Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sneak Peeks with K.E. Weeks: Wildthorn

This feature is presented by guest blogger, K.E.Weeks.
I don’t believe in banning books because then the question becomes not which books to ban, but who gets to decide. However, I do believe that some books should carry warning labels or movie-like ratings (e.g., “R” or “Graphic Content”) so that readers can better decide for themselves which books to read or discard. Wildthorn by Jane England (Houghton-Mifflin Books for Children, 2010; $12.48) is one of these books.
Wildthorn is an historical fiction young adult novel, set in England in 1840, about a young woman who is put into an insane asylum by her family.  She is completely sane, and this is simply a plot to get her inheritance and prevent her from disgracing the family. (She wants to become a doctor, which is a shameful profession for noble women at that time.)  The author was inspired by true stories of women who were incarcerated in asylums in the nineteenth century. This part of the book is well-written and full of interesting plot twists. The escape from the asylum is a bit too easy, but for the most part, the book is realistic and compelling.

Here's where it gets dicey.  The book cover says, "Treachery locks her away.  Love is the key." What the cover or book jacket doesn’t tell you or hint at anywhere is that the "love" is a lesbian affair with her female nurse.  I've had lesbian friends, so I'm not completely aghast at homosexuality among adults (Is it sinful? Yes, but we're all sinners, right?).  What bothers me about this book is that it is written for teens and it describes in detail several trysts with women. I considered including an excerpt to demonstrate my point, but decided I didn’t want unsuspecting eyes to read it. Instead, to give you a sense of the affairs, I’ll just say that scenes include disrobing, beds, touching, and kissing. You get the idea.

If the book jacket hinted or clearly stated that this "love" was with another woman, then a parent or teen could opt out of reading this novel. Moreover, the reader doesn’t discover the protagonist’s sexual tendencies until half-way through the book, which means a teen might read to the end, just to see how it turns out (I did).  Why do authors feel the need to put sexual ideas into teens’ heads that they never had before?

What irritates me most about this book is the feeling of being ambushed by the author. I felt that by not hinting at the nature of the protagonist’s love affair somewhere on the book jacket, the author had broken a bond of trust between author and reader. Overall, I would give the book three stars (out of five), with a strong warning. While the book is well-written, the broken trust left me cold.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this review is to guide parents into selecting appropriate, significant, high-quality literature for their teens and tweens. I have no connection with the author or publisher of this book. I am a home educator of two children, 11 and 14, with a keen interest in historical fiction for young adults.

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