Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read TTYL by Lauren Myracle.
Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl (Internet instant messaging shorthand for “talk to you later”), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.
Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they’ve intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book’s three protagonists–identified by their screen names “SnowAngel,” “zoegirl,” and “mad maddie”–tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: “some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves”) and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie’s IM reduction of the Christian poem “Footprints”–“oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don’t u c?”).
But Myracle’s triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: “SnowAngel: ‘cuz–drumroll, please–ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do “une dialogue” together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'”
Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio.
First published: 2004
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: If you’ve been following our Banned Books series for a while now, you might remember that I don’t see any reason for a book to be banned outright. Handled delicately in certain situations – yes, of course but banned? Never! Then there’s the other books that pop up on our list where I can see no reason on earth why they should be banned/challenged and ttyl is one of those cases. I don’t remember there being much offensive language to be honest, but if there was it wasn’t overly offensive to me if I didn’t even notice it. Certainly, it’s no worse than what teenagers would hear on a daily basis – at school, on the streets, on the television…need I go on? And excuse me, we are challenging a book for having a religious viewpoint now?! I’m not particularly religious myself but I quite enjoy reading about different religions (especially if it’s done in a non preachy type way) so I could never accept this as a reason for preventing access to a book.
CHRISSI: I don’t agree with any of the reasons for this book being challenged at all. To me, it just read like a realistic conversation between three teenage girls. Challenging it doesn’t sit well with me because it’s completely sending the wrong message. Why should normal teenage conversation be censored? It’s not a surprise to me that teenagers discuss sex and swear a little. As for the religious viewpoint, that’s ridiculous. Religion isn’t a strong topic within this book!
How about now?
BETH: It’s been thirteen years since ttyl was first published and I don’t think attitudes have changed extraordinarily in that time. When I first came to this book I thought the reasons for challenging it would be entirely different and I was surprised to read what they were. I guess because this book is written as a series of messages between a group of friends and a small portion of it is written in “text-speak” or acronyms like ttyl (talk to you later), I assumed that the main complaint would be that it encourages poor communication between teenagers! Imagine my surprise when instead they quote sexual explicitness and inappropriate for age group reasons! I don’t believe that you’re going to find anything in this book that is shocking or not what normal, healthy fifteen year old girls talk about with their close friends.
CHRISSI: No. This book should not be challenged in my opinion. Like Beth, I could understand if there was a problem with communication/text speak as that’s something that does annoy me (not enough to challenge the book!) I actually wondered if it might be about internet safety and that something terrible might have happened (even then those books have a place, an educative place!) but no… it was normal teenagers speaking about normal things in their lives as they grow up.
What did you think of this book?:
BETH: I have to say, I approached this book with slight trepidation – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy an entire novel written in message format and I definitely wasn’t the target audience for this book! It’s not really for me, to be honest but I can see why teenage girls would love it and I really appreciate the strong female friendships that the author wrote about which are so important in the turbulent time of adolescence.
CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of this book. It took me a while to get through and I found it a little bit tedious in places. Remember though, I’m not the target audience for this book. I can totally see why teenagers would enjoy this book though. I love that the characters have such strong friendships. So whilst it wasn’t for me, I’m sure others would love it!
Would we recommend it?:
CHRISSI: Yes! (to teenagers)