Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior

I continue to be really amused (probably a little too easily amused) by blog and Goodreads reviews that use the word "language" to mean "bad language" or "profanity". The usage results in hilarious-to-me sentences like this one, taken from an actual review: "I was disappointed that the author felt she had to put so much language in the book."


I'm not generally shocked by profanity in YA books--mostly, I don't even notice it. Often when I go back and read Goodreads reviews, I'm surprised if they mention "too much" profanity--I won't even have thought about it. (I'm much more disturbed by any use of "gay" (or similar) or "retarded" to mean "stupid", or the fact that there don't seem to be many YA books without alcohol scenes, even when there's no reason for them.) On the other hand, I'm not enthusiastic about profanity in most middle-grade books, usually because it stands out to me as being unnecessary and unnatural. It's possible that I'm not being fair to the conservative reviewers who want squeaky-clean YA; maybe they think the profanity in those books is "unnecessary and unnatural". But I always sort of assume that they think it sets a bad example for the reader, and I'm not really on board with that thinking.

Do you have a line you draw for profanity? How do you feel about it in YA and middle grade books? Is there a book you can think of that would have been better without profanity? Do you even notice if a book doesn't have any? (I can't say that I've ever thought "oh, this book is so unrealistic--none of the kids ever swear".)


LaurieA-B said...

Most profanity I have ever read in a YA book: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. I liked the book. But I can't help recoiling, mildly, when I flip it open to a random page. Generally, profanity in YA books doesn't bother me. (It didn't bother me in Nick and Norah--just sort of startling.)

mamster said...

I have definitely thought books were unrealistic because the kids didn't swear, but I can't think of an example. Laurie is probably about to post this, but we both thought the "language" in _Audrey, Wait!_ was very realistic.

Here is a blog post from the business world that is kind of related. If a book is really great and happens not to have any four-letter words in it, I probably won't notice. But otherwise, eventually I get pulled out of the text and start wondering, "Hey, did the author make a deliberate decision not to put any swearing in this book? Why did they do that?"

Have you read Stardust by Neil Gaiman? IIRC, there is exactly one anglo-saxonism in it and it is absolutely perfect.

mamster said...

Okay, I was right that Laurie was posting, but she didn't mention Audrey, Wait!

Nick and Norah goes off the other end. I got the sense that the authors were trying really hard to prove how cool they were, which is way uncool.

Melody Marie Murray said...

I'm pretty unaware of it generally, though I love profanity in books like Brent Crawford's brilliant _Carter Finally Gets It_ because I think reluctant teen boy readers embrace the profane a little more avidly than the sweet.