Girls Write Out
Sunday, December 05, 2010

Know what I'm tired of? Picking up a NYT bestselling novel, reading five chapters, and throwing it in the trash. Why do I throw away a perfectly good book, you ask? Lots of reasons.

I'll exclude the boring plot factor and even the bad writing factor because those things are somewhat subjective, and I guess someone must like the plot and writing or it wouldn't be on the NYT bestsellers list.

What I'm tired of is over-the-top obscenities, graphic sex scenes, and other vulgarities that pepper the pages of an otherwise good novel. I picked up such a novel recently. I was enjoying the story until I reached a graphic lesbian sex scene. I skipped over it thinking we'd get back to the story, but a couple chapters later, another lesbian sex scene. Into the trash it went. The book is still on the NYT list, but I never would've picked it up if I'd known what it contained--the cover copy sure didn't hint at it.

Which brings me to this question: Why aren't novels rated? Movies are; why not books? Rate the book and tell me if it's PG13 for violence, language, or sex. How can you even tell if your child/teen should be reading the book without reading it yourself? It's even more crucial in the age of digital books. You can download the first chapter for free, but you sure can't thumb through it for a quick preview of its contents.

I do enjoy Christian fiction, but I also like to be aware of what's selling in the general market, and I've come across some gems I would've missed otherwise.

What do you think? Would you like to see books rated? Would it help or hinder your book purchases?

PS This photo of my family (which has nothing to do with my blog post) was taken in California over Thanksgiving weekend.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:11 PM  
  Comments (13)
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At 10:07 PM, Blogger jel said...

I agree with ya!

cool shot !

At 11:05 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Yes, Denise, I wish there was a way to better categorize reading material. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to do that categorization. We can't depend on reviewers because reviews are too subjective. We could, perhaps, count the number of swear words or sex scenes per book. I think, in the end, we'll have to learn who we like and who we don't like by author.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Unfortunately I agree with Cheryl. It used to be that one could tell the "cleanness" of a novel by the cover art. But not any more. There really is no way of determining whether a book is trashy or not and I rather doubt any publisher would want to make the time or effort to come up with a rating system and stick with it. The only way is to read a bit, as you did Denise, and toss the book if it's junk. Then make note of the author and not buy any more of his/her books. Unfortunately, here again, it means putting stuff we don't necessarily want in our heads as we ferret out good books for ourselves and our families. 'Tis a sticky situation at best with no real or easy answers.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Barb said...

Maybe this already exists somewhere in cyberspace - a book equivalent to PluggedIn, the website that reviews movies and music from a Christian viewpoint.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Suzanne said...

This is why I stick with Christian fiction. I'd love to be able to read mainstream books but I don't want all that junk in my head. What disturbs me the most is the amount of crude language that's sneaking into the Christian fiction books. It's gotten so that when I review a (Christian fiction) book on my blog I have to clarify that it's a clean read.

Do you know of any sites that list clean reads? I've searched but can't find one.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

That's a great idea, Barb! I wonder if one exists. If for no other reason than making sure your kids aren't reading trash. I shudder to think of one of my boys picking up that book I started.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

I'm with you, Denise! I can't tell you how many I've tossed. I can gloss over a word or two as long as it isn't gratuitous.

I'd LOVE a rating system. I'd buy more books with one, and probably find more authors I love.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Crystal Laine said...

I'm also with you, Denise.

My mother used to rate novels she read--all for me. She didn't want me reading trash, and she was a voracious reader, so she would write a rating on the inside cover. I was only allowed to read certain ratings. Ha! (If it was a library book, she just immediately told me I could check it out.)

I distinctly remember my 13th summer. She allowed me to read two books--To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind. I read GWTW in two days because I was so afraid she'd change her mind! (But I went back and reread it later, a lot slower. ha)I still have that copy of GWTW. The cover is falling off and I think it might have been one of the first books she bought herself.

We just need my Mom-O-Rater. Hmmm.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger EJ said...

I so agree - I rarely buy anything now that's not a Christian novel because I hate to get fooled. Recently I read wonderful reviews on "Mennonite in a Black Dress" - so I bought it - didn't finish the book because I just got so tired of reading filth.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Something many seem to be mentioning here is that they stick to Christian fiction because they know they can get a clean read. This actually helps us, as Christian writers, to reach those folks who are not believers in Christ. Christians aren't the only people who dislike foul language, sex scenes and other things that could badly influence us and especially children. Despite our frustration, I'm thrilled that nonChristians turn to our work for clean reading. I don't think we need to use that as an opportunity to preach to them or hit them over the head with the Bible, but I am glad there is such a category as Christian fiction where they can turn, and perhaps learn more of Christ through story.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Denise, right there with you! I write kidlit, and i picked up a just released middle grade book whose author has won national awards. The cover was beautiful, the story literary and classic. Nearly 200 pages in, I texted my pastor's wife to rec' it for her 9 year old daughter.

Then I read 30 more pages. I had to text her back and withdraw my recommendation. (Although I did finish the book myself.)

This served as a reminder for me to stay one step ahead of what my kids are reading... and keep communication open.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Sandie said...

I was a homeschool mom and I read every book before my child was allowed to read it when they were young. Some we read together. As time went on they read too many books for me to keep up, but I had a few reference books that helped some. I'm sure they are outdated now. Honey for a Child's Heart, Books Children Love, Read for Your Life, Books that Build Character.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Diane Martin said...

This very topic has been heavy on my mind. DVDs, movies, video games, and TV shows all have ratings to guide parents/users of age-appropriateness. Why not books? How do we go about making this happen? I recently started a YA book (recommended on a published author's blog) that was so full of a particular bad word, it easily would've received an R rating had it been a movie -- and I feel certain the vast majority of YA readers wouldn't be able to get into an R-rated movie on their own!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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