Everyone in the book world seems to be weighing in on the fervor caused by the S-word in the newly crowned Newbery book: The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron. I imagine most of my compatriots in literature will come down on the anti-censorship side. As usual, I'm rebelliously prude. There are some words I just don't want to read, and the S-word--I won't write it for fear of having my blog blocked by filters everywhere, but it is part of the male anatomy--is one of those words.
Don't tell me that people say it in real life. I'm perfectly aware that people say much worse. And I don't appreciate hearing those words either. I mean sure, there is a time and a place to say just about any word, and usually that time and place is when I'm not around. As I said, I'm rebelliously prude.
I stayed up late last night (when I should have been working on putting together a class outline for an upcoming conference) to finish John Green's An Abundance of Katherines. I really liked the book. It had unique, interesting characters; humor; and all sorts of symbolism and meaning that will keep English teachers busy for years. I especially like the moral of the story: the stories we tell have meaning and change the world. What writer doesn't like that message?
But the thing I didn't like about the book was the profanity, like, every other sentence of dialogue. (And don't tell me, Green supporters, that changing the CK to G in the F-word makes it any different. It still sounds the same in your mind and you know exactly what the characters meant.)
After having such a succession of swear words run through my mind, I'm always afraid that some of them didn't leave, and they will pop out of my mouth at unexpected moments, like when I'm talking to my daughter's preschool teacher.
Also, how can I recommend that book to the many teenagers I know? Their mothers would hurt me.
So anyway, the whole point of this blog is this: If you're another author out there writing for kids and you have the choice to put in a shocking word or leave it out; please, for the sake of those of us with tender ears, just leave the word out. Nobody will miss it. Not once has anyone read a book and said, “Hey, I really liked that novel except that there wasn’t enough swear words, plus there was a shocking lack of references to the male anatomy.”