The “Internet Girls”, also refered to as the “IM” series, is a trilogy by American author Lauren Myracle written between 2005 and 2008. The Young Adult series consisting of TTYL (2005), TTFN (2007), and L8R, G8R (2008) follows the lives of three friends- Zoe, Maddie, and Angela- as they deal with such topics of high school social drama as boys, drugs, alcohol, parties, driving, emotional rampages, and college prep. The series begins when the girls are in middle school and ends in their senior year. TTYL and TTFN were both New York Times Best Sellers, and TTYL made history as the first novel to be written entirely in instant messages; the dialogue is presented in color-coded Instant Message bubbles to distinguish the senders.
Preoccupied with talk of sex and college, the girls run into realistic situations that involve foul language, drugs, and alcohol in a less than casual way.
Thus, the book series became very popular with teenage girls; as its popularity grew so did controversy over the storylines and content. By 2009 it was the number one title banned by schools and libraries across the nation; and has remained in the top ten for the last two years. The books have been challenged mostly because of the use of curse words, graphic descriptions of sex, alcohol use, student-teacher relationships, and “too much partying.”
For example, TTYL was removed from Round Rock, Texas, middle-school libraries in 2008 after parents complained about sexual content and profanity.
The series does not attempt to be preachy or a lecture on morals; that’s the realm of the censors. What it does is present its characters so realistically that readers immediately identify with them; that’s what powerful writing does- it creates a personal connection between the reader and the story. The books portray the parents with a similar realism, revealing their human imperfections. It’s that raw truthfulness that has the ire of the censors.
Experimentation and thrill-seeking are a rite of passage for teens. For the IM girls this took shape in situations where one girl gets caught smoking pot, while another gets caught in bed with a boy.
Myracle argues that to engage teenagers you have to write honestly about them.
“Kids need to see their world reflected back to them. I’ve had many girls say ‘thank you for writing this’.”
But Myracle has received a steady stream of angry e-mails from parents who are irate over her bestselling series. What’s ironic is that the anger and offensive language used by these parents is sometimes worse than what is contained in the pages of her books.
Another of Myracle’s novels, Twelve, generated a flood of complaints and angry emails because the book, aimed at younger readers, describes a girl trying to figure out how to put in a tampon.
In an interview with the BBC, Myracle said, “It is so revealing to me the vituperativeness they address me with. They are angry.” A common e-mail reads: “What gives you the right to take away my child\’s innocence?”
Here are a few more examples:
“I find it absolutely amazing that you as a mother find it appropriate to inform young innocent minds of such things as thongs, French kissing, tampons, and erections.”
“Just because you were apparently a girl with loose morals early in life, doesn\’t give you the right to influence young girls to follow in your horrible footsteps.”
“Are you a pedophile? Do you enjoy making money off of misguiding the youth?”
“Satan is on the rampage and his name is Lauren Myracle.”
We are overprotecting our children. Even if they don’t use such language, I can guarantee they’ve all heard it. If you have a teenage son, guess what? He’s had an erection. Guaranteed. Being ignorant of life does not mean that it doesn’t continue all around you, unimpeded by your moral qualms.
Judging by the hate seething from these emails, it’s pretty clear where the earlier influence was in your child using bad language and acting irrationally.
If you honestly believe that your child- any child- can be so easily manipulated and influenced simply from reading a book then the fault is not that of the author; the failure is on your hands. You have failed as a parent if your child has reached their teen years and still has no clue what the difference is between fantasy and reality.
If the IM series is guilty of anything, it’s perpetuating the bad grammar and misspelling inherent in a culture fixated on text messaging. But, I digress, as that is an issue of another kind that is best discussed on its own.
The issues and concerns of teens are real, and there is a very real need for open and honest dialogue concerning these topics. In the quest of truth, though, Myracle is in good company. Judy Blume is the second-most banned author in the United States. Her bluntly honest stories of female adolescence resonated through several generations, even as they are routinely banned and challenged.
Instead of educating children about the dangers of certain actions and intelligently explaining why they shouldn’t do things, some think the answer is to flatly ban everyone from doing it. In the end, it is counterproductive for censors to try to ban Young Adult fiction; as anyone with a modicum of intelligence and reasoning can tell you- the quickest way to get a teenager to do something is by telling them that they can’t do it. Knowledge comes from experience, and wisdom is borne from knowledge. That tenacious rebellion of doing what we’re told not to is what separates the wise leaders of tomorrow from the mindless followers of today.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html
Sources: American Library Association, Wikipedia, Amazon, Yahoo News, Grand County Library (CO), The Guardian (UK), BBC World News
© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions