At ALA’s Midwinter Meeting earlier this month I had limited time to visit the exhibits, but when I was there my focus was on seeing what new books were coming out in the next few months – we have some avid readers and being able to share an ARC with them, or knowing that a great new book that might work well in lieu of another text and sharing that with a teacher is both great outreach and great promotion for our collection.
And, as always, there are trends we see. My favorite tweet recently was this:
Anyway, as I walked through the booths and saw what was available, I also spoke with a few of the marketing people. Tor, for example, was thrilled about the Alex Award Top Ten’s inclusion of All Systems Red and Down Among the Sticks and Bones. And then there was one person who was trying to be helpful by talking up some of the realistic fiction the imprint was publishing later this year. I had to stop the conversation when I was told that “this book is about an apprentice teacher who has a sexual relationship with a student.”
Yes, it’s a tired trope that older male teachers and young female students find love (or at least sex) on high school (and college) campuses. But… didn’t anyone read the Boston Globe Spotlight article about sexual misconduct in New England private schools? Or the follow-up articles? Let’s start with the fact that it’s illegal, no matter the age of the older person. And that many schools – public and private – now have training for teachers and students, reporting structures and really are aware of the consequences of taking such a stupid step. And that in many states, this is one of those mandated reporting situations, where Child Services and the police get called in.
And a publisher thinks this is a great “realistic fiction” topic.
I’ve worked in and attended schools where there were inappropriate faculty/student relationships. It’s not just that couple that is affected – colleagues, classmates and more are all aware of it, and some are still affected years later. Many schools now go as far as to caution faculty about friending/following students on social media, or do not allow faculty to text or otherwise communicate with students on non-school provided devices. I’ve seen some of that in recent books and wonder what research the author did, where he or she looked for information on how schools are now treating just social relationships between faculty and students. This, though? It’s way beyond that.
How no editor, no marketing person, no beta reader thought to ask if this is really something that should be published? The blurb mentions the relationship is “possibly illegal” (no – it’s flat out illegal). It doesn’t matter that the book raises questions about love and boundaries and all that stuff. It’s irresponsible in this day and age to be publishing a book like this and marketing it to teens.