Recently there was a conversation on Twitter regarding Keris Stainton's next novel, Jessie Hearts NYC. Keris was asked by her Editor to remove most of the swearing in the novel. My inital reaction? Hurrah!
I'm not a fan of swearing in YA. I'm not really a fan of swearing in novels in general, but especially in YA. Keris was saying how she felt the swearing made the book more relalistic because teens do swear, and I'm sure many people agree. But that's exactly why I don't like it. You can hear teens swearing all the time; everyday one can over hear teens talking on the bus where every other word is a swear word. I don't want it in my books as well.
This may sound like I'm having a dig at Keris, but I'm not. I've read Della Says: "OMG!", and yes, there was swearing, and I did wince at some characters' choice of words, but in fairness, it wasn't overly sweary. I could get past it and move on. It didn't spoil the story for me, and I really enjoyed it. However, I have read books where the swearing is to such a degree that it actually stopped me from being able to enjoy it. It was spoiled by the swearing.
On the other hand, swearing in novels may be realistic, but there are YA novels out there that don't have any swearing in them, and still manage to be completely enjoyable. Are these books failing somehow? Are they not realistic enough? If no, if these books are doing a great job at being realising, why bother including swearing in YA at all? Couldn't one argue that if books without strong language are successful, then those with could (possibly) be encouraging teens to swear?
I have to say if I ever read a YA novel that includes a particular swear word - one that is famously known to offend many people - it's going to have to be an EXTREMELY brilliant book to not receive a very negative review from me. There is just no need for such extremely bad language, no matter how realistic. Fortunately I've never come across one.
EDIT: From reading the comments people have posted, it seems either I've not been clear enough, or some people have misunderstood what I meant, so I thought I would clarify.
Yes, there are much more important issues in novels. This post is not about me complaining or wanting to get rid of strong language completely. It's just my personal preference. And most of the novels I do read contain swearing - I never complain about this in reviews unless it's excessive, I pretty much over look it - and will continue to read novels with swearing in. It was just to see what people thought of swearing in YA generally.
Also, I wasn't asking if YA with swearing is the main cause of teens swearing, I didn't make that clear. Yes, there is swearing in movies, and TV, and even music, and it's inevitable that teens will come across it. It's just, in my opinion, reading is a more personal experience that watching or listening to the others; it's difficult for more than one person to read the same copy of a book at the exact same time, where as the other activites can be done with a number of people. So, my question was, as it's such a personal experience, the author reaching this one person through this one book at that particular time, couldn't someone say the language could encourage this one person to swear? I actually don't think so myself, I was just playing devil's advocate. END EDIT.
But that's just my thoughts. What do you think? Check out Raimy's blog Readaraptor this weekend to read a pro-swearing post!