Monday, May 24, 2010

Old Farts Are Age Appropriate Old Farts

After our little John the reviewer kerfluffle, we saw a few blogs elsewhere continued the conversation about age and reading and reviews.

A lot of people misinterpreted our concerns with a wish to censor what a teenager read, which was never anybody's intention. If it isn't my child, I have no concerns what's on any child's bookshelves.

What was a surprise to us was the number of posters who claimed to be reading romance at ages as young as 8 and erotic romance a few years later. "Really?" Carolyn said to me. "Age 8 they were reading Nora?"

"Don't ask me," I said, "it was in the early '60s and I was still playing with Barbies. Why don't you write a blog post about it?"

"Well I just think I will..."


I was shocked to discover recently how many women had started reading romance - explicit romance - at a very young age, some as young as eight.

Now, here's where I show my Old Fartness.

When I was eight I was reading Little Women and all the sequels, the Bobbsy Twins, and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (those shiny hardback books, I had quite the collection and besides I was in love with Trigger). Also Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

I graduated to biographies (loved anything re Elizabeth I) and autobiographies and segued into histories and generational tomes and then discovered SF&F.

The first romances I can remember reading were Georgette Heyer and she's hardly explicit. I think I was about 13 when I discovered her, but I won't swear to it. (It was VERY long ago, lol). At some point I remember trying some romance a la 'The Wolf and the Dove', went euwwww and never thought of romance again until I found Nora late in my life. Oh - but the backlist!!

So now I'm feeling REALLY old. Is it because it's a different era? With the discovery of online Romanceland, I've also realized just how naive and ignorant I was and am. Every day is an education for me. :-)

I don't regret my late start with the more explicit romances. Little Women was just right for me at the time and my eight year old heart beat wildly, hoping against hope that Mr. Bauer and Jo would get together; sighed with happiness at Laurie and Amy's first kiss.

I didn't need anything more back then. Sometimes I don't even now.


I agree and if that makes me an old fart then I'm happy to be one.

I read Nancy Drew I think while these others were claiming to read sex. I read Little Women and anything by Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

When I was 13, The Exorcist (the book) came out and my parents bought it for me. I don't know if they would have had they known how graphic it was (fucking herself with the crucifix, the language and the imagery).

I was not a mature child. I was an age appropriate child.

However, I handled the book fine. I also still remember it clearly.

Romance came later although I do remember reading teen romances back when I was a teen. That would have been the early 70s. Our books weren't riddled with cussing, violence or sex. In fact, my favorite sweet 16 romance didn't even share a kiss, if I remember correctly.

My daughter is nine and she's reading The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. She's playing at reading Harry Potter. I have the whole Nancy Drew library for her, if she's interested.

I think I'll keep my Maya Banks books out of her hands right now. Geez, I really must be an old fart....


  1. I also read those wonderful books you mentioned (at similar ages) but I also grabbed "The Naked Ape" at 12. I was one of the kids with a note from my Mom to give to the frowning librarian.

    I am not surprised girls are reading romance, erotica and all kinds of stuff at earlier ages. Not only is our culture seeming to double in speed every 3 months, but some of the literature for teens does not have enough substance.

    I only hope that when parents do discover their kids reading romances and all, that they talk with them about it.

    Fingers crossed!

  2. What disturbed me most about the whole thing was the fact that Jane over at Dear Author gave the impression she didn't think there was anything wrong with allowing a minor to engage in conversation with adults about some very racy material. I think it is the behavior of the adults bloggers that was highly questionable. The opinion of John was irrelevant. Its up to adults to set appropriat boundaries and kids to follow them. It is diturbing to me that the adults in this case set no boundaries and and allowed the commentors to think, de facto, they were conversing with an adult. In what universe would an adult engage in conversations with a minor like this and have it not be considered skeevy at the least and perverted at the most extreme end? People have been fired for less.

    I must admit I was reading "innapropriate romance" at a very young age. Chalk it up to the fact I was a ver precocious kid and quickly learned to use the library to my advantage. However, I am a parent now and my vow is to exercise more control over my child.

    Does this make me a hypocrite? Yep. But a good parent, regardless.

  3. I admire Jane a lot but do think she was shortsighted in that situation.

    It's strange to me that so many people were reading adult, or close to adult, books at such a young age. My daughter is nine and she has an understanding probably beyond mine at the same age of life and all, but she has no desire to read my books. She's a total R-Patz fangirl but hasn't even gotten into reading Twilight.

    The kind of Mom I am that if she were to pick up a book from one of my bookshelves I'd probably suggest she read it aloud. That would kill any interest she had in it.

  4. When I was that age, they didn`t have the racy books they have now. My romance reading started with Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, Georgette Heyer and Anya Seton to name a few. Then when I was a few years older, I discovered Harold Robbins. That was an eye opener I tell you *g*.

  5. Oh lord Kristie - I see I left a few authors off my list! I've read everyone you've listed, although not ALL of Harold Robbins.

    And Sidney Shelton - found a Rage of Angels as a free download on Kindle; I think it's been centuries since I first read it, lol.

    Katherine by Anya Seton remains one of my favorite books.

  6. I honestly can't recall what I read as a kid but I was forever reading - moving around a lot and having no 'friends' to speak of it was easier to dive between the pages and make these people my friends. I do recall The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe but that's about it.

    Of course by the time I hit 14-15 I found Harold Robbins books and agree with Kristie about them being an eye opener. I think I spent that year blushing a lot lol Other than that, maybe some Jackie Collins but I grew out of them fast enough and went in to Stephen King and a lot of the 'teen romance' books.

    I'm more in to thrillers and mysteries and stuff now but would read a romance if it was there. And Kristie, I just read my first Mary Stewart - The Crystal Cave. Loved it :D

  7. I read my first romance at the age of 12. Although I was fascinated by the sex scenes, they were really quite tame in comparison to most mainstream romances published these days.

    Perhaps I am an old fart - at the age of 31 - but I find the idea of a pre-pubescent reading sex scenes disturbing. I realise that many kids are sexually active at a younger age than their parents would like them to be, but I still think exposure to explicit sex scenes at the age of 8 is not a good idea. Same goes for violence.

  8. I'm so old an old fart that when I started reading romances at a tender age, they were chaster than chaste. A kiss, I guess. But mostly an HEA. I was a sucker for the HEA.

    I have no idea what children have access to these days and what they make of what they read. I don't have children, and I know better than to poke around in other people's child rearing choices. I wonder how authors of more sexually explicit material feel about having young kids reading it? I think I'd be seriously squicked out.

  9. The icky part for me is not the sex, which is a normal, healthy part of life, but that a child that age would be at all interested in reading about it.

    I know children can be 'sexual', but I would think not to the extent found in explicit romance.