Targeting Young Adults Through Fiction

January 7, 2020

This is an article I hoped I would never have to write. For several years, I have screamed about these books by Jason Myers to anyone I could get to listen. When I wrote my book, Between the Covers: What’s Inside a Children’s Book?, I included two pages of descriptions about one of these books, and also commented on the pervasive profanity.

One of these books has over thirteen hundred f-words, not to mention all the other vulgarities. As to these profanities, I often remark that those profanities are the nicest part of the book. I had hoped that someone would take up that shovel I talk about in my “Sippy Cup” message and start asking questions—lots of them. The silence has been deafening.

Before I delve into this further, I would like to mention that if and when you look up these books and find out that they are not in your own local libraries, you should not breathe a sigh of relief and stick your head back into the sand. If a major publishing house has published these books that I will be addressing for a young adult audience, how do we know how many more books are just like these, worse than these, or at least close cousins?

Additionally, many parents fail to realize that just because a particular book isn’t on your library’s shelves, doesn’t mean that it isn’t available as an e-book. These books are downloaded (for free!) by simply entering your library card number. In West Virginia, Exit Here is available as a WV DELI (WV Digital Entertainment Library Initiative) selection.

I recently read a Life Site News article by Jonathon Van Maren which caught my eye. The title of his blog was, “Porn director sounds alarm: Female strangulation, choking dominates mainstream porn.” Maren refers to an article in The Atlantic about “a sharp rise in the practice of choking during sexual acts.” Quoting from porn director, ‘Erica Lust,’ “[f]ace slapping, choking, gagging, and spitting has become the alpha and omega of any porn scene . . .”

You may be wondering how or why Maren’s blog ties into books published for children. I will start at the beginning. This is from the copyright page of Exit Here by Jason Myers:

Note that Simon Pulse is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. A student can earn thirteen points for reading this book and passing a multiple choice quiz available on Accelerated Reader (AR). This book for young adults is written for students in the 9th-12th grades and is written on a fourth grade, first month reading level. The AR description notes that the plot contains pervasive profanity, graphic and violent sexual situations, and drug use. “Pervasive profanity, graphic and violent sexual situations, and drug use,” to describe a book Simon & Schuster published for children?

Exit Here, by Jason Myers, was published in 2007. The following are some excerpts from the book about "choking" and "spitting":

You choked me and slammed my head against the wall and came on my face, then gave me a fake phone number. p. 93

. . . the two of us are clawing and choking each other. p. 192

“Okay,” she says, closing her eyes. “Whatever you want.”
I wrap my hands around her neck. p. 184
. . . Laura starts pressing her neck wincing every time her fingers jab against it.
. . . “I think you f@cked up my neck while we were having sex earlier,” she tells me.
I didn’t mean to be so rough. I’m sorry.
“Don’t apologize, Travis. It’s okay. It was good. I enjoyed it immensely.”
. . . Lara says, “It’s always good to get it a little rough, ya know, That’s how you like to screw me You always have.” p. 189

“I want you inside of me,” she moans. “Get inside of me, Travis.”
. . . “Spit in my mouth,” she says.
I draw a glob of saliva to the front of my mouth and drop it into hers.
“Awesome,” she swallows. “Now f@ck me.” pp. 251-252

I will stop here with these few examples from the numerous available. A quick glance back to the picture from the copyright page will show that this book was published in 2007. Who knows if any (or how many) others similar to this one have been published targeting teens? If thirteen year old kids read this book in 2007, they would be twenty-five today. Could these be some of the adults Van Maren was referring to in his article?

Simon & Schuster published these five books by Jason Myers for young adults that, combined, contain 3000+ f-words for young adults:

  • Exit Here 2007 (an Accelerated Reader selection)
  • The Mission 2010 (an Accelerated Reader selection)
  • Dead End 2011 (an Accelerated Reader selection)
  • Run the Game 2012
  • Blazed 2014

On page two of Blazed, by Jason Myers, the teens can learn how to use Oxycontin to feel “beautiful” and “happy.”

I’m fourteen years old now. And I set an Oxycontin 30 in the middle of a sheet of aluminum foil the size of my hand. . . . I hold the lighter underneath the foil. When the pill starts to smoke, I chase it back and forth and back and forth with the hollowed-out Bic pen in my mouth. 
I close my eyes as the smoke slowly releases from my mouth and nostrils.       
Everything is very different now.      
I feel like fog. 
It’s so perfect.
When I open my eyes again, the world is glass and it’s beautiful and I’m happy. Page 2

These may be some of the worst books available for teens . . . but maybe not. It seems that one publisher has to outdo the next one in pushing the boundaries. What are these boundaries? Are there any? Are these books obscene, or do “community standards” declare otherwise? Is this the type of content necessary to prepare kids to become “Career and College Ready?” Are these books simply considered “entertaining?” Are these books written on third and fourth grade reading levels helping 9th-12th graders become better readers, or do these types of books give these teens more of a desire to read books just like these that are also written on very low reading levels? Are there no better books available to adorn the school and public library shelves? Why aren’t we asking more questions?

I could give example after example from other books. Jason Myers is certainly not the only author for young adults who writes this type of content. Myers isn’t even the real point of this article, as he is free to write whatever he wishes. In saying that, no publisher has to publish what he has written, let alone the Children’s Division of a major publishing house.

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