Saturday, 16 January 2016

the fault in our stars; reading choices

Further to yesterday's post, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green was probably the first book I read for vetting purposes. (I finished it on Monday 18 May last year.) Maisie was very keen to read it, I'm not sure why (perhaps because classmates had read it, or because there was a lot of publicity about the film). Knowing the subject matter, and that it was aimed at older children than her, I wanted to read it, if not before her, then at the same time as her. I think she started it first, and I overtook her.

On the one hand, knowing there was a teen romance at the heart of it, I was wondering how much sexuality there would be in it, keen to avoid too much early over-exposure. On the other hand, knowing that terminal illness in children was also at the heart of it, I wanted to be ready to talk over any matters arising if called upon to do so - as with, of course, sexuality, or any other issues covered in anything she is reading. The reality, of course, is that in this case and pretty much ever other case of things we read or watch, there are no matters arising or issues covered which dad is going to be talked to about. (Subsequently I was brought another book, I can't remember if in a library or a bookshop, for borrowing/purchase approval, which was co-written by John Green, and although it was not, I don't think, in any way explicit, it seemed to be largely *about* sexuality; I declined approval, with explanation (explanation is of course important), and didn't get resistance.)

I am also mindful of what I myself was reading at that age - that is, into adult fiction rather than what is now the enormous 'young adult' market. I don't really remember reading any books aimed at 'teenagers' - I went direct from children's books to adult books, as many people did. On the other hand, the kind of adult books I read had a very different moral landscape from today's young adult fiction, and in some cases the latter has more sex and swearing, and deals with more, heavier, real-life issues. I have no desire - and there would be no point in trying, even if I did - to shield her from the realities of the modern world in the pages of books; I want her, as I did, to learn about things and people in the world, past and present, through books, and to learn from them too, and not to necessarily accept that the things are right, or the author or narrator's view of things was right; you can learn about, understand, empathise, without having to agree, accept, change. (To take just one unremarkable example, I've spent my life reading books and watching things on screens in which characters swear, without ever being moved to think that that's what I should do too. Some people avoid things involving swearing, and I understand that approach too; but I've never felt the need to take it myself, and I wouldn't impose it on someone else, even someone who I really don't want to grow up swearing.)

Anyway, I thought The Fault In Our Stars was pretty good. (Yes, that's your lot.) Bethan and Maisie have since watched the film also.