I think books need a rating system like movies. I have a kobo e-reader and, while I love it, it’s quite a pain for me when I try looking for new books to read with no way to filter out the ones with content I would really rather not scar my mind with. At the very least, books should have little warnings on the back or inside cover saying what sort of inappropriate content can be expected.
For example, I once bought a book called The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson. It was a well-written story, and at first glance in the bookstore (i.e. looking at the cover and reading the description on the back) it seemed like a nice romantic fantasy story to read, and it was, except for one thing. This book was very descriptive about the lovemaking between our heroine, Deirdre, and the main male lead, Naisi. You get hints of the less than child-friendly sides to life in medieval times in the early pages of the book, but it didn’t really lead me to expect what was coming later.
If that book had had a simple warning stating that the book had explicit sex scenes fairly frequently throughout the book, I would have never bought it. Again, the story was very beautifully written, but those scenes were not anything I would look for in a book and made be severely uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I did finish the story. I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to put down an interesting tale once I’ve gotten into it, regardless of the unsavoury content it may contain (up to a certain level). That being said, I won’t be reading it again.
The warnings don’t even have to be spoilers to the story, which I have heard to be a reason against a warning system. It could just be simple phrases such as “this book contains frequent harsh swearing” or “this book contains several mild sex scenes”. Just a basic explanation of what’s there and a general idea of how often it happens. Then, after reading the description (if there is one) the potential reader can decide whether or not it is a book they would enjoy reading.
I feel that this sort of system should especially be present in sections of bookstores that teenagers frequent that aren’t specifically teenager oriented (like the Fantasy or Sci-fi sections). When I’d bought The Swan Maiden, I was in my early years of high school and still very innocent sexually. That content was not something I feel I was even quite ready for at that point, but I was browsing the general Fantasy section of the bookstore because I was bored with all the young adult fiction that was out at the time. I’d wanted a good story with some magic and adventure and maybe a bit of romance, but not what I got.
Browsing the Graphic Novel section on the kobo store, I saw a lot of novels that contained explicit sexual content (on the covers even) and had no way to filter them out. Since I couldn’t find a link anywhere on the website to a suggestion box, I will put a suggestion here and pray that someone from the company sees it. Kobo, please put content filter options in your bookstores. I would really prefer to not have to see “mature” content when looking for something good to read, and I’m sure a lot of parents would be grateful for such a feature as well.
Anyway, thank you for reading my little rant and mini sort-of-book review. If you have an opinion on this topic, feel free to drop a comment. I’d love to discuss ideas like this with you guys. Thanks again and take care of yourselves. TTFN!