I've stepped back and am doing something a little different. Rather than reading some of the new YA stuff, I'm going back and reading some things that I should have read years ago. I realized recently that there are some rather large sections of YA stuff that I really can't give an accurate honest recommendation for or against because I've never read any of them. Believe it or not, I had never read anything by Chris Crutcher. How, you may be asking, did I work with teens and books for as long as I have and not read Crutcher? Short, honest answer - Darned if I know! I guess there were simply always other things higher up on my "I wanna read.." list. Well, I finally decided that it was time for Crutcher. I went with Chinese Handcuffs. I see why he's been a staple in YA collections. Yes, it dealt with a slew of mature subjects, but they were done without being graphic. He concentrated more on the effects of the bad situations than on the nasty issues themselves. I for one appreciate that. You don't need to go for the shock value. I've heard complaints from adults in the past about content, but unfortunately, more kids than we like to admit are actually dealing with some of these issues, or know someone who is. Let's give them something that makes them feel like they aren't alone, yet doesn't sensationalize issues. Crutcher also gives them characters that they can identify with - far from perfect, but you care about them. Is it appropriate for most middle schoolers? No. But for high school students and more mature middle schoolers, I certainly think so. I'll make recommendations accordingly. What's next on my list? I'm generally not a big fan of "chick books" so I'm going to sample a few of the series, just to see which ones are appropriate for which age groups. If you know me, you know that this is taking me a bit outside of my usual comfort zone, but what the heck. First up, a Mates, Dates &... This should be interesting.