Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Violent Books

Middle grade is tough. Students want to read all sorts of things that aren't all that good for them to read, especially violence. It's fine if they want to buy books or get books from the public library, but when I am HANDING them a book, it makes me uncomfortable if it graphically describes knifing another person. I'm better if the violence is attributed to or used against a supernatural creature (zombies, demons, etc.), because in those cases, it's self defense. There are some books where the human characters seem to be involved in, or even enjoy, too much violence. I'd love for people to chime in with their thoughts on this topic.

Flicker & Burn (Cold Fury, #2)Goeglein, T.M. Flicker & Burn
20 August 2013, Putnam Juvenile
Copy received from publisher.

Sarah Jane is back, still smarting from the disappearance of her family and from her father's betrayal. She's know the mediator for local disputes, but also the target of creepy Ice Cream creatures-- zombie-type characters who follow her around in a black ice cream van. She still is trying to deal with all of the mafia related problems, and uncovers some unsavory information about her grandfather when his brother, who was not in the outfit, shows up with his granddaughter, but she has to figure out why the creatures are trying to kill her, as well. She sends her friend Doug to investigate, and he gets hooked on the ice cream, Sec-C, that helps him break his addiction to food. It also bleaches out his skin and turns his tongue purple... just like the creatures. It turns out that yet another mafia person, "Ice Cream" Cohen, is involved, and Sarah Jane must save her friend while trying to keep everything together and find her family.
Strengths: Plenty of car chases, intrigue, mafia manipulations, and mystery. I like Sarah Jane, too, and there's even a little romance.
Weaknesses: The Ice Cream creatures made this jump the shark for me, and this got pretty violent. I really liked the first book, and there were parts of this I did like (the family interactions are fascinating and the best part of both books), but the zombies and Sarah's growing power to throw electricity from her eyes seemed... odd.

The Sacrifice Higson, Charlie. The Sacrifice. (#4)
11 June 2013, Disney Hyperion

Case in point. This series is a survival tale. Adults have turned in to zombies and children have to band together and fight them off. I read this, I did, but I got really confused, especially with Wormwood in the picture. This is a good example of books that my students adore that I'm... kind of tired of. Still, have to have some copies of this for the first day of school. This series is supposed to go for seven books. Sigh.

From the Publisher:
"The Sacrifice picks up after Small Sam and The Kid arrive at the Tower of London at the end of The Dead. Though Sam finds safety and friendship at the Tower with Jordan Hordern's crew, he can't settle down. The only thing he wants is to be reunited with his sister, Ella. Despite Ed's protests, Sam and the Kid strike out westward, through the no-go zone.
Meanwhile, Shadowman is tracking Saint George across north London, watching him build up his army. Shadowman knows that Saint George is an extremely dangerous threat, but no one will take his warnings seriously.
Some answers to the questions we've been wondering about--What is the Disease? Where did it come from? Is there a cure?--are addressed by an unexpected source: a diseased adult nicknamed Wormwood who has the ability to speak, though his ravings are difficult to decipher."

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Sanderson, Brandon. Steelheart (Reckoners#1)
24 September 2013, Delacorte
ARC from Baker and Taylor

A series about Evil superheroes who destroy the world, and people who rise from the dystopia to kill them. Don't know if it was the series aspect or the superheroes, but the deaths were pervasive and violent, and I think I will pass. Maybe I just got too many similar books at the same time, and could no longer stomach the gore. Take a look if you think it's something your library could use. I'll stick with lighter super heroes, light Anderson's Sidekicked.

From the Publisher: "
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge."


  1. Anonymous5:11 PM EDT

    Well, I'm not a librarian, so I don't have first-hand experience...but have you seen this thoughtful essay at the Horn Book? It deals with the same issues for a YA audience. http://www.hbook.com/2013/08/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/disturbing-or-not-young-adult-fiction/

  2. I'm not a fan of graphic violence either, though I've noticed from books like The Hunger Games that my kids have less trouble with it. I also find that fellow parents are fine with violence, but s-e-x is utter taboo...

    I think for MG or YA, it's the moral compass aspect of the story that's really important, especially if there's violence. Not that I'm a fan of heavy moral-of-the-story elements in books, but care should be taken that kids don't get the wrong message.

    MG is hard, like you said, because kids sometimes ask for books that are not a good idea...

  3. The middle age is hard, especially if the kid is a voracious reader. I can't always remember every detail of the book and sometimes just sort of hope that there's nothing in it their parents will find offensive.

    Personally, I read Foxe's Book of Martyrs at the tender age of 11 and so far as I am aware it has not yet warped my soul.

    I have noticed that parents are often much more comfortable with violence than sex - maybe b/c they don't want to think that violence is something that will ever happen to their child, certainly not the over-the-top, secret agent-ish violence of a lot of books aimed at middle grade boys but they know sex will probably happen at some point!