Friday, September 16, 2011

Sheltered Childhood or Misinterpreted Youth

I don't know about you, but, lately, the YA books I'm reading are filled with several things that make me wonder if I had a sheltered childhood or if YA books are just misinterpreting teenagers.

First, Underage drinking as if it's normal and accepted by parents. You don't need to spout statistics at me, I know teens and even preteens are drinking, sad as that is, but is it really accepted by parents? Do parents actually expect their teens to go to parties and knock back a few and come home wasted? Seriously? I'm sure it happens and so parents preach about not driving drunk but is that the best they can manage? I'm not a parent so I don't want to claim I know anything but my childhood wasn't like that and if I'd ever come home drunk...oh boy, my parents would have freaked and put a stop to that! 

Second, cliques and bullying. Now, I was home schooled so my high school experience was totally different but I had friends who went to high school and I never heard about this sort of "extreme" bullying going on, or cliques so cliquey that they actually had names and wouldn't let anyone else into their group. Oh, sure there were groups of people who hung out together on a regular basis but it wasn't like a secret club with codes and rules. And Bullying? I know this does happen but I don't think it's quite as prominent as these YA books make it seem. Plus if anyone tried to bully me when I did go to school I fought back...and the bullying stopped happening fast.

Third, meeting your first one true wuuuv in high school. Once again, I had a pretty different childhood so romance just wasn't like it is in these YA books. Yeah, I had crushes, I had major crushes. I'm sure I even thought I was in love a couple of times but guy teenagers, in my day, were so incredibly immature and, well, young.  I never dated exclusively, heck I still haven't, but even if I had I seriously doubt I would have felt like I was going to be with this young, immature, BO smelling, punk forever and ever. *eye roll* Plus aren't teenage girls today a little more determined to go to college and get a career? Do they really think that young kid they met is the love of their life and a reason to give up everything for him? K, I'm shutting up now, I'm starting to feel cynical.  Oh, and don't even get me started on underage sex. ;)

I could go on but I'm feeling I'm coming off a little bitter. But that's just it, am I? Was my life so sheltered? Is this stuff really going on? And if it isn't then why are YA authors making teenagers think it is and that's it's perfectly normal? Oh well, at least most people reading all these YA books aren't teenagers anymore. ;) 


  1. I feel the same way! I can't wait to hear responses to these questions. I often wonder if I lived in a bubble in high school or something. But I also look at my own kids, two who are in high school now, and I know they are aware of things like that going on, but they are not participating themselves.

  2. I was actually just thinking something really similar. It's funny because I grew up in Chicago, and I honestly can only think of one friend who drank much (and that was mostly senior year). But my husband grew up in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, and I guess high school drinking was one of the main forms of entertainment (not for him) Sounds like some adults didn't really care.
    So I guess I was pretty sheltered growing up. But I remember thinking I was in love in high school, too. (which is so embarrassing to think about now...)
    I think YA books exaggerate what's going on with teens, making it seem like just about everyone is drinking/having sex/whatever.

  3. Wait, my high school boyfriend told me that everyone was drinking and having sex. And because he was truly my one true love.....wait, I didn't have a boyfriend in high school either.

  4. Agreed on all counts!

    Underage drinking was SUCH a big deal. I barely knew anyone who had access to booze, much less drank it. You just couldn't buy it. Parents did not have it around. I knew a couple of kids on the football team who had a drinking party ONCE, and that was because someone's older brother in college bought them a keg. It was the talk of the town for months. But then again, I grew up in a rural town. Maybe these city kids are much more sophisticated in this regard. Maybe some of these writers are old enough to remember when the drinking age was briefly lowered to 18 (during the Vietnam War, I think) and that's where they're drawing their inspiration from?

  5. Who are these authors? or maybe the question is....why do publishers only accept those types of books? I know a very good (almost) author who refused to write what the publishers wanted so she's not an author. Hmmm...... Sheltered? I think not!

  6. THANK YOU for posting this! My thoughts mirror yours, exactly. I went to public school, and although there were cliques, a lot of the most popular girls were popular BECAUSE they were friends with lots of different people. At my school, people from the different groups were friends with people from other groups, and that was okay. The only time there was a problem, was when friends would get in fights...then there would be separate groups picking sides until the friends made up.

    And as for the drinking and sex? Well, they weren't that popular to do in my high school. Sure, people did drink and/or have sex, but it wasn't widely accepted by everyone, and those who did it were whispered about because they were such huge things. And I've only been gone for five years; I don't think much has changed.

  7. Oh, as for the falling in love in high school...well, I live in a state where the average age people are married is about 21. There were a lot of people who fell in love in my high school (me included), and ended up marrying that same person. Sadly, most of them are now divorced (yep, me included). I realize now that it's just too young of an age to really know yourself enough to know who you want to marry.

  8. I was bullied in junior high, but not high school. And, it only happened once physically. It was more emotional bullying than anything. I still am working through those issues. And, the really bad cliques were more of a junior high thing too. In my opinion, junior high is the WORST.

    On the other hand, I actually enjoyed high school. I wasn't friends with a lot of people, but most of the popular kids were nice and friendly. Sure, there were a few stuck up kids that treated you like scum, but they were few and far between.

    As far as drinking, I know it happened at my school and the surrounding high schools. Just as I know drugs were an issue and teen pregnancy (wow that was rampant). But, I don't think parents were okay with it or expected it. I could be mistaken, though.

    And, while some people may find their true love in high school, it's rare.

    That's why I wish there was an in between YA and adult category. Focusing more on college of young adulthood outside of school. But, they just lump that in with adult novels and there aren't very many of them.

  9. I mostly agree with you.

    Bullying definitely happened when I was in school. Well, not so much in school as on the bus. I get knots in my stomach just thinking about the school bus even now. Would the bullies have wrestling practice today or was it going to be an hour+ of merciless, hurtful, mean-spirited teasing? That was a reality for me in middle school.

  10. Shelley, I know, apparently these things are happening which is just sad but I wasn't aware of them when I was a teen.

    Kathy, See, and I would have thought things would be worse in Chicago than in Wyoming. But that just sounds prejudice of me I guess.

    Adams Family, Yeah, yeah, highly amusing.

    Madigan, Maybe...I still think it's weird that it's so "normal" in YA books.

    Cowboy mom, It's sad but as you can see from the other commenters, apparently these things are happening.

    Penelope, See, it drives me crazy that these things seem perfectly normal in YA books but aren't really all that normal in real life.

    Jenni, I agree with you about middle school and I agree with you about separating the genre a little.

    IntrovertedJen, I'm sorry you were bullied. I would have beat those morons up for you had I been there. I will NOT stand for that.

  11. It seems I've had a very different childhood compared to everyone else. There was lots of drinking going on when I was in high school but whether or not parents knew about it was another thing. I had a lot of male friends who would tell me stories about drinking in the park on a Saturday night whilst I tried to ignore them and just read my book. There were a lot of European kids at my school and it seems that their parents were a little more relaxed about the drinking thing because it's part of their culture. I'm not talking the kind of drinking that causes temporary amnesia but just some wine every now and again. As for bullying, I think it's definitely an issue in all schools all over the world, because let's face it, people are douches. I didn't get picked on because said guy friends were always around I grew up with five siblings so I always gave as good as I got. As with bullies, there will always be cliques. I still see it at my workplace today. It's never really bothered me though. I think a lot of it comes down to how you feel about yourself. I get heat all the time for reading sci-fi and fantasy and for my undying love for Hanson and Westlife but I couldn't care less. My older sister comments about how I always have the same pair of pants on every time she sees me. I just shrug. As for the high school true love least 20 people I know from high school have married or are marrying their high school sweethearts or someone they met during that time. I totally believe in it. Just not the bit about giving up a career for love because one of the girls I know earns about twice the salary of her fiance! Sorry this is such a long comment. I'm trying to avoid doing the dishes :P

  12. Hear, hear!

    I, admittedly, probably had a pretty sheltered high school experience in a small, religious town in Idaho. So, there was little to no drinking. A few mean girls and jerk guys, but no extreme bullying. But the one true love thing, as much as I tend to dislike it, apparently held true for a shocking number of my classmates who eventually (or immediately) married.

    While I do think it is good to have YA books that discuss these issues, I too worry that they make it seem normal to do such things.

  13. So I was reading a book the other day where the parents left, so the kids had a party. It seem like EVERY YA book has this! Does this really happen? I've never ever known it to happen in my experience in real life, either when I was a kid, or now when my own kids are kids! :) But we all live a sheltered life around here I suppose.

    High school true love? Yep, it happens, believe it or not. You can roll your eyes all you want, but that's just how it is for some of us! :)

  14. I get so annoyed at parents in YA books. Do they really not care? Is it only a question of are you being safe instead of are you having sex? Or don't drink irresponsibly! I know my parents and most of my friends parents were always concerned about those kinds of things.

    Bullying is a big problem, but I don't think it happens to too many people. I guess it's there so that those who experience it can feel like they're not alone. I do think it's more of a junior high thing though.

    And I totally thought I'd marry my high school sweetheart. Good thing I didn't :-)

  15. I often think the same thing that you wrote so eloquently. Then I realize that it is unlikely that many people would read a book if there was no conflict. If only happy, good things happen it might make for a very boring book. Remember that all good literature deals with one of five conflicts: man v man; man v nature; man v self; man v god; man v society (and possible others: man v supernatural; man v technology.)

    What does bug me if how often kids use and abuse drugs/alcohol without consequences. What kind of message is that for teens?

    Anne@My Head is Full of Books

  16. Lan, LOL! If continuing on would have kept you from doing the dishes you could have. ;) Maybe it's just us boring Americans who were sheltered but as I'm seeing from my commenters, I did have a sheltered life.

    Jessica, Yeah, I'm seeing it's how and where you were brought up but I still don't like it being so normal in these books.

    Suey, I know that party thing happens in every show and every movie and every book. It's almost like they want kids to through parties when their parents leave. Yeah, yeah, well you're lucky not all of those high school marriages last. (see Penelope's comment)

    Mellisa, I know, the acceptance by the parents bugs me more than the actual action of the kids.

    Anne, Yeah, I'm just bothered by the messages teens are taking away from some of these books. Hopefully they're smarter than the kids in the books.

  17. Ha, I've had some very similar thoughts. I almost feel like the focus on all the bad - the drinking, the underage sex, etc., is a thing that should be stopped by publishers because in many cases it's not treated as if there's something wrong with it. There are exceptions, of course, and I always give kudos to authors who make it clear that drinking responsibly is important and there's nothing wrong with waiting.

    As to whether or not those things occur -- I think all of them, to a certain extent, but not to the level we're seeing in YA fiction. I remember the cheerleaders all got in trouble for drinking in junior high. There were a *lot* of pregnant girls at my son's high school in the spring. And, the clique thing is particularly big in smaller towns, from my experience. Bullying is everywhere. The only time my eldest son got in trouble was when he got sick of being bullied, snapped and started a fight. He was suspended for 5 days. It was a good lesson for him, to be honest. My other son was bullied briefly, but he's BIG and that scared a few people off when he simply gave them a piercing look. The rest he ignored. He said his practice was to "be a duck" and let the sassy remarks roll off his back like water off a duck's feathers. Both of my sons were nerdy and love to read, ripe for bullying. But, it really wasn't all that bad except for the one kid that my eldest fought.

    As to finding the love of your life early -- sure, it happens to some of us. I met my husband the third week of my freshman year in college. We've been married 29 years. I was 17 when I met him.

  18. Bookfool, I'm sorry this stuff is going on but I'm seeing that it does. It still bugs me that it's so "normal" in YA books.

  19. I would have to agree with you. I guess I was sheltered as well. I do enjoy YA, but I find I don't always like the "realistic" stuff so much because (a) it's so incompatible with my own experience, and (b) I get tired of reading about the same stuff you mentioned. I'm not a parent, either, so I have no first-hand knowledge of what goes on today, just my own high school experience. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way.

  20. Erin, I know, it's sad that apparently this stuff is going on. Still, I don't think YA authors should put it in their books necessarily.

  21. Interesting post, I can't really comment on american high school but in england there is ALOT of underage drinking and sex. I think the fact that the legal age for sex and alcohol is 16 and 18 respectively, so it's fairly low already. And I think a lot of people's parents don't really care what they do.

    The Cait Files

  22. I'm so with you on this. It's not really that it's rampant, I guess but just that it mlakes for more sensational writing, right? I mean, violence, relationships, body image, parental issues, these are all things that are out there to deal with and made headlines as, you know " after school specials " in the old days but now they're high fashion as YA lit. I definitely didn't live the life portrayed in most YA books, that's for sure!

  23. I was homeschooled for High School too, but I know that it was definitely not as extreme as it is portrayed in novels. That's why I avoid a lot of the typical stuff while writing my own stories. It's not really that way everywhere and it doesn't encompass every kid at a school. I was never that person who drank or had a clique or dated all the time. In fact, I'm still that way.

    I do think part of it is because I lived a sheltered life. My mom was very protective of me and my brother. But I think some of the "youthful antics" in books today are over the top for the most part, even though it can be true in SOME cases. (if anything I'm saying even makes sense at this hour, lol)

  24. I think my high school might have been the stereotype. There were a lot of cliques, especially the first few years of high school. By senior year, people had calmed down a little bit and would talk to more people. I got made fun of a lot for getting good grades, and a couple of times had rumors spread about me by the "popular" girls because I'd been assigned to work on a project with one of their boyfriends in class. It was never anything out of control - I probably cried about it a couple of times but I wasn't miserable or anything.

    Underage drinking was HUGE at my school. We were kind of known as a "rich" school so lots of kids had access to their parents liquor cabinets. I remember kids coming to school events totally wasted, and eventually we weren't allowed to carry backpacks or colored water bottles. With that said, only two of my friends drank, and I was never around them when they did. I think I was pretty sheltered but I definitely knew people who partied on the weekends.

  25. Cait, Oh yeah, I hadn't thought about the legal age for alcohol in England. I guess that would make at least the drinking thing pretty normal.

    iwriteinbooks, Yeah, I guess, but for all those teens that aren't living this way I hope they don't think they aren't normal if they don't do some of this stuff.

    Jessica, Yes, you're making sense. I guess we can conclude that while these things are happening (sadly) not everyone lived that way. (thank goodness)

    L.L, Wow, then I guess these things don't seem quite so strange to you in YA books.