According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the definition of date rape is when ‘‘forced sex occurs between two people who already know each other.’’ Date rape occurs in about half of all rape cases reported. ‘‘Even if the two people know each other well, and even if they were intimate or had sex before, no one has the right to force a sexual act on another person against his or her will.’’ The Department goes on to state that rape should not be confused with passion or love: ‘‘Rape is an act of aggression and violence.’’ Another major point that the Department clarifies is that the victim of a rape should not feel that he or she brought it on by the clothes they were wearing or how they might have been acting: ‘‘Rape is always the fault of the rapist.’’
In a report offered by the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of incidents of date rape has slowly declined. In the 1990s, the time period for Anderson’s novel, 1.1 million women reported intimate violence in 1993 as compared with 900,000 female victims in 1998. Of the female victims, women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four were more likely to experience intimate violence than any other age group. The statistics for men, however, remained the same with about 160,000 violent crimes reported by an intimate partner both in 1993 and in 1998.
The Federal Government Source for Women’s Health Information provides suggestions concerning how to avoid date rape and how to report an assault.
Development of the Young Adult Novel, 1960s to 2000s
Young Adult literature usually implies stories written for a teenage audience, roughly ninth through twelfth graders, though the age range can vary. Before the 1960s, Young Adult literature often meant romantic stories for girls and adventure books for boys. The material in Young Adult (YA) books rarely touched on controversial topics. Rather, the stories glossed over topics that were considered too involved with adult situations. However, with the 1960s, Young Adult literature began to change.
S. E. Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders (1967), was one of the first to tackle teenage problems that had not previously been written about in literature for the young adult market. Hinton, only sixteen years old when she wrote the story, took on topics such as teen violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and dysfunctional family relationships. In the 1990s, the American Library Association (ALA) still listed this book as one of the most frequently challenged books by various adult groups wanting to ban the book from school libraries. Young Adult author Judy Blume raised eyebrows when she published her 1975 novel Forever, which included a discussion of teenage sex. Though the novel found its way into high school libraries, it too remains on the ALA’s list of most challenged books. The Chocolate War (1974) by Robert Cormier is another Young Adult title that is often challenged because of its language and sexual content.
Despite the challenges some YA titles have received in the past, the popularity of novels both written for and read by teens has grown. According to Cecilia Goodnow, a writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, not only are sales increasing but the quality of the material has significantly improved. The subject matter is becoming more sophisticated. For instance, one of the more popular teenage books is The Book Thief (2005) by Markus Zusak. This story is set in Nazi Germany and deals with the Holocaust.
Goodnow also points out that some of the most prestigious national book awards are reflecting the growing market as well as the improved quality of writing in the Young Adult field. In 1996, the National Book Foundation decided to include a Young Adult literature section to its considerations for annual awards. The ALA also expanded their annual awards to include the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.Speak was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2000.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Laurie Halse Anderson, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.