I’m an adult (or so the world tells me; my family tell me I’m a big kid, and I’m inclined to agree). Growing up, I thought nothing of reading Raymond E. Feist’s “Magician” (which was in the adult section of the book shop), or the series of Point Horrors, which were really popular with the Young Adult (and slightly younger) age group at the time.
Books like “The Invitation“, which told of a party where the guests end up being killed one-by-one, or “The Babysitter“, where a girl is getting menacing phone calls and threatening notes, which makes it obvious someone means her harm.
I think my friends and I started reading these books when we were about 12.
Now, the books are a hazy memory of stories I enjoyed. At the time, I couldn’t wait to get the next book, and see what happened. They provided a pleasurable thrill of fear without being outright scared, and I never thought about them in any way other than a good story while I was reading, or after I had read, them.
I remember other books, which made me think, and consider different situations to my own (“Little Women“, for example, and what Jo is prepared to sacrifice in order to help her family). I like to believe that some of these stories helped make me a better person due to what I learnt from them.
The other day, the grandmother of a 12-year-old spoke to me about her concerns with the book her grandaughter was reading. She thought the book dealt with some issues she wasn’t sure were appropriate for her grandaughter, and that the story was rather gritty.
The book in question was “Lily Alone” by Jacqueline Wilson.
The story is about 11-year-old Lily who ends up having to look after her three younger siblings when her mum goes off on holiday and leaves them. Lily doesn’t want anyone to find out what’s happened, as she’s worried social services may break up the family. This leads to her having to scavenge, and, in some cases, steal, to provide her family with food, and eventually to them “camping” in the park, due to Lily’s fears about social services or the school coming to the house.
My personal view is that Jacqueline Wilson’s books do tend to deal with more gritty issues. They’re not all tied up nicely with bows, and they do deal with harder things in life (children’s homes and the children not finding a family; parents re-marrying and the only child finding it difficult; best friends moving away, not coming back, and the friend left behind having to adjust). I wouldn’t say that made them inappropriate for children, and, from what I’ve read of the reviews of “Lily Alone“, the young people don’t think they’re inappropriate either.
Which made a few questions wander through my mind.
As adults, are we more protective of children? Only wanting to show the “happy” side? A bit concerned about anything that might frighten or worry them? Have we forgotten what we could handle and what we could learn at that age? Do our young people get frustrated when they know they’re all right with what adults may see as “difficult subjects”, or a walking skeleton who also happens to be a detective (and is recommended for 9+, but has a scary-looking cover), and the adult won’t allow them to read the book?
Looking into this opened my eyes and reminded me of what I could handle when I was a child, but what does everyone else think?