Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Language, please.

Cohn, Rachel and Levithan, David. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
Copy Provided by Bookworm Readers!!!

Dash finds a red moleskine notebook in The Strand bookstore in New York City. In it, there are clues to find in books, and instructions (since Dash meets all the criteria) to leave his e-mail address in a book at the desk. He ups the stakes and leaves a clue for Lily, who left the notebook, to follow. This starts an interesting give and take wherein the two leave the notebook at various NYC landmarks and learn more about each other through exchanging journal entries. Eventually, they have an anti-cute meet, but recover from that and decide that they can, in fact, hang out together. A very philosophical work about expectations, relationships, and how to find a kindred spirit in a confusing world.

Strengths: Brilliantly written, wonderful characters, vibrant setting. Got the clever Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett reference and adored the vicarious romance in (for an Ohio girl) an exotic setting. As a teen, I would have had a HUGE literary crush on Dash.

Weaknesses: Made me very, very, very angry, because the gratuitous f-bombs with which the book is littered make it unsuitable for middle schoolers. Or anyone, although I'll probably send this book on to the high school. See rant below.

Rant: I've said it before. There is NO excuse for using the f-bomb in ANY book. It doesn't make it realistic or cutting edge or current. It's just lazy. And vulgar. And unimaginative. Let's throw in sophomoric as well.

A young (Okay, Teacher Ninja-- she was old enough to know better!) actress recently got herself in trouble for inadvertently letting this word fly in the middle of her acceptance speech. This indicates to me that she is in the habit of using this word. This is not okay. My high school daughter recently received a text from a young gentleman full of foul words. If these words are appearing in young adult literature, it gives their use validity.

There are a few books in my collection which use this word for various reasons. This book threw it around much too casually, and it is my opinion that this casual use ruined an exceedingly fine story which I would otherwise have been pleased to share with my students.

ARGH!!! I'm just saying "no".


  1. I agree with your rant but must point out that the actress was 51 years old. I wouldn't call her old necessarily, but young? Maybe middle aged?

    But yes, it's too bad that the authors have limited the appeal of their book to only kids who will hear of it and can afford to buy it because most libraries will shy away from unnecessary language.

  2. i agree with you-- most instances of f-bombing in ya lit feel like teachers dying their hair green-- a lame attempt to appear cool, while so getting it wrong.
    i'm ok with most other language, as long as it actually sounds natural and not put on to try to impress an audience.

  3. I agree with the gratuitous f-bombs, but I do find that I don't mind a few here or there if there is a reason. Example: Walter Dean Myers' Lockdown, which I thought was brilliant. There were some f-bombs, but far less than I would expect for an adolescent prison story, and they made the conversation and setting more realistic. I wouldn't expect teenage thugs and gangbangers to say things like "gosh darn".

  4. I could not agree with you more. I know a lot of readers don't feel that way since it is "representative of real life". Even if it is, it shouldn't be!! I read Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and I'm afraid I won't be going back to these authors after that experience.

  5. That's so disappointing, isn't it? I love Cohn, but none of her books on on my middle school shelves. :(

  6. So glad I'm not the only one! I just put down a book because there were so many gratuitous uses of the f-word. Really, I'm better off without it.

  7. You'll also want to avoid Going Bovine by Libba Bray - a contemporary Catcher in the Rye. I just finished it, but haven't gotten any reviews from my HS students yet.

  8. I am the worst kind of hypocrite. In real life (in private) I have been known to talk like a sailor. And yet as a teacher and frequent book recommender I loathe to see it all in print. Of course, as a third grade teacher the "d" word can send me over the edge (REALLY? REALLY? I have to now write a parent to get permission for a child to read a book by AVI? WHY?) but absolutely sympathize about the f-bomb. I'm not for censorship but I do dream of spending time with a thick Sharpie making books readable. Or maybe the book's editors could do it and save us all the angst.