Friday, July 1, 2011

How old?

How old should my child be to read Eternal Knight?

I've been asked this question many times in the past month. It is a challenging one to answer.

Eternal Knight is not a Young Adult (YA) novel. It is funny how many people automatically think that fantasy means YA. I think it is a result of the Harry Potter age we live in. If you aren't a fantasy genre reader it is easy to make the fantasy=YA assumption.

Most fantasy novels have great appeal to YA audiences. They might not have been purposefully written for the YA audience, but there is nothing objectionable in them. The Lord of the Rings was not written as a YA novel, but how many of us read the books as teenagers? When I think about some of the books that had an impact on me as a teenager (Shannara, Thomas Covenant, The Belgariad, Riftwar, Amber, Dragonriders of Pern) I can't remember much that my parents could object to. I wouldn't have a problem with giving any of them to a thirteen year old.

GRR Martin is about as popular as they come right now. His works are considerably grittier than much of the fantasy I have read. The sex is more explicit, the violence is more graphic, and the tone is grimmer. The books are also more sophisticated in content and style. A Game of Thrones would not pass my thirteen year old test. That is... for most thirteen year olds.

So should a thirteen year old read Eternal Knight? I'll give the answer any good economist would give... it depends. My question is how sophisticated is the thirteen year old in question. Eternal Knight is not stylistically challenging to read. It is not a piece of sophisticated literary fiction that demands the reader chew on every sentence. However, some of the content is adult. No, there's no sex on the page. But it is implied to have occurred between two of the chapters. And there are a few sexually charged scenes. Some of the violence is pretty graphic as well. 

I know a couple of thirteen and fourteen year olds who have read, and enjoyed Eternal Knight. I do worry that a grumpy parent will seek me out, upset at something their child read in the novel. It isn't a conversation I want to have. After the child has read the book is too late.

When parents ask me if Eternal Knight is right for their child I give them the straight scoop on what their kid is going to read. And if they still aren't sure, I tell them that they should read it first. I might lose a sale with this approach, but it is better than dealing with a disgruntled parent. Hey, if the parent reads the book they just might like it. Fantasy isn't just for kids.

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