teaching a bunch of books by dead white guys. These classics, like The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Walden are tough and challenging, but without the sex and language that causes me discomfort when I’m teaching it to middle school students. They have substance, and are thought-provoking. These last two things seem to be characteristics lacking in current young adult fiction.
I wish there were a better mix. Action-packed for middle school attention spans, challenging for smart brains, filled with substance to get them thinking, yet innocent of issues they may not be ready to talk about yet.
So, dear authors, could you write some books like that? And if you’re going to include profanity and sex, would you put it right at the beginning so I don’t waste my time reading all the way through only to find out I can’t use your book?
A teacher of high-ability middle school students.