Young Adult Book Reading Challenges discussion

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Absolutely True Diary of A... > Underestimating Kids/Teens?

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J-Lynn Van Pelt | 43 comments Already, in the topic, "general impressions...," there has been discussion about the age group for which this book would be appropriate.

In an interview with the online blog, Pop Candy, Alexie responded:
(For full interview,

It really doesn't seem like you held anything back, but were there any issues or scenes that you didn't think kids would be able to handle?

No. The thing is, it's not the kids -- it's the parents who freak out. Especially these days. I am always shocked when I hear a parent talk about their kids as if their kids don't know every dang thing imaginable! I wrote to the kid I was.
The problem is that too many adults think their kids' lives are simple, or they try to make their lives simple, when their emotional lives are just as complicated as ours. They might have a few less tools to deal with it because they're young, but the emotions are all the same, and the subject matter is all the same.

What do you think? Does society underestimate kids/teens and over-censor what they read? Or do you think there is good reason for not giving this book to a young reader?

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) I think if a kid is interested in reading a book, they're generally ready to read it. I'd have been ready for this book by middle school age.

Katie Verhaeren | 12 comments I don't see anything in this book that the majority of the students I have encountered (mostly high school) wouldn't be mature enough to deal with. We actually read and discussed this book in one of my teacher education classes and the idea of appropriateness did come up. Our general feelings were that despite and sometimes due to any touchy moments the book was appropriate and also a very worthwhile read for the class.

Liz Delzell | 12 comments I bristle at the idea that someone would keep almost ANY book out of the hands of an interested reader of any age. As I said in a previous post, nothing in this book will be a foreign concept to a middle schooler.

Diane (dianes) I agree with what Alexie said, that it would be the parents who have complaints about the book. We have it in the young adult section at my library (not the middle school section) for this very reason. i would have let my son read it when he was a middle school student, but some parents complain if there's only one bad word or sexual reference. They don't realize that their kids are already exposed to that in school, on-line, ect.

Sandi (sandikal) Well, I guess I have to comment since I'm the one that started this. First, I would never prevent my son from reading this. All the bookshelves in our house are open. I obviously wouldn't keep extremely graphic content out, but we do have books with mature content out in the open. My son is welcome to read any book on the shelves, including "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian". Heck, I wish he would show some interest in books and start reading everything he could get his hands on.

However, there's a big difference between letting him read anything that interests him and putting a book in his hands and telling him he should read it, especially when it has questionable content. I agree with Diane's library putting the book in the Young Adult section instead of the middle school section. As far as school goes, I wouldn't freak to see it on a suggested reading list, but I wouldn't want it to be required reading at a middle-school level. I think there are just too many books that are better that don't have the problems that this book has.

Also keep in mind that there is a big difference between a sixth grader like my son and an eighth grader. And, there's an even bigger difference between a sixth grader and a tenth grader.

Furthermore, there are a lot of excellent books out there that provide inspirational stories of young people overcoming the horrors of poverty or worse. Some of the books I'm encouraging my son to read are "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Something Wicked this Way Comes," "Of Mice and Men" and "Ender's Game." All of these books touch on subjects that some parents might find objectionable, but I feel their good qualities outweigh the negative. I just didn't feel the same way about "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."

If I didn't articulate the reasons I don't want my son reading it AT THIS TIME (I never said never) in a way that was meaningful to you, than so be it. Being a parent is a balancing act; you want to expose your child to a variety of experience, but you want that experience to be age appropriate.

Katie Verhaeren | 12 comments Sandi- I appreciate your distinction between not wanting to put the book in a 6th grader's hand and say read this and not allowing him to read it. I also agree that there is a difference in what a 6th grade kid can handle/process and what an 8th grader and so on can process, I also think there are differences from child to child.
I'm glad you wouldn't freak out to see the book on a suggested reading list in middle school. While I do see some valuable lessons middle school students can get from the book, I have always thought of it more in the context of a high school class.
I got the impression from some of your other posts that you didn't really enjoy this book, or at the very least it's not one of your favorites. I think the books you mentioned that you want your son to read are fantastic, and I'm guessing you really enjoyed them. I think if there is any book you are going to hand to your son (or any child) to read it should be a book you enjoy/appreciate and which you are excited to share.
Essentially, I hope you didn't get the impression that any one on this post was attacking you and your opinions- at least I wasn't. I think your comments prompted a very interesting discussion.

message 8: by Sandi (last edited Jun 07, 2008 01:42PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sandi (sandikal) Katie, I did some thinking after I posted last night and did come to the realization that I didn't really like this book. I felt like I should have liked it, but I just didn't.

I was an avid reader from the time I was a young child. I read the Reader's Digest Condensed Books version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" when I was in third grade. I plowed through all of Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury and John Steinbeck when I was in junior high. I was allowed to read anything and everything and even read "The Love Machine" and "The Joy of Sex" when I was a pre-teen. (Looking back, I'm horrified.) As an adult, I consider myself to be a moderate. I majored in English Literature and I tend to over analyze the books I read.

I guess I just didn't like this book and I just think there is so much available that's better and conveys the same messages in a more uplifting way.

message 9: by Liz Delzell (last edited Jun 04, 2008 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Liz Delzell | 12 comments Sandi - I just wanted to add that this book is in the YA section at our library, too, and I totally agree with it being housed in that category. "Middle school" in my area encompasses 5-8 grades - you do make a valid point about the differences between 6th and 8th graders. Also, I see what you meant about the difference between allowing an interested reader to read a book and requiring a child to read a book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

message 10: by Elaine (last edited Jun 04, 2008 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elaine (readingrat) | 24 comments I tried to get my 15 year-old son to read this for several reasons; because he just finished his high school freshman year (same as Junior), he's a basketball player (same as Junior), and I enjoyed the book so much I thought he would too. However when I showed it to him I think he was a little put off by the format of the book. The short chapters and the cartoons made the book look like more of a younger kid's book. After reading more adult books all this past year in school, he had very little interest in reading this book.

That reaction combined with some of the book's content seems to create a pretty tight age span for this book.

message 11: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (readerandwriter) I'm not reading this book but to I thought I could answer the question as to wether or not society censors reading.

I belive they do and I think thats why less kids are reading these days. I think that less kids are reading these days because they are not able to read what they would like or what they are interested and they are forced to read curriculum novels. Its never fun to read something you are forced to read.

message 12: by Angie, YA lovin mod!! (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angie | 2687 comments Mod
I also think kids should read what they want. My mom and dad never stopped me from being who I was. So not only did I read whatever but I listened to crazy music too. I know some parents won't let their kids listen to a certain type of music. I did find sometime Sandi said interesting in another thread about there being no positive characters on the reservation, but I think that is important to show children that this can actually happen. Some people never get to meet anyone positive. I remember when I was working in high school at Blockbusters that someone said smile and greet all the customers.. it might be the only smile they see that day. I also believe that some people may not have any positive role models... maybe on TV.. but that is another debate all together... should entertainers be role models? Well sounds like in this case they might be the only role models. But I hadn't thought about that until Sandi mentioned it, great point!

message 13: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Stiefvater (maggie_stiefvater) Interesting discussing! Yes, I think adults forget what it was like when they were a teen. Teens are always processing on a much higher level than what they'll let on to their parents!

My parents never forbade me from reading any book, but I found that I was sort of self-limiting -- and I don't think I'm the only kid who was like this. I mean that if I picked up a novel and it was a bit too mature for me, I'd tend to put it back down. Just because it didn't hold my interest.

I also read tons of adult novels from the time that I was 13 on, and trust me, they don't handle sex/ swearing/ drugs in the thoughtful way that upper YA books do. As a YA author, one thing you find out very quickly when you're submitting manuscripts to your editor is that everything must have consequences. There are no glossed over scenes.

For The Absolutely True . . . Diary, it's decidedly upper YA (and I couldn't finish it, but that was only because I didn't care for the voice of the MC): 14-18. I'd raise eyebrows at it being on suggested/ recommended reading list for any younger than that, though like others have said, I wouldn't take it out of a younger kid's hand if they had chosen it.

Whooo -- long response!

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