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What parents of tweens and teens need to know about BookTok

What parents of tweens and teens need to know about BookTok

Olivia Carter, a 7th-grade school counselor in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, laughed when asked about the novel. Ice breaker.

The book pops up often. TikTok As a #BookTok suggestion. With its pastel cover featuring a competitive figure skater and hockey team captain, the book has the look of a classic teen romcom. It is anything but.

Ice breaker, is part of author Hannah Grace's Maple Hill series, which BookTokkers calls a “spicy” read. Translation? It has graphic descriptions of sex. The main characters in this case are college students.

The novel is so graphic that students at Carter's school are not allowed to read it on campus, and parents are often cautiously approached if their child is found reading it. Carter has spoken to parents who had no idea. Ice breaker is sexy.

“Parents are usually happy with that phone call,” says Carter.

They are not alone in their wonder, as other parents have shown A Reddit thread about Ice breaker A few months ago.

While Ice breaker Published last year, it continues the controversy over the book. In a recent video, a bookseller commented on how the beautiful cover design fooled both young readers and their parents. He recommended the book and others like him by putting a sticker indicating that they are for people 18 and up. (There is currently no such rating system.) The TikTok video has received over 886,000 views and over 1,600 comments.

Ice breaker Book Talk is a great example of how Book Talk has the power to direct young people and young adults to explicit or violent content, even as it encourages them to develop positive reading habits and enjoy books and Helps them build communities around ideas.

Experts like Carter say parents should be curious about what their kids are looking for on BookTok. By paying close attention to your child's reading list, being willing to talk about difficult topics like sex and violence, and helping your child identify signs that a book is too mature for them. Yes, a parent can be an assistant attendee.

Conversely, a hardline approach that bans books without discussion is likely to backfire. Carter says tweens and young adults, especially on TikTok, are using their book choices as a form of self-expression. They want to appear mature enough to handle certain types of content, and they're doing so on a digital platform where the act of buying and displaying books gives them a sense of belonging to a wider community.

“I think kids definitely want people to notice, like, 'Oh these are all the books I'm reading, and these books say something about me,'” Carter says.

What to know about BookTok for Tweens and Teens

Before the advent of social media, an inquisitive teen or teenager could certainly find titles with mature or explicit themes, says Mindy Carroll, editor of Common Sense Media Books.

Carol recalls being a young reader and the reason they faced. Cave Bear ClanA work of prehistoric fiction published in 1980 that depicts sexual abuse. Later books in the series include consensual, graphic sex.

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“Each generation will have some way that kids discover sex in books,” Carroll says. His own review of Ice breaker describes it as “a lot of graphic, erotic sex” and says it is intended for readers 17 and older.

The difference today is that these discoveries happen at the speed of social media, facilitated by influencers and algorithms. Gone are the days when adult romance novels could be judged by their cheesy covers.

Instead, book publishers often market romance titles to adults and young adults with a more modern aesthetic, such as the romcom format, Carroll says. Ice breaker. So young people looking at the covers of “spicy” adult novels may mistakenly assume that they have very little sexual content.

Publishers are eager to find an audience for their novels on BookTok, she adds. According to a young librarian recently Interview by SlateBookTok could create “big sellers” in teen publishing, at a time when reading among 8- to 12-year-olds is declining.

Besides that Ice breakerCarroll says, include other sexually explicit books that are popular with younger readers but aimed at older audiences. fourth wing, A romantic fantasy set in a war college for dragon riders, and The Hypothesis of Love, a contemporary romance between Ph.D. candidate and a young professor.

Both Carroll and Carter are concerned about BookTok's recommendations for novels that depict sexual assault, dominance, or “questionable consent” under the guise of so-called dark romance.

Carter says the 2021 novel Worried Adeline continues to circulate among middle school readers, even though it features chases with firearms and non-consensual sex.

Carter says there are many what he labels as 'spicy' novels that contain some level of sexual assault.

How to help your child navigate BookTok

Carroll says the reality of BookTok for young adults means parents can't truly judge a book by its cover, or are just too happy their child is reading to not look up the titles themselves. do

To determine if a book is appropriate for their child, she urges adults to flip through the novel, read along with it, or use similar resources before purchasing. intellectGoodreads, and Wikipedia to research your topics.

Carroll says that parents who are concerned about BookTok can start by telling their child that they may be exposed to books with violent, sexual, or disturbing scenes, and that the child should can talk to them about

While Common Sense doesn't believe in censoring what children are reading, Carroll says parents may decide that certain books are “just not appropriate” for their child.

Either way, Carroll says the books give parents a chance to talk about their child's interests and their family's values ​​in an open and nonjudgmental conversation.

To help young readers better understand their own limits, Carter says parents can talk to them about physical signs that a book is too much or too mature for them. These may include feeling sick to their stomach, or experiencing a racing heart, tension in their shoulders, or nightmares.

Tweens and teens can also consider how the book is playing a role in the rest of their day, and whether it's contributing to anxiety or unhealthy preoccupation in general. The solution may be to stop reading the book or choose a different genre altogether.

Carter says parents can also encourage their child to pause before buying a book's recommendation, especially on a reading platform like the Kindle. For a young reader who hasn't yet researched the title they're buying, a quick purchase and download can quickly lead to complex and confusing feelings. (Carter says there are many “spicy” novels available on Kindle Unlimited.)

Although parents can feel similarly overwhelmed, Carter encourages them to start the conversation with their child with a simple question: “What are you reading today?”

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