The Fashion Magpie Cherry Sweatshirt

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 58: The One on Ethics in Young Adult Books.

My Latest Score: The Pom Sweatshirt 

I wrote about the sweatshirts I have been eyeing recently, including ones I want for mini, but when this cherry one went on mid-season sale at Jacadi, I had to snap it up.  Also darling and on sale: pair of bloomers (die) and this sweet Liberty print romper.

The Fashion Magpie Jacadi Sweatshirt

You’re Sooooo Popular: The LWD.

The most popular items on Le Blog this week:

+This absolutely stunning broderie anglaise Zimmermann dress — on sale!

+This darling white sundress (I guess we’re all planning for warmer weather’s imminent arrival!?!?)

+This affordable Clare Vivier circle bag lookalike — perfect for pairing with aforementioned LWDs.

+This pearl-encrusted statement sandal (under $80!)

+This ready-to-party jumpsuit makes me want to go dancing.  And I never go dancing.  When was the last time you went dancing??

+OMG these mini faux Gucci mules for babies.  I am dying.

+The most darling umbrella for a kiddo.

+THE BEST ROUND BRUSH EVER.

#Turbothot: The Ethics of YA Writing.

I winked at this topic when I shared that I am unabashedly reading my first young adult novel (P.S. – please read the comments on that post — so many stirring provocations, like what gender and generation have to do with the concept of highbrow/lowbrow culture!), but I have been thinking a lot about whether the authors and publishers of young adult fiction have adopted a “code of ethics” when it comes to the crafting of their novels.  In Grace and Becca’s most recent podcast on The Selection, Becca mentions that she is put off by the protagonist’s celibacy.  Indeed, I had noticed that The Selection is suggestive but chaste in its portrayal of the physical relationship between the protagonist and her beaus, but this seemed natural and “as it should be” to me given the genre.  I haven’t read enough YA fiction to know whether this is a line that all YA novelists have drawn in the sand — “kissing and heavy petting only!” — but, once Becca brought it up, I started to think about it a bit more critically.   It made me wonder what the chief demographic for these books is: tweens?  teens?  The book portrays a sixteen or seventeen year old girl, but it’s entirely possible that most of the novel’s consumers are twelve year old girls, many of whom will not have even had a first kiss yet (right…?), and that might explain why the author chose to draw the line where she did.  Maybe there are also sets of regulations I don’t know about (sort of akin to G/PG/PG-13 ratings?) that govern the authorship of teen literature: are you even allowed to talk about sex directly in books targeting teens?  Would parents be outraged?  Would anything more than suggestion warrant a book ban on the behalf of parents and teachers and even libraries and bookstores?

Or, maybe there are other explanations: in The Selection, at least, the protagonist explains that physical relations are to be saved for marriage because the state enforces it as such, and penalties can occur if transgressed.  As elsewhere in the novel, “the authorities” and the threat of their intervention when rules are broken feel like a convenient trope for the parent-child dynamic so many teens and tweens will relate to: the feeling of being watched, regulated, punished for seemingly unfair and nebulously defined directives, including those around physical relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends.

Or, maybe there is a consciousness around promoting abstinence in this book?

If the latter is the case, I am doubly perplexed by the portrait of femininity in the novel — if the author took care in crafting a specific message around sexuality in the book, then I would have hoped she might have taken the time to reflect on the portrait of womanhood she presents as well.  I was put off by the swoon-y, flight-y, gasp-y damsel-in-distress vibe her heroine gave off.  “Oh, Maxon, save me!  My delicate ankles might give out as I trot around in heels!”  “Oh, Maxon, I’m so horribly homesick, I’m fainting into the arms of your guards!”  Ick.

What are your thoughts?  Those of you who have read more YA, please share your thoughts on this topic!

#Shopaholic: The Organization Hack.

+In my perennial quest to achieve ultra-organization, I added a few of these to my cart to keep my medicine cabinets tidier.  I like the idea of stowing my brushes, lotions, and potions in these!

+This pommed sweater is amazing.

+Cute and affordable way to get that embroidered tee look.

+This looks like Missoni or something — love the idea of throwing this on over my swimsuit this summer.

+Just switched up my candle routine at home and bought this Montauk scent, which is described as “fresh salt air and sea grass.”  It smells beachy, fresh — like a turn in the seasons.

+If you haven’t yet gotten your LWD fix in advance of spring, check out this adorable Gap style!

+Adorable eyelet top for summer (under $70)!

+This sweater is super chic.

+IMPORTANT PSA: THESE CASHMERE JOGGERS ARE BACK IN STOCK.

P.S.  ICYMI — what I’ve been reading.

P.P.S.  Do you believe that people are either life-enhancing or life-diminishing?

 

14 Comments

  1. Such cogent points both in your post and in the comments…I found myself thinking about “Twilight” as well while reading and was excited to see that Jen drew the same parallel. I also kept coming back to Judy Blume’s “Forever” – as an early, advanced reader who tackled Austen and Tolstoy (precociously and prematurely!) in second grade, my parents never tried to restrict my reading material, and as such I found myself reading “Forever” before even hitting puberty. And to your point, yes, it’s a YA novel, but it’s also frequently challenged and targeted for censorship – reinforcing the dilemma of exploring adult themes in a way that’s accessible/appropriate for YA readers.

    YES to the issues with the depiction of femininity in “The Selection.” I think Cass puts masculinity in the same restricted box, and falls victim to the “Twilight” trope of characters who are forced to be two-dimensional to adhere to a very limited construct of what constitutes the “right” romantic roles. I think that, had I read the series looking for any sort of depth or challenge or provocation, I would’ve been disappointed. As such, it was the literary equivalent of cotton candy – sweet, fluffy, and sure to leave you with a toothache/upset stomach after the fact.

    1. AHHH, Liz. This is so true: “I think Cass puts masculinity in the same restricted box, and falls victim to the “Twilight” trope of characters who are forced to be two-dimensional to adhere to a very limited construct of what constitutes the “right” romantic roles.” So well-put, and a good reminder to read this without the gender lens, too — I think I would have missed the fact that Cass also represents men in a troubling way.

      The fact that you drew this analogy to “Twilight” made me think about something different, too: as I was reading “The Selection,” I found elements of the Gothic in it — Gothic as a mode of writing versus as a period of literature. There was a lot of the telltale Gothic treatment of space: an enormous castle, hidden stairways, underground chambers, interior chambers, restricted areas, etc. (Even the fainting/swooning damsel in distress!) I got to wondering about why the Gothic “works” or is so heavily present in “The Selection.” Your reference to “Twilight” reminded me of the whole YA vampire trend — and how that was a different type of the Gothic at work. It’s made me pause and think about why our generation of teens/tweens and the literature they consume have such clear parallels with traditional Gothic tropes, figures, conceits, etc. What’s going on with that?

  2. I’m halfway through the third “Selection” book now. I commented on the last post about the book (I’m the middle school English teacher!), and I’ve thought about it even more since then.

    I think of books as a safe place to explore individual comfort levels with sex at this age. How it is treated in the book seems kind of typical of what 8th-10th graders think about and talk about with their friends. I feel like many teenagers would relate to America’s exploration of sex (kissing or more). Like you, I read books with elements out of my comfort zone as a middle/high schooler, and I like to think I came out the other end largely unscathed – and perhaps better for it, since it gave me the opportunity to use those books as dress rehearsals for my own life. And we also need to give teenagers more credit. There are some smart, discerning kids out there who can – and do – critique content they find problematic.

    My issue is more with the writing, the plot, and America’s development as a character, which are all either stagnating or unraveling FAST in the later books. There isn’t enough background for this whole political scenario to make sense; America isn’t growing or learning from her mistakes; and her treatment of Maxon and Aspen is infuriating (like, does she not realize that what she is doing is deceitful?!), and I think it would also be infuriating to 15-year-olds.

    To me, this series is pulp YA. If I were to recommend it, I’d probably do it with the caveat that it is brain candy and nothing more.

    1. Anne! WOW — I read this passage like five times:

      “I think of books as a safe place to explore individual comfort levels with sex at this age…Like you, I read books with elements out of my comfort zone as a middle/high schooler, and I like to think I came out the other end largely unscathed – and perhaps better for it, since it gave me the opportunity to use those books as dress rehearsals for my own life. And we also need to give teenagers more credit. There are some smart, discerning kids out there who can – and do – critique content they find problematic.”

      This is so well-put, and provocative — and altogether missed in my initial analysis. Thank you for sharing this and making me think.

  3. I want that little cherry pom sweatshirt for myself! There are some seriously cute clothes for little girls these days, I frequently finding myself wondering if I can squeeze my 5’9″ self into a girls’ XL (verdict: it’s extremely questionable).

    Unrelated, but did you see Polyvore was completely shut down the other day? It was sold to some garbage looking site called SSENSE (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) and apparently they just wanted Polyvore’s customer list, all of the functionality of the site is gone. I’m irrationally sad about this! I loved playing with my little digital paper dolls. Polyvore was so useful and unique, there’s really no decent substitute.

    1. OH my God, Alison! I was JUST venting about this to Landon — what the hell?! I am so upset! I much prefer Polyvore to Pinterest, but Pinterest feels like my only option now for “curating” (hated word alert) items I stumble across. Grrr. I can’t believe that they did that OVERNIGHT!

      Grrrr

  4. I read (reed) and read (red) a lot of YA, and I think a lot of it when I was a kid tended toward one true love, stay pure, etc. I remember reading Phillip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series as a kid and being horrified when she had premarital sex. I loved her so much and it felt to my very Catholic schooled 12 year old brain the wrong choice. I loved her through that decision, though, in a way that probably stuck with me valuably. And those books were probably the first I ever read that allowed for a protagonist to fall in love twice and have two healthy grown up relationships. I read above my age a lot when I was a kid too, but often older books and they also tended to lean heavily on a marriage plot. Nowadays the YA I tend towards isn’t focused much on romance, but I appreciate a less puritanical approach if it serves the characters and not the author or the readers.

    1. Hi Aileen! I can imagine that would have been a formative reading experience. I’m curious what you mean by “if it serves the characters and not the author/readers”? Do you mean if it makes sense within the context of the character’s development/decision-making? I’m piqued by the concept — I’m suddenly aware how often I conflate authorial intent, the target audience’s reception of the book, and the formal elements of the book.

      xo

  5. I tend to read YA books or thrillers as a form of escapism as well. I really think it depends on the author and storyline. I find the books that have a theme of coming of age tend to venture into sex. Two books that come to mind are Prep and Second Helpings. The novels that are dystopian, thrillers, etc. tend to not dive as deep.

    1. Super interesting — hadn’t thought about the subgenres within these genres, but that makes sense. The other day, I was googling “young adult books” and one of the popular search terms (I know this because it showed up as an option as I started typing) was: “young adult romance books.” So clearly there’s a niche that’s more focused on that and that readers will seek out. Also, thanks for this note because it also made me realize that sometimes a rose is a rose is a rose…and it ain’t worth trying to see something for what it’s not. xo

  6. So interesting … I would hazard a guess that the typical age range of their reader is at least a part of why YA authors might shy away from writing about sex. But you bring up interesting points here — ones that I feel I can’t comment on too much, seeing as I’ve never read a YA novel! (Not even as a youngster — I was one of those annoying kids that always tried to punch above my own weight when it came to reading and favored adult novels and non-fiction books even in 4th and 5th grades! Ha!)

    Thanks for the heads up about the Everlane cashmere sweats! I’m trying to save my pennies for spring wares, but these are tempting…

    1. Hi! MK! Thanks for this — you made me realize something super important here, which is that I also read a lot of books “above my own weight” when I was young — books that had “adult” or “mature” themes and plotlines, and my parents didn’t censor those selections. And now that I think about it, it’s likely that some of the books I read back then had even more problematic thematic elements on topics of race/gender/etc that would now be considered impolitic. At any rate, my point is this: I raised it because I was thinking about the vulnerable sensibilities of a teen or tween but part of growing up is forming opinions on things and developing a certain type of literacy that enables you to separate the chaff from the grain. XOXO

  7. I occasionally find myself tearing through a YA novel. While for me these books are light reading and offer an element of escapism, I too wonder what type of message they convey to their young, and very vulnerable, teen and pre-teen readers. The two examples that come to mind are the Divergent and Twilight series. There has been a lot of discussion about the messages these books convey as the Divergent author is Christian and the Twilight author Mormon. Knowing this made me reflect on what I was reading in a different way and consider what the possible deeper meanings of these books may be.

    1. Hey Jen — That’s so interesting; I hadn’t thought about the religious element to this. And, I should have rounded out my commentary by noting that — maybe all of this doesn’t matter, right? I mean, part of growing up is acquiring a certain type of literacy — meaning that you are able to read something and form an opinion on it. Maybe that’s the more important bit. Because I certainly red books “above my weight class” (as MK put it in the comments here) that had plenty of “adult” plot lines and I turned out just fine…

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