More and more now I find myself evaluating YA books in terms of whether or not I could put it into my classroom library. It is harder to just enjoy a YA book. I teach a population of students where the majority are being raised with conservative Christian values. Their parents are very sensitive to drinking, smoking, sex, and vulgar language. When I choose books for my classroom, I have to be able to point to the level of writing, debate, or theme that significantly out-weighs the presence of any questionable values or behavior. I have to be able to defend my choice of the book and my decision to make it available to my students.
I don't believe this is censorship. I'm not telling the kids they can't read certain books. I work very hard to teach my students how to make those decisions themselves. I've been very proud of my 8th graders as they have tried books and made the decision that a particular book wasn't for them. But I do have to be sensitive to the parents and most of them are pretty open minded and they trust me. I appreciate that and I don't want to damage that.
There are some books that I have read and enjoyed, but know that I could never put in my library. There were some books that I have not been able to get into or not enjoyed because I was bothered by the way drinking, smoking, drugs, and sex are presented. I'm not so ignorant to think that teens aren't involved in those behaviors. I do believe, however, that it shouldn't be the norm. I don't believe it should be acceptable.
I applaud YA writers who are willing to deal with edgy topics. Some of my favorite books are ones that have been incredibly controversial (Speak and Wintergirls, to name two) and those are in my classroom library, though as of right now, very few kids have read them, and that is okay. There are other books that I enjoyed, but I don't feel I can put in my library. Then there are books that are in my library I didn't particularly care for but the kids love. It's all about the freedom to write, the freedom to read, and the freedom to make choices for ourselves. Oh, and the freedom to express our opinions and to disagree.