I'm author and editor Holly M. Kothe. Thanks for stopping by my writing and review blog.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

YA Censorship...pshhh

Hi and welcome to my Super Duper Tuesday Post!!!

I just got an interesting little email from this UK website, The Guardian. They printed my response to an article on YA censorship. This is something that really gets my goat, and of course I offered them my humble opinion. And now it's printed on the bottom of the article under "Holly-YA novelist". Weeeee! I've yet to sell a novel but I have indeed written one, so I think the label is fairly accurate and to-the-point. You can find the article and other responses here:

James Dawson
'In a choice between swearing and being stocked, I opted for the safer choice...' James Dawson
Now. I have never read James Dawson, though I may look into him now. Of course it's his own personal opinion, and as an acclaimed published novelist who is able to sell his work, I respect it. But I don't agree with it. Nor do I like it. Nor do I think it's very much FUN. Taking out all the shit's and fuck's and damn-it-all's just for the sake of booksellers, EVEN if it is exactly the kind of thing a certain character would say in a certain situation, seems silly to me. Expletives happen.

As for specific naughty behaviors, if they are relevant to the story, then a writer shouldn't glaze over them or hide them. I've read YA with sex scenes. The ones I've read have been done in a tasteful or even humorous way. And they do NOT glorify teen sex. They do not promote it or encourage it. Matter of fact, a lot of times YA novels portray teen sex in a very realistic way that is chalk-full of unhappy consequences. I'm reading one right NOW:

I Know it's Over by C. K. Kelly Martin

There are plenty of awkward, touching, problematic and detailed sex scenes in this novel. And the girl gets pregnant! And it ruins everything. And there we have a moral to the story. Oh, shit! I mean, jeepers.

This book does not say: "Go on, kids. Go out and do it with as many classmates as you can and rack up those bedpost notches!" Quite the opposite. This is giving a real and true and dark account of what can happen to your relationship and to your life when you get involved in sex before you're ready. If Kelly took out the sex for the booksellers (otherwise known as Gatekeepers) in order to get more shelf space, there would be no story. And that would be a shame, because I love this author and her writing style.

I've made it known that I have my own five-year-old son. I'm pretty sure, when he's a young man, I won't be complaining about him reading. Even if there's (AHHHH GASP) some swearing or sex scenes, at least he'd be at home or at the library or the bookstore reading and not out scoring crack. He may even be learning a lesson or two whilst expanding his vocabulary.

Granted, certain YA novels may be inappropriate for certain ages. I don't think I Know it's Over belongs in the 10-12 range, for example. It is directed toward an older teen. In which case, there may be a point to age-appropriate labels, but I seem to have survived childhood without them. I mean, this was a time in my life when I was not allowed to enter rated R movies, but absolutely NO ONE was carding me for my secretive historical romance novel purchases. I thought it was a sweet deal at the time--the only negative effect possibly resulting in unrealistic sexual expectations. Hardy-har.  

I would love to think I won't harness myself to the rules of YA censorship when I sell my novel. (Something that is certainly in my up-and-coming-agenda). We shall see. 


  1. Hi Holly,
    I completely agree with you. I was faced with the same challenges while writing short stories in High School. I believe that it's important to stay true to the personality of each character both in actions and voice, which can be difficult given the pressure to stay within what society deems as appropriate for a particular age group. The general audience for YA novels (from what I see working in a bookstore), are more mature than many people would think. I would also much rather see younger people reading, regardless of subject matter, considering that they could be doing much worse.


  2. Thanks, Amanda! I'd love to be working in a book store. I never understood the parents complaining about the horrible witchcraft or swear words or vampire relationships that thier children are reading about when their children are obsessed with reading--which is such an awesome thing to be obssessed with! I appreciate your comment.


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