At this point, the mom called the daughter over. She repeated my explanation of what Lessons is about. (I don't think she used my exact words, but she did use "friendship," "controlling," and "sexual," and acknowledged that the friendship themes, at least, were something her daughter understood.) The mom made it clear she was hesitant, and the daughter agreed: "I'm ten, mom. I don't want to read about sexual... stuff." I agreed that if the reader herself was saying that, it was worth waiting, and repeated my suggestion that they keep the book in mind for a few years down the road. In the meantime, I suggested Wonder, which they were excited about.
In all the Banned Books Week talking we do about letting people make decisions within their own families, it was a perfect example of how well communication can work. A ten-year-old who knows she doesn't want to read something racy is probably a ten-year-old whose family trusts her enough not to constantly try to hide things from her.
Still, before posting about this encounter, I thought I should check with Jo, who was my writing professor at Simmons. After all, the story didn't end with the sale of one of her books. Here's an excerpt from her response, which came in minutes:
"That is a PERFECT example of individual choice, not censorship. Love it! I can't imagine recommending Lessons to any ten year olds I know. I'm so glad they chose something else. I think 14 is the appropriate age recommendation. Same for [Jumping Off] Swings. She might be ready for Pearl, which is 12 and up. But again, the mom should read it first to make sure...
Jo says she has two more YA novels in the pipeline, and then a middle grade. I can't wait to help them find the right readers.