Those of us who have worked with adolescents realize that most kids are actually pretty good kids. If anything, they manage remarkably well in the face of challenges that they silently endure. Despite what some parents might think, these adolescents are less naïve than they appear. They know who uses foul language, who is in or on the edge of the drug culture, or who is sexually activity. What Elkeles seems to understand is that most adolescents are dying for someone to engage them in conversations that acknowledge their struggles, questions, and awareness of the reality they are rapidly trying to navigate. Her novels, while they deal with romance, are often about adolescents navigating the liminal space between childhood and adulthood (Bickmore and Youngblood 2014). In many ways, it seems that Elkeles has looked at these students through a Youth lens (Sarigianides, S. T., Lewis, M. A., & Petrone, R. 2015) as she writes about them with respect and understanding.
I am not saying that some kids and parents won’t find problems with some of the situations or language that occurs in the book, but these concerns should be contextualized. Not every student or family shares the same values nor ideological outlook on how literature does or does not help students. I am one that believes kids should read what they want. Of course, I also believe that parents should be talking openly with their children from the get go. If that were the case, realistic fiction that is open and frank, just as Elkeles writes, wouldn’t be as problematic. Instead, Elkeles work would be more celebrated. When you get done browsing the information below, check out the interview at the bottom of this blog entry.
How to Ruin
Bickmore, S. T., & Youngblood, K. (2014). ‘It's The Catcher in the Rye… He said it was the kind of book you made your own': Finding Holden in Contemporary YA Literature. English in Education, 48(3), 250-263. doi:10.1111/eie.12049
Sarigianides, S. T., Lewis, M. A., & Petrone, R. (2015). How Re-thinking Adolescence Helps Re-imagine the Teaching of English. English Journal, 104(3), 13.