I used to sneak into my big sister's room to steal two things: her Seventeen magazines and her VC Andrews books. I laugh now, really, at how different those two types of reading are, and yet at the time -- when I was 10 and 11 -- they seemed to represent the same thing to me: maturity. The answers to the secret questions I hadn't yet formed. What the world must look like beyond my little beach town in the woods.
I think there's an age range where a controversial book sails right over a kid's head; like when I read Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret in third grade and had NO IDEA what was going on, but was completely unconcerned by it. (I'm pretty sure I read it, shrugged my shoulders in confusion, and put it back on the bookshelf and grabbed another Baby-sitters Club.)
And then, of course, there's the age where controversial books TERRIFY you. And I am staunchly pro-books-that-terrify -- and of course, pro-books-that-make-you-question-everything-you-thought-you-believed.
I don't read VC Andrews today, and I'm sure I would probably find them overwrought and, well, kind of gross if I did, but that's okay. They are still important books, because they're books that partly formed (and informed) me. And I am grateful beyond belief that I had parents who encouraged all of my reading, no matter what kind or how inappropriate.
So thanks to them, and to my sister for her frankly uncreative hiding places.