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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen's Taste for Steamy Novels Doesn't Sit Well With Mother

DEAR ABBY: My 14-year-old daughter, "Jessica," is mature for her age and a straight-A student. She is entering her freshman year of high school. She is an avid reader, and I have recently found cause to be concerned about what she's reading.

Abby, Jessica is reading adult romance novels that feature what I consider to be content that is too mature and erotic for a child her age to read. I have told her to stop buying them, but I know she's still sneaking them into the house because I found some when I went into her room to clean.

What should I do? I'm uncomfortable about her reading this type of material. What will it do to her future relationships and her judgment of what's acceptable and not acceptable in those relationships?

We have argued over this. Jessica says there is nothing in the books that she didn't already know about, and having learned about sex and relationships in school, there is no reason why she shouldn't be allowed to read what she wants.

Is she right? Am I being overprotective? Or will her current reading choices cause future problems? -- NERVOUS IN BERNARDSVILLE, N.J.

DEAR NERVOUS: Your letter reminded me of the days of my youth when our housekeeper used to loan me the True Romance magazines she kept stashed underneath her bed. My mother might not have approved, but most people seem to think I turned out all right.

Literature may have become more risque than years ago, but these days the chances of sheltering your "mature, straight-A student" are slim. Rather than censor her reading, stress to her that if she has any questions about anything she can come to you for straight answers. (You could also keep the channels of communication open by asking her to lend you the books when she's finished reading them.)

Some might argue that the idealized depiction of romance, and women being "rescued" by powerful, wealthy men, is more worrisome than the sex and eroticism. However, if you are raising your daughter to respect feminist principles, I don't think you have anything to worry about.