Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Not too long ago I read a handful of young adult novels that were really, really good--until the protagonists had sex. Then I hated the books and wished I hadn't wasted my time on them. I love a steamy romance. I love sexual tension between characters. But when it comes to underage characters, going all the way is going too far.

Some might accuse me of being unrealistic, that teens today are promiscuous (and yes, I use that word on purpose) and so the books they read ought to reflect that. But why? Why is it necessary to encourage that behavior and use sex as a means to entertain [because that is a primary purpose of fiction, isn't it?] readers?

Maybe the part of me talking is the mother of five children, two of which are teens and one who has just graduated teenhood. I don't want my kids behaving that way, so why would I create characters who do? Maybe it's the part of me who adheres to a strict Christian moral code and tries to pass that code down to her children. Either way, there is a definite "sex" line in YA books and I will not cross it.

Relating to this issue is also the habit of some writers to create "bad boy" love interests for female protagonists, boys who brood and are borderline emotionally abusive and controlling. Boys who convince their female counterparts that sex is a way to express love. What a bunch of baloney! I, for one, would not want my daughters coming home with a guy  like that. Nor would I want my characters to be manipulated by self-indulgent creeps with a handsome face and sexy haircut. Blech!

My male characters are gentlemen. They don't take advantage of the girls they love. They are attracted to them, yes, but won't cross that line. They are the kinds of young men I hope my sons will be someday, the kind of men I hope my daughters will find.

Just out of curiosity, how far is too far for you as a reader of YA? Or is there a too far?


  1. Since I frequently look for YA books that are suitable for middle school, I don't want anything descriptive, instructive, or really... noticeable! I'm okay with something like Shiver, where I'm pretty sure that something went on, but younger students wouldn't quite know this, and older students would know but not learn anything. Sort of like the scene in Somewhere in Time where the characters are kissing, then the camera backs up to show just the candlelit curtains. We can draw our own conclusions!

  2. I am of the opinion that YA can have sex - but not described, at the most hinted at. There is already the New Adult genre for that. Young-Adult is more about the challenges faced by a teen rather than hormones. And yes, even though that is the age of The Hormones, it pales in comparison to other issues. So, in YA I don't really mind sex, but it should not be central to the storyline. An excellent example of the balance is Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozette - it deals with the question of all that peer pressure considering sex but doesn't really include it in the book.

  3. I prefer the inference to the details. If it's handled (no pun intended) well, I don't usually have an issue with it.