At conventions, we’re often asked what age Centernia is intended for. Out of default, we say it’s YA 14+ or PG-13. It’s tricky though, because everyone’s perceptions are different. We have also been surprised to learn that many parents are reading Centernia in tandem with their teens and use some of the heavy themes to talk about these topics.
We decided to write up a quick guide to Centernia to address this tricky question. This post is written in a spoiler-free version if you’re the type of parent who enjoys reading the same books as your child.
Centernia contains no F-bombs. Swearing is sparse and only used to punctuate areas of heightened drama, (In a book series totaling 290,000 words, cursing only occurs approximately sixty times). As the story progresses, fictitious Centernian curses are used with more frequency as the characters from earth become more immersed in the world.
Both recreational drug use and alcohol abuse is demonstrated in Centernia, (the drugs are fictional smoked hallucinogenics). Almost every instance has significant negative consequence for the characters, written in a non-didactic fashion. The main character does not engage in this behavior but witnesses the results of her friends’ choices.
This is an area that gains Centernia praise or criticism. Centernia features characters who are openly gay, bisexual, transgendered or are engaged in polyamorous relationships. The world of Centernia does not discriminate based on sexual preference. Character relationships range from casual to deeply committed monogamous relationships.
In Centernia, marriage is considered to be sacred, (marriage ceremonies are literally magic). Divorce is culturally frowned upon unless someone commits a crime. The main character's parents are divorced, making for a bit of conflict.
In Mark of the Castle, characters discuss and praise lunarcha tea, an herbal beverage with contraceptive properties.
Characters engage in romantic behavior and the text is written in a non-explicit manner with strong innuendo. Sex does occur, but descriptions don’t go further than heated kissing and the removal of shirts. No below-the-belt sexual activity is described.
Depression & Attempted Suicide
Mark of the Castle features a character who struggles through depression throughout the course of the book and eventually finds his way out of its clutches.
The Role of Parents
The parents of the main character have an active role in her life as well as within the fantasy world. They are depicted as flawed, struggling with debt, struggling with divorce, but always putting their daughter’s safety first, (sometimes to her frustration). In both books, the main character turns to her parents for help and guidance at very critical moments.