Can you guess what happened when a Young Adult lit mag suggested a bi character wasn't OK for younger readers?

Originally published at:


When scrutinized, VOYA’s archives were found to have covered many books “CHOCK-A-BLOCK with heterosexual sex”.

Ah but those hetero characters were all married and trying to have children, right?


Emphasis mine. Unless I’m misreading the story it was the opinion of the reviewer that the book should only be read by “mature junior and senior high readers”. As an opinion it wasn’t a factual error but an error in judgment.

I’m not trying to let Voya off the hook here. Instead I think this highlights a reviewer who has either never been asked to examine his or her opinions or has and didn’t listen. And this presumably went through editorial review too.

I hope somebody at Voya’s learned something from this.


I’m not sure what your position on the latest apology is.

I find it adequate: it seems to hit all of the points that I would expect from a genuine apology.

But you end with a note about a “sincerity curve” (whatever that is) and talk about “cynicism” and “grovelling.”

I understand that their future deeds, not their words, should be what we use to judge their response to the outrage. But until we have such deeds to judge, is there anything else, beyond this apology, that you’d have them do (besides going back in time and handling this right in the first (or second, or third) place, which is obviously impossible)?


It is not appropriate for a young adult novel or, indeed, any novel. Sexuality (exempt PIV HeteroNormalism) is like flies in soup, you see. Once one person gets one, everybody will want one.


I think the problem stems from the implication in the review that the character’s bisexuality is inherently problematic and inappropriate. The fact that it took so long for them to understand this and to respond respectfully to a legitimate concern shows that failures occurred at several levels.


If they were smart they would have spun this differently. “See, we said we DID recommend the book!”


It’s perfect, but it concludes a pattern of responses whose only purpose was to make it go away, and this is, after all, the one that makes it go away.

So it’s a bittersweet ending: these were are right words, but we know they were extracted by the force of public opprobrium, not anything anyone at Voya thinks or feels.

People don’t go from muttering “whiny little fuckheads” on Facebook to queer consciousness and contrition in a few days. They get the performance of it written for them after they acknowledge their shortcomings and make a phone call.

This is maybe a judgement on the mob as much as them: it means no-one really achieves anything.

EDIT: I clarified that paragraph.


“Sneering and groveling, it all comes from the same place.”- that’s a great line, Rob.


I’m of the opinion that words count too. They have weight and meaning,
they can hurt and heal…why shouldn’t people be judged on their words?


Oh, I’m sure they should. If someone apologizes, there’s nothing wrong with judging their apology based on the words they use to convey it.

However, the only way you can truly know if an apology is sincere is if, the next time that the person apologizing faces the same choice, the person demonstrates that they have learned from their mistake by not repeating it.


My understanding is that it was Voya’s contention that the error was either those two statements (‘the character is boviously bi’ and ‘this is for more mature readers’) being put into one sentence or, less charitably, people reading two parts of one sentence as somehow connected.


I agree

If someone is saying transphobic things around me I do not know if they will attack me or not. I don’t have the privilege of being able to ignore them, I have been attacked and other trans people have been killed when trying that.

Judging people by their words is what keeps me and other people alive.


The Guardian link to Older doesn’t work, @beschizza.

Voya’s contention or not.
Everybody knows they’ve never noted characters sexual-orientation in the reviews as noteworthy (aka ‘warnings’) when the characters are straight.

Here’s what’s never happened:
“The main character is straight and text includes bad language - this is for more mature readers”

Here’s what that looks like in reality:
“Text includes bad language - for gradeschool and above”

So, what they published is bigoted. Simple as that. Doesn’t mean they’re terrible people or actively-bigoted… Their un-understood bigotry just slipped through there that time - and, from what I gather, by their final apology, they’re saddened by their bigotry and are going to work on self-dismantling it.


I disagree that it’s a “fine apology” - It was pretty good but went wonky at one point.

See here:

Not only have we caused tremendous insult to commenters online, we have potentially put our supporters in the uncomfortable position of being criticized for supporting us.

They’re implicitly implying that the people not cool with this are NOT ALSO their supporters. These are not 2 separate groups - yet they put them as such in their apology.
Don’t get me wrong, I think their final apology was pretty good. A solid try and valid.
But your critics CAN ALSO be your supporters – actually your best supporters are usually also the most comfortable critics.


Regardless of the cause, I can’t stand the term “demand an apology”. It means “force them to admit they’re wrong publicly with as much or little sincerity as they like”. Real apologies are given, not taken.


Absolutely true. My only point was explaining why i think they used the word “error”. I should have made more clear that i think their use of that word there is them being mealy-mouthed.

Ahh. Got it. Sorry I misunderstood.


Not a problem. I wasn’t as clear as i could have been.