Two years after winning the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, Ted Dawe’s Into the River is now temporarily banned, because Bob McCoskrie hates fun.
There’s something in the way we talk about young adult fiction. The Herald article refers to Into the River as a “sex and drugs teen novel”. Bob McCoskrie’s own press release calls it “explicit“.
I haven’t read Into the River, but fortunately we lived in the internet era. The reviews of the book on Goodreads seem to indicate that it’s a “sex and drugs teen novel” inasmuch as it is a novel about teens which involves sex and also drugs. It’s not Fear and Loathing on the East Coast.
Even the much anticipated “C-word” references left me wanting. Like the sound a lone party horn makes just before it fizzes and dies out, those passages were so fleeting, and so perfectly “within context” as to be anti-climatic. I had to re-read them just to give them another chance to make an impact. I felt like saying “C’mon Ted, you gotta earn that Parental Advisory sticker! All you’ve given us so far is real people talking how real people talk!”
I’ve only given the Goodreads reviews a quick scan, but the main criticisms seem to be about not really connecting with the protagonist, the sex scene itself seeming out of place, the pacing being uneven.
Pretty shocking stuff.
It always puzzles me – at the ripe old age of 31 – how some people seem to have completely forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. Guess what: no matter what generation you’re from, sex and things-that-make-your-brain-go-wheeeeeeee is a fundamental part of the process of growing up. And having no information about them didn’t help, did it? You’ve still got the rush of adolescent hormones, you’re still having exciting, strange feelings when you see boys/girls/elves. You’re still going to explore what it means to be growing up and forming relationships.
A book which explores those things isn’t exactly out of place. And I’d rather that kids work through their questions and uncertainties through reading instead of practical trial-and-error.
Sure, slap a “mature content” sticker on the front if you really want to make sure that every single teenager on the planet will read it.
But while we’re at it, have you heard about this book which actually claims to teach morality with stories of men sleeping with their own daughters, polygamy, graphic torture, and selling women into sexual slavery? People actually force children to learn its so-called teachings! They go into our schools to spread its deviant messages! You can even find it in almost every hotel room in the world!
I’m sure Bob McCoskrie will not rest until that’s banned, too.