by Risa Green
A few weeks ago I ran into a woman I haven’t seen since my son was in preschool two years ago. We were at the grocery store and started chatting in line, and she mentioned her daughter, who is twelve, so I mentioned that I just wrote a book for girls that age, and told her that she should look it up on Amazon. A few days after that, I ran into her again, which was weird, considering that I hadn’t seen her in two years, and then all of a sudden here she was, twice in the same week. Anyway, she tapped me on the shoulder, and she told me that when she got home from the market that day she and her daughter really did look up my book on Amazon. She said that she ordered it, and then she thanked me for writing it. She and her daughter, she told me, had gotten into a big fight recently about whether she would be allowed to read The Clique, and so she was grateful that I had written something that was age appropriate and positive about friendship, but that also appealed to her daughter.
Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t read The Clique, and I don’t know the first thing about it, so it’s hard for me to make judgments or comparisons. But in any event, I thought it was interesting that this woman made that comment to me, because it’s exactly how I’ve been pitching my book to moms – as an age appropriate, clean book with no sex, no swearing, and a positive message. Although, according to the PR guy at my publisher, it seems that my definition of swearing may be slightly more progressive than others’, as certain family-oriented publications rejected my book for review. It seems that the word “bitch,” and the expression “screw her” actually do still qualify as swear words in some circles. (Who knew??) But that’s beside the point – the point is, it was incredibly validating to get such unsolicited feedback from a mom of a twelve year-old, and I felt really good about putting something out there that moms would approve of.
But twelve is not eight, or nine, or even ten. For instance, when my daughter is twelve, I don’t think I would mind if she read a book with the word bitch in it, but I certainly would have a problem with her reading it now, at eight. Over the weekend, I had a book release party with a pink theme and some really cute pink stuff. (Check out The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball Facebook page  if you want to see pictures!) I invited a bunch of middle-school girls and their mothers, but I also invited some of my daughter’s friends and their moms, too. Everyone was incredibly supportive and generous and bought multiple books, but time and again, I found myself telling people to go ahead and buy it, and then put it on a high bookshelf for two or three years until their daughters are old enough to read it. But if there’s no sex and no drugs and no swearing, why not? they would ask. Or, some would tell me what advanced readers their kids are, reading 300 pages in two days, finishing an entire Harry Potter book in one sitting. Which is awesome. But my book is about girls in tenth grade, who do the kinds of things that fifteen year-old girls do, and say the kinds of things that fifteen year-olds say, and get themselves into the kinds of situations that fifteen year-olds often find themselves in. And since we were all fifteen once, I think you can probably see why that might not be an appropriate subject matter for kids in grade school, no matter how advanced of a reader she is. I mean, just because a kid is capable of reading a book doesn’t mean a kid should read a book. After all, any kid can sit through an R rated movie, too, but that doesn’t mean he belongs in the theater.
My daughter, of course, has been begging to read my book. The cover is pink and girly and adorable, and she’s heard my pitch over and over again – it’s about three best friends who get a toy crystal ball that turns out to really be able to predict the future – which makes her think of her two best friends and what they would do with a magical crystal ball. Not to mention the fact that I’m her mom, and she’s proud of me, and excited about it. So I get it, and believe me, it’s tempting to let her read it. But I won’t. I told her that when she’s ten, we’ll revisit it and see if I think she’s mature enough. Which gets lots of big pouts and whiny awwwwws in response, but I’m holding firm. I’ve already signed a special copy to her, but it’s way up at the top of a bookshelf. She’s just going to have to wait.