Rating Books Like Movies

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So apparently, my blog is rated PG. My parents would be so proud. I was hoping I would at least garner a PG-13, but oh well. ;) If you want to check your rating, go here.

This rating got me to thinking though. A while back I posted about the sex in young adult books. Many of you commented that you prefer to both write and buy wholesome. However, the norm for most teen books these days is to have a bit more than wholesome. Some it's mere sexual tension or comments, some it's full out sex/drugs/violence. So I started wondering about ratings.

We use rating systems for a number of things already. Movies, music, and video games come to mind. These handy letters let us decide what we want to see/hear personally and what we allow our children to be exposed to. So, should this be considered for books?

And I'm not just talking about YA books, but all books. The level of sex, language, and violence in novels can vary greatly. For instance, in the romance genre, you can find anything from inspirational (where a kiss before marriage may be taboo) to straight up erotica (where hardly any line goes uncrossed). Many category publishers draw up their own rating systems to let readers know what to expect.

Harlequin does it by having separate lines with different sensuality levels. For instance, you know if you pick up a Steeple Chase book from Harlequin, you're going to get a sweet romance. You pick up a Blaze (high sensuality) or a Spice (erotica), you know there will be no fade to black sex scenes. Everything will be out there for the reading. So readers have the option to decide what they are comfortable with.

So could this work for other books? What if you picked up the latest thriller and on the back it said "Rated R for adult. Contains graphic violence, torture scenes, and language." Or, you picked up a YA for your kid and it said "15 and up, contains mild sexual situations and some foul language." Would you pay attention to that rating?

Many people will argue against the rating because it could lead to censorship. What if libraries (or Walmart--as they did with the CDs with explicit lyrics) decided they wouldn't stock any teen books that weren't PG? What would happen to the authors who write great edgy YA? What great stories would readers miss out on? Or, a library/store in a conservative community could decide that no x-rated books were allowed for adults, so all sensual romance/erotica was banned. (I shudder at the thought, lol.)

So I have mixed feelings on this (what's new). Part of me likes the idea of a rating. No so much to censor what I'm reading, but more just to know what to pick up when a mood strikes me. Sometimes I'm okay with reading graphic violence, sometimes I'm in the mood for something milder. I also think that parents have the right to know what they're kids are reading. (Although, I lean more on the side of letting them read it if appropriately aged, then have a discussion about some of the more adult themes if necessary. I would have hated to be stuck with only squeaky clean books as a child. A lot of edgy YA is awesome.)

But on the other hand, it does make me nervous to think that some books/authors could be censored. My YA tends to lean to edgy and my adult romance has no closed doors, so I could be one of those people to get stamped with a naughty rating (if I ever were so lucky to be published.) I would hate to see any author's creative freedom be choked by having to play to the market. And God help us all if Walmart starts deciding what is okay for us to read.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think ratings would be helpful? Or do you fear the fallout they would cause?

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"Livin' on the Edge" - Aerosmith
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