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Are Young Adult Books Filled With Profanity?

It seems that YA novels are rife with profanity, reports Sarah Coyne, a lead researcher and professor of social sciences at Brigham Young University.
  • <strong>Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter by L.A. Miller</strong>
  • <strong>Quests of Shadowind: The Grounding Stone by L.A. Miller</strong>
  • <strong>Quests of Shadowind: Veil by L.A. Miller</strong>
    LAS CRUCES, NM, July 24, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Parents would be surprised to learn how much profanity is contained in today's young adult (YA) fiction, according to one study.

It seems that YA novels are rife with profanity, reports Sarah Coyne, a lead researcher and professor of social sciences at Brigham Young University. Moreover, she claims, characters who curse are generally portrayed in positive and favorable ways. The study was published in the "Mass Communication and Society" journal.

Ms. Coyne analyzed the use of profanity in forty teen novels on the "New York Times" best-sellers list for children's books. She discovered that on average the novels contained thirty-eight cases of what she characterizes as "bad language use" and nearly thirty-five instances of swearing.

Specifically the study revealed that the majority of profanities included words like "hell" and "damn" while another twenty percent were made up of words that are banned on US primetime television, such as "s---" and "f---." Less common were sexual words and other strong profanities.

The study also showed that characters who swear the most in young adult novels are rich, beautiful, and popular.

"As with other media, including movies, music, video games, comics, and television, it is very important for parents to be aware of what their kids are drawn to," says L.A. Miller, author of the science-fiction and fantasy YA book series Quests of Shadowind, which includes "Sky Shifter," "The Grounding Stone," and "Veil." "It's up to Mom and Dad to help their kids make selections. Let's not forget that kids are exposed to a lot of different things, positive and negative, and their parents must help them sort through a world of ever-changing norms, social mores, and values."

Quests of Shadowind is the story of a group of teens who are abducted to an alien world called Shadowind, which is inhabited by ghostly creatures, cyborg animals, and virtual humans--a land where anything is possible, including being downloaded into a cryptic, evil role-playing game. In order to survive, the youths band together as they search for a way back home.

Some parents and experts want to see content warning labels on books while others believe that step is a gross overreaction.

"Books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents with opportunities to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues," says Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association, an offshoot of the American Library Association. "ALA's interpretation on any rating system for books is that it's censorship."

Common Sense Media (http://www.commonsensemedia.org) is one of the organizations aimed at providing parents an age rating guide to books. There are already more than 2,300 books in their traffic-light system.

"I don't believe that profanity and vulgar language are necessary," Miller says, "especially in Middle Grade and Young Adult books. It's bad enough to hear people speak that way. Seeing course speech in print makes it all the more powerful. There are creative ways to get around expletives, even in the dialog of villains. Yes, it requires a little more work, but that's what good writing is all about."

"I'm happy when teens are reading. Happier still when they're reading wholesome material. Books can have positive effects on them as they learn about the real world using different types of media. Kids need to find moral solutions to their problems, and these novels can be a big help."

L.A. Miller has been writing for more than forty years. His backgrounds in science fiction, astronomy, technology, and classic literature inform his work, which has included novels, short stories and music. He is the owner of Wood n Nails Music and lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with his wife and two dogs. He is the author of the Quests of Shadowind series, which includes "Sky Shifter," "The Grounding Stone," and "Veil."


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