Good writing often contains something that will offend someone. One hopes, at least. Teen books are a special case because, from the parents’ point of view, it’s a pivotal time that needs to be finessed with a certain amount delicacy. For the kids, however, it’s a raunchy, hardscrabble time that when reflected properly in fiction can be quite compelling.
Superb writing is being done for teenagers these days, but praiseworthy books often contain scenes that raise a protective adult’s hackles. During a Vancouver panel discussion of censorship of young-adult literature, Ken Setterington gave Chris Crutcher’s 1989 novel, Chinese Handcuffs, as an example.
In it, a teenage boy is lifted out of his wheelchair and forced to participate in a gang rape. Afterward, he can’t live with what has happened and shoots himself dead. That is, as they say, gritty. But look on Amazon.ca and you’ll see that the novel has a 41/2-star (out of five) approval rating, with some of the warmest reviews coming from kids.
Setterington, the Toronto Public Library’s child and youth advocate, said the original publisher of Chinese Handcuffs was one known for its children’s books, so librarians mistakenly shelved it in the children’s department. Later, “we moved it to YA (young-adult). I don’t consider that censorship.”