If you turn over Stone Girl and read the back jacket you will notice a small warning near the bar code.
“Contains mature content
Not suitable for younger readers”
This is a cautionary tale, nothing in the book acts to condone the events it depicts and it’s best suited to the older teen reader 14/15+ and adults.
The reason for the warning is that the narrative does not swing away at the darkest moment to protect the reader’s sensitivities. I strove to write carefully, thoughtfully but it does not flinch.
I’m not sorry for writing this type of book. I’m proud that I didn’t chicken out, adhere to a convention that at times acts to silence marginalised voices.
Teens that swear, that won’t listen, that do the worst things, the ones we don’t like… they deserve their place in literature too.
The world is awash with information and access is a keystroke away. Teens already know more than we think they do. They are smart and aware and on a daily basis make choices about what they expose themselves to.
When I was young I read Go Ask Alice and the knowledge I gained from that book helped me many times as I navigated a world where drugs were as available as cigarettes. For this reason the issue of drugs – which is one part of the book – was something I felt needed to be dealt with head on. By removing the mystery I believe we allow teens to learn about addictive and deadly substances from the safety of a book.
I wrote something I wish I’d read as a teen.
Life is messy and sometimes ugly. And from the ugliness sometimes beauty comes and that’s okay too.
It doesn’t matter if you’re offended by Stone Girl but I hope you won’t be.
Young people who live these ‘offensive’ lives need books that represent them too. If literature positions itself as the last bastion of prudence then it will be rendered innocuous, thereby surrendering its immense power. A tragedy.