Coming of Age

16 Feb

I’ve always been the aunt who gives books (not mine!) for Christmas or birthdays. It became a cliche after a while. A few years ago, my niece shook her Christmas present and was like, “I wonder what it is – Lego and a book!” I responded with, “You’re sure?” She replied, “That’s what you always do!”

My sister was never as keen on reading as my parents were to us, so I tied in vain with a variety of good quality chapter books to get them to read. (Archie Comics, however, seem to do the initial trick). Anyway, my niece discovered Harry Potter about a year ago, and has become an avid reader. I think they’ve had my Narnia stuff for more than half a year and I’m not convinced they’ve touched it, but I’ve always been the sort of person happy to lend a book out.

I read A Dance with Dragons over the past few weeks. One night, at my parent’s my niece, now 11, saunters over.

Scarlet: Whatcha reading?

Me: A really thick fantasy novel.

Scarlet: Okay (tries to see for herself)

Me: *Closes ereader screen* Why don’t you read that book I downloaded for you?

Scarlet: Sounds good to me! *she finds the book faster than I can*

The title in question, if you’re curious, is The Wizard’s Dog.

I watched this kid not only learn to understand what I was saying but learn to talk back to me. I am overly critical of movies and tv shows that they watch (to an extent; mostly when they’re short and there’s a big difference between what my 10 year old nephew wants to watch and what my three year old niece wants to watch) and I still have no idea what happened to my DVD copy of The Princess Bride. It went missing after I brought it on a day trip, they wanted to ‘finish it later’.

So we’re sitting around the table another night and I ask if she wants to borrow the eReader. You know, read the book she really wanted.

Scarlet: You keep it for the weekend. I’m reading Divergent.

My Sister: I have no idea what it’s about.

Me: I read it a few years ago. Society is split into factions, they decide if they want to be brave or smart or self-sacrificing… *sister’s eyes are glazing over* There’s a movie.

My sister: Yeah, they usually base movies off books, hey?

My brain, meanwhile, is going. “That’s a YA book. …she’s almost a teenager now, isn’t she?” Sparing you the difference between twelve year olds in the 90’s and twelve year olds now, let’s just say I’ve read quite a bit of YA material. Popular YA material. I have no problem with giving kids material aimed above their reading level. I have no problem letting them read stuff I find… possibly a little mature.

I just don’t want it to be ASOIAF. My coworkers are telling me they can’t get into it because it’s so violent and full of incest. We respond to assaults all the time. When she’s in her later teens, sure – if she’s interested.

Then my brain went into the ‘problematic’ YA of yesteryear. I don’t want this to turn into Paranormal Romance Bashing, because I’ve read some that’s quite tasteful and very well written and I don’t want to brush with wide strokes. One of my coworkers reads more books than I do a year, and it’s mostly of this genre.

But some of it makes me go, “…Nu uh.” I ain’t going to tell her what to read. I just am going to give her as much quality fiction as I can. Around the time I’m thinking this, it occurs to me: she’s got a copy of Tower of Obsidian (she paid with about $2.47 at the time). I wrote two books specifically for her – that are yet unpublished. She loved the Wonder Woman movie, which I still haven’t seen. I’m already ahead of the curve.

Take that, media that treats young girls like vapid morons. Ya ain’t getting these ones. Not on this chick’s watch.

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