Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This is a 'Crap' Post

Today's kids use language that you can't find in most middle grade books. In fact, just try getting a novel into a kid's book club with realistic language. Just ask author Lauren Myracle. And don't think I'm talking about the big seven you can't say on television. I'm talking 'geez' and 'sucks, in addition to 'crap'. Am I advocating wholesale potty mouth in books? No. What I'm addressing here is conveying authenticity in fiction, not shock value. Relating to kids in their own words.

You're probably thinking that you've read far worse. Yes, and it probably was in a young adult book: something for teens and up. Even then, a publisher risks losing sales to younger teens and middle schoolers by allowing realistic language. Remember, books for this audience are still mainly bought by parents. And they don't want to buy that crap.

Two books I've read recently get around this prohibition. MAZE RUNNER takes every curse word you can imagine and invents a counterpart. So instead of crap you have klunk. There's also slinthead and shuckface. Yeah, aren't you glad they didn't curse?

LEVIATHAN accomplishes the same thing, but because it's counter factual historical fiction, well, who's to say they didn't speak differently in this alternate universe?

Both books are creative in expressing emotion in dialogue (hello, that's what swears are for) without waking the censors. Still, it's a dodge. Kids will notice the difference. And, one day, nine-year-olds will be able to order books like they order up a video on Youtube. You watch.

So as much as I don't want kids cussing like longshoremen, reading a book about dystopian death camps and having the protagonist say 'oh crud', just doesn't cut it. Because, in the twenty-first century, kid-readers won't have to put up with that crap.

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