When I read Meg's post this morning, I was reminded of a concern that arises quite frequently for me when I read 'YA' literature. Megs described a book that was so full of violence and abuse that she couldn't imagine recommending it to anyone younger than at least 16.
As a mother of 3, I can't help but take issue at such books being labelled YA. My own son, now nearly 23, was a precocious reader, and when he was in his tweens and early teens I had no idea what he was reading, except that it was found in the YA section of the library, thereby guaranteeing its 'suitability'.
However, when he was in his late teens he told me that, though he had not wanted to admit it at the time, he now realised that many of those books had been not only challenging and confronting, but actually damaging.
I don't believe there is any issue that should in itself be taboo for children or teens. But the more confronting the subject, the greater the need for sensitivity when writing about it for school-age readers.
I think part of the problem is that there doesn't appear to be a strict definition of what YA literature actually is. Sometimes it's considered literature that is suitable for readers aged 12-18, and at other times it can seem to target readers anywhere from 8-25.
While I dislike the idea of restricting books to particular age groups, I do feel guidelines need to be more specific if they are to be genuinely useful. What do you think?