Recently I've read a lot of articles surrounding the issue of swearing in YA novels. As a YA book blog I thought it was about time I shared my thoughts!
I think before I start off talking about swearing in books, I need to explain my postition on swearing in every day life. I swear. Let's face it - who doesn't?! But one of my biggest traits is politeness. Like, seriously, I'm too polite. Which means there are actually some people who have probably never heard me swear. At school I used to surprise the hell out of people who didn't know me too well if they caught me swearing. I was such a goody-goody that I'd never swear, surely? Wrong.
Here's the deal. I generally draw the line at swearing in public or in front of people I don't know too well. I would never swear in front of a teacher/boss/elderly relative either. At home, I'll eff and jeff as much as anyone. It's where I'm most comfortable. But out in public where kids could hear me? Nuh-uh.
One of my hobbies is writing. I took part in NaNoWriMo last year and love to write when I find the time and energy to do so. When I write novels, I aim them at teens. Writing YA is my passion just like reading YA is my passion. So do I swear in my writing? No. And here's where my thoughts on swearing in YA come in.
Swearing in YA novels doesn't offend me. I don't mind it. Teens swear so swearing teenage characters is realistic. If it's done well then it adds to the atmosphere in a story. But is it necessary? I don't think so. I don't think you need swearing in a YA novel to make it feel realistic. If I had to write a list of must have features in YA writing then swearing wouldn't really come into it.
I read a lot of books where swearing is referenced, but not explicitly stated. For example: "he swore under his breath" or some other such reference. For me this is the best of both worlds. I think the most important thing is that (in general) I don't miss swearing when it's not there. This way of referencing swearing is probably the best compromise in that respect.
It's not that swearing makes me uncomfortable. I just think in a world where you don't need to swear then I'd choose not swearing over swearing. In real life I think people can use swearing far too flippantly. They ingrain curses into their every day way of speaking, and that's where you lose the actual effect of swearing. Do I think kids are damaged by reading swearing in books? No! Would I ever advocate the removal of swearing from YA books? No! I don't believe in censoring and teenagers swear, so as long as they swear in real life they will swear in YA books, too.
This wasn't meant to be a hard-hitting opinion post or anything like that. I'd just seen a lot mentioned recently and so I wanted to throw my own views out there so people know where I stand. It comes up in my reviews sometimes (I sometimes feel the need to mention if there's a lot of swearing, just so people know what to expect).
Some interesting articles/blog posts on the topic can be found below:
"Swearing Characters More Popular, Attractive in YA Novels" - ABC.
"Swearing in YA Novels - Yay or Nay?" - Strange Chemistry Books
"James Dawson: Why Teens in Books Can't Swear" - Guardian Children's Books
"Swear Words in YA Fiction" - KidLit