Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sex in YA novels: How far do you go?

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How far can you go when writing about romance in young adult novels? What kind of love are young readers looking for? Is sex allowed? How graphic should it be? Should it be in there at all?

It's a big debate for some writers, as well as, some readers.

Remember when the Twilight book series first came out? Keep in mind, I'm talking about before all the craziness of the movie versions. Most of the people I talked to about this series were really into the romance of it, the lingering looks between the two main characters, the blatant yet unsatisfied desire, the sexual tension! This is the type of romance that many older YA readers(20s-30's) remember experiencing in high school or really wanted to experience. It's just one of the reasons they like romance in young adult stories.

But then comes the sex.

I recall sitting around with a group of women at lunch and one of them was talking about how Edward and Bella were getting to the point of having sex in the book. This woman didn't have a problem with the progression of the relationship, but she'd decided that she would not allow her daughter to read any further in the series until the daughter was much older. She also felt like once the writer brought sex into the book, the romance factor was gone. To me it sounded as if the story had taken a turn into adulthood that the reader wasn't willing to follow.

I think that's an interesting phenomenon and really very personal to the reader. And as a writer, it's something you have to be aware of. Romance and sex can make or break your young adult book depending on how you use them. Sometimes it’s the factor that sells books. Sometimes it’s the factor that turns your audience off. It all depends on how you weave those things and what style of YA book you are writing.

When I write YA, I usually don't set out to have a romance in the story. However, because of the age group, because of the hormone factor, because it's virtually impossible to put two teenagers in the same room and not have them notice each other, some sort of relationship usually develops. That's life though. That's reality. That's what YA readers cling to.  When it comes to sex, I only let my characters get there if its part of the natural progression, but it's still something I'm cautious about. In my young adult novel, Bayou Myth, sex is a factor in the story, though it's not something my main character is doing. However, we do learn a lot about my protagonist's thoughts on the subject! Though my book is mainly a YA horror novel, it does have a romance in it that helps drive the story along.

In my latest novel, Butterfly Suicide, sex is certainly a factor in the story line. While my characters are grappling with the aftermath of a high school shooting and how it affects their lives, they can't help but notice each other, too. In fact, they begin to question if they are attracted to each other because of what happened or are they're feelings of desire real deeper than that? It's a tough question because we're dealing with two people whose sphere of experience in the romance department is limited. Isn't that how it starts out for most teens anyway?

In the end, a writer should let the romance and sex angle develop how it will. What would be the natural progression for your character? Put aside the audience you are writing to (yeah, I know lots of people will contradict me on that one) and allow your characters to just develop!

Butterfly Suicide has been accepted into the Kindle Scout program. That means if it get enough nominations and attention, it might be published by Kindle Press. Readers who nominate it also get a free copy of the ebook as well. If you're interested in helping a writer succeed, please click on the link provided and nominate Butterfly Suicide for publication. Thanks! Butterfly Suicide Kindle Scout Nomination

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. And YA is technically a genre for older teens, although most people assume it is geared for middle schoolers since they gravitate to it. For parents who worry about the possibility of sex in YA novels, they should check out "middle grades" novels. As a 7th grade ELAR teacher, I know that there are some excellent books that are appropriate for younger teens and tweens.