I already know I'm uncomfortable with the idea of Diana reading scary,
adult books. This situation is helped by the fact that she, too, is
uncomfortable with the idea of reading scary, adult books. OK, fine.
But here's the thing: as we (both) get older, there looms ahead the
large and confusing specter of…YA.
I remember when I found the Young Adult section as a kid, and how
thrilled I was. Finally, books about teenagers! Who wore lipstick! And
complained! It was almost like getting to hang out with the cool kids
but you were invisible, which suited me just fine. It was all a
Oh, how I wish, though, that I could remember how old I
was when that happened. Because I picked up a book on the street the
other day (and thank you, book-reading residents of Brooklyn, for being
so generous with books you've read) called Speak.
The cover (I know, I
know, we shouldn't judge a book by one, I know) looked fairly intense,
grown-up. I took it, along with Villette, and moseyed on down the
street with Diana, towards home.
It was as I was walking that I saw it was a YA novel. Given my
commitment to this blog, I thought, OK, I'll read it, we'll see. Maybe I'll write about it, and since Diana is an extremely gifted and precocious reader, and is already reading grown up books, then
I'll just pass it on to her. "Hey, Diana," I said, "I have a book
here you might want to read."
Then I read it.
really gripping. And smart. And heartfelt. And it's [spoiler alert! do
not read further if you want to find out the story for yourself] about
a 9th grade girl who gets raped by a senior at a party over the summer
after eight grade.
See, I can watch myself writing that sentence and think, Well, who
needs to know about that more than a 10-year-old girl soon to enter
junior high? And at the same time think, she doesn't need to know about that until—when? 13? That's when it happens to the girl in the book. 12? 11?
But she's 10. Ten. Only ten.
know that no one is telling me to give these books to her to read, and
that she's not asking for them, and this is largely an invented
internal crisis (if one can call it a crisis at all). But it makes me
wonder. A friend whose child is autistic once told me that she'd heard
a sex offender being interviewed. He said that extremely innocent children
made the easiest victims. And for all I know Diana already knows that something called rape exists.
Speak is a powerful book about a girl finding her voice,
and casting off shame, and figuring out how to protect herself. I do
want her to read it. Someday. Except that somewhere I also don't. I don't ever want her to have to know about it. Even though I think it's great, and that girls everywhere should read it. I just don't.