Aug 6, 2011
Poppins' take on the F Bombs in YA Literature (open minds welcome ...)
So after a few more reviews than I'd have liked (though no less than I expected) commenting about the profanity in my book, I felt the need to explain and/or defend myself.
There is something you need to know about me.
I'm really NOT a fan of the F Bomb.
No seriously. I yell at my husband every time he says it. I instantly feel guilty anytime it leaves my own mouth. And I have a tendency to makeup prettier words to put in the place of most cuss words.
Son of a Monkey
Though, you will sometimes hear me use letters. Such as "Oh, F!" or "What a B!"
So ... if you've read my book, then I'm going to share a little secret with you ... (ok if you haven't I'm still sharing it with you, but you just won't get it in the same way.)
My kids REALLY do think F stands for Fantastic. Just ask them. They'll tell you!
When I started writing Fall Girl, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would actually include said cuss words. I mean, if I don't use them, should I really have my characters?
I did a bit of research. Read a good variety of YA books, many of which did in fact use cuss words, some even used the F Bomb *GASP*. I went back and read my journals from age 14-18 ... funny part, I swore MORE from 14-15 than I did from 16-18. I even went back and read all the notes I had from friends. Friends who are all Catholics and who you'd probably never hear utter those words now, but was surprised how many times the F Bomb got thrown around. I NEVER thought I had such a sailor's mouth, and some of the others that did I can't even imagine them having one now.
I literally forgot what it was like to talk like a teen.
Does that mean EVERY teen swears. Absolutely not. And I have the utmost respect for those teens who don't. However, from the research I did, I found that even the most straight laced Catholic teens had a love affair with using the F Bomb at one time or another in their lives.
Sooooo ... I started by just writing. Writing how I heard the characters talking in my head. I considered the circumstances they were under, the stress they had been experiencing, their frustration levels, and their personality types. Many cuss words were cut in the end, but many still remain.
If read closely, one will notice that it is mainly just two characters who use the actual F Bomb more than once. And less than a hand full of others who even say it at all.
Of those two ... one has bipolar disorder ... and is a boy. I could not imagine being true to his character withOUT having him cuss. Though in the story he really only does it under duress. The second character is a boy who is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. In my head, throwing out the F bomb from time to time kinda seems automatic for that type of character.
Okay, you're probably wondering why I'm even bothering to write such a rambling rubbish like post. I just want to make a point to say that my words were chosen carefully, not out of laziness, but for authenticity. Still, after the book was published and reviews started to come out, I made a point to go back and remove as many F Bombs as I could. I just couldn't remove them all and feel like I was being true to my characters at the same time.
Does that make me a bad person? Does the fact that the teenagers in my book think about sex make me a bad person? Does having a character with a drug problem, who also happens to be the the protagonist, make me one?
I'm terrified of my children becoming teenagers, but as much as I want to, I can't hide them from real life. They are eventually going to start thinking about sex, it's human nature. They are eventually going to start cussing, people cuss. And though I hope they never do drugs or drink, chances are, they will probably know or know of some person who does do those things.
These are real life issues. And unfortunately, when you throw in mental illness, these real life issues tend to pop up a little more often. Not writing about these things is not going to stop them from happening. And I'm pretty sure it's not going to convince kids who aren't doing these things to start doing them. It is what it is.
Life isn't always pretty. People aren't always kind. Some kids are offensive. Some kids are inappropriate.
Sometimes things do work out. Sometime you end up with a kids who stays out of trouble. And sometimes that same kid detests those who are inappropriate.
Teen life isn't black and white. Actually, adolescence is quite a colorful world. Teens battle so much more than just the decision to say and/or read a book that says the F Bomb. They battle real life. They battle decisions about drugs, sex, alcohol, bullying, bad neighborhoods, overcoming diversity, telling someone they are gay, illiteracy, abuse, homelessness, working to support their parents and siblings, etc. And the fact is, whether we talked about it or not, so did we.
Even if I wasn't having sex, I could name at least a handful of people who were.
I was never a drinker in high school, but I'd estimate that a good at LEAST 50% of my senior class was.
And of that 50% most have them did or had smoked a little weed from time to time.
I had friends who barely graduated.
And even I, the girl who rarely swears, got a two hour detention for mentioning the F Bomb and one of my not so favorite teachers in the same sentence while he was, unbeknownst to me, less than two feet behind my friend and I listening to the whole conversation.
Life as a teenager is, and always has been rough. And there is nothing we as parents can do to hide that truth. I'm not saying we should embrace it or even encourage it, but I think it is important to help our children know that we get it. We were their age once. We battled these same issues. We were faced with the same kinds of decisions. We struggled, we faltered, and we picked ourselves back up, brushed off the dirt and became the adults we are today because of our abilities to overcome the obstacles thrown our way.
Is my novel for kids ages 9 to 12. Absolutely not!
13 to 15 ... I think that's up to their parents.
16 plus ... believe me, if they aren't reading it in books, they are living it in every day life in some way, shape or form. And, as a parent, I intend to let my kids know that I understand, I've been there, and I will always be there to help them brush off the dirt if they find themselves in any of these situations.
Yes ... I used the F Bomb in my book. 17 times to be exact. 17 out of my over 65,000 words are the F Bomb. I'm not proud of that, and I might even be a tiny bit ashamed of it, however, I'm not afraid of being true to my characters and writing my book in a realistic manner. That, I am proud of!
I offer out an advanced apology to anyone who finds themselves offended by the language in Fall Girl. But, although it might not be the world you've experienced, it's the world I've been a part of. This is what being a teen was like for me, and if it wasn't for you, then you should be truly grateful, for you were blessed and a tiny bit of me even envies you!
So, Dear F Bomb, you have reared your controversial head once again, but you are what you are. You are a word. One that gets used all too often. And though I hate you, I do realize you're not likely to be removed from the English language anytime soon. Due to this depressing fact, I have no other choice than to acknowledge your existence ... and let me tell you what ... you Effing suck!
Posted by Marybeth Smith