Books, kids and sex

It's wrong for books targeted at kids to be full of underage kids drinking to get drunk, sex between people that don't care for each other and kids using drugs. I don't have a problem with kids reading books that contain those things, but I think books targeted at kids have to take into account how influential they are and they have a social responsibility to use that influence for good.

I've been actively looking for book suggestions for a 12 year old that really liked Stephenie Meyer's books, so this weekend I was thinking about kids as I read Vampire Academy. While I enjoyed the book, I would not recommend the book to a 12 year old. And I was pretty upset that the book is targeted at kids. It's a book about teenagers and the reading level is marked "Young Adult". And it has drunken underage parties and sex for favors.

Now the vampire and werewolf genre is full of romance and sex, and although I don't always like that, it doesn't bother me because I can just choose not to read the ones I don't like – like Laurell Hamilton's books, good stories, too much random sex that doesn't further the plot. And I chose to leave them off of my list of recommendations for a 12 year old. And that's all ok.

But to find a book so clearly targeted at kids that contained so much inappropriate sex and alcohol use … I felt like that was irresponsible on the part of the author. (Although I'd feel differently about that if you told me the author is a teenager.) Now I realize that "inappropriate" is highly subjective. I'm not a fan of the way we teach abstinence in schools and others think that is the only right thing. But sex for favors is pretty universally frowned on. And drinking to get drunk, while obviously not a social taboo (at least in the US), is probably not something most parents in today's society would encourage their kids to do.

I'm sure the book with its drink to get drunk parties and sex for favor scenes reflects a reality. But is it a reality the author really wants to encourage to kids? I could understand portraying the reality in a book targeted at parents, so they would know what's going on. And I understand that if the author doesn't portray real teenagers, she'll lose her audience – teenagers. However, I think she could have left out the drinking-to-get-drunk and having-sex-so-guys-will-do-you-a-favor scenes without losing her credibility, audience or story.

Perhaps Richelle Mead feels like she is doing the right thing by showing that the good character waits to have sex but I think she's more likely spreading the word that drinking to get drunk is a fun and cool thing to do.

(And in case you are wondering, I recommended Patricia Briggs, Anne McCaffrey, Susan Cooper, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan and Diane Duane.)