Teen Talk: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' not suitable for teen readers

05/07/2013 12:00 AM

05/06/2013 4:27 PM

DEAR KELLY: I'm a teenager and I want to read "Fifty Shades of Grey." My parents say, "No," but I think they're being ridiculous and over- reacting. I mean, they don't really even need to know if I'm reading it, but I thought I would ask, and then they said it was inappropriate.

They are just basing it on what they have heard from other people. All my friends say it's more of a love story than anything.

As a teenager, shouldn't I be able to decide what I read? Aren't they being a little too protective not letting me pick my own books? I love reading but not when they tell me what I can and can't read.

– Elisa

DEAR ELISA: The word "teenager" has quite an age span – it can mean age 13 to 19. Since you didn't state your age in the letter, I'm not sure how old you are and that makes giving a final answer difficult.

The good news is that you want to read. Any time I hear teenagers talk about wanting to read, it brings a smile to my face. Developing a love for reading is a great gift, and I commend you for finding a love for books.

The bad news is that the book you want to read may not be suitable for you depending on your age. Your parents' concerns are justified.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" has a "mature content" rating, which means that it is an adult book with adult themes not suitable for younger minds. The sexual context is not appropriate for a teenager and the explicit sexual nature could be upsetting or disturbing to young people.

I know some adults who have found the books troubling and struggled with such graphic sexual content. Your friends may call it a romance novel, but the other side of the book is the sexual story line that makes the book intended for adult readers.

If you look at the brief book synopses on Amazon, they clearly state "Intended for mature audiences," which really means adults. Trust the rating, trust your parents and find another book.

If you are 18 or 19 years old, sit down with your parents and try to have a mature conversation about what their concerns are about the book. Be open to what they have to say and share why you are interested in reading it.

Ask what they are basing their concerns on and what their fears are about you reading it. Give them examples of other mature-themed books you may have read and how you processed it. Make no mistake though, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is not just mature in thought, it is mature in content and sexuality. In the end, if you live in their home, then you should respect their wishes. When you are out of the house and living on your own, you can choose to read it freely and without feeling as though you are disrespecting them or their rules.

There are plenty of other books to read that are intended for teenagers. Have you read "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," The Hunger Games," "Lock and Key" or "Chains?" Or if you want more a classic love story, try reading "Pride and Prejudice," "Romeo and Juliet" or "Gone With the Wind."

You don't need to make "Fifty Shades of Grey" into a power struggle with your parents when there are so many other wonderful books you can read that are completely appropriate for teenage readers. Let this one go and save your battles for another time.

Your parents are not being overprotective. They are being protective and caring, which is their job. They have a right to not want you to read something intended for adult readers. You don't have to agree with them, but you should respect their decisions.

Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@sacbee.com.

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