This romantic scene is complements of pedrosimoes7 and I found it on flickr. Click the picture for more of his inspired art!

 

The next topic that I wanted to tackle in my blog is sex in young adult fiction.  This is a tough one.  Personally, I think I would rather see a teen read realistic depictions of sex than realistic depictions of violence.  However, I am quite clearly in the minority.  The number one reason books are challenged?  You got it.  Sexual content.

As a writer, it grows even more complicated.  Sure, we want to be responsible.  But we also want to be honest.  Sex is a big part of every teen’s life, whether they’re chaste or not.  That’s why kids wear purity rings and take purity vows…because they’re thinking about sex.  Attraction from the opposite sex is also where far too many teens find their self-worth.  It would be unrealistic to never create a character who is motivated by these same things.

The big taboo young adult book when I was growing up was FOREVER by Judy Blume. It’s been a heavy target for book challenges, landing at number eight of the most challenged books of all time.  Ms. Blume said that she wrote this book in 1975 because her daughter asked her to write a book where two nice kids have responsible sex without any terrible, ruinous consequences.  FOREVER was the result.

In more modern young an adult, sex is a bigger player.  TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer, HOUSE OF NIGHT by P.C. Cast, and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER are all books where sex, implicit or explicit plays a significant role in the plot.  Not coincidentally, they are all challenged books as well.  On the other hand books like WINGS by Aprilynne pike, NEED by Carrie Jones, and EVERMORE by Alyson Noel are young adult books with strong romantic elements but with a very innocent main female character.  And while this does solve the problem sex being part of the plot, something about the asexual quality of the female characters was troublesome.

So, here’s what an amateur writer thinks about sex in young adult books.  Take it for what it’s worth and remember it’s free. 🙂

I think that the most important thing to do when writing young adult is to be honest.  I know….big, fat cliché, right?  Wrong!  Every character, like every person, has motivation: lack of support at home, an overpowering older sibling, abuse, religion, crippling shyness, etc.  Each and every one of these life-shaping circumstances is going to alter the way a character looks at sex.  They will be looking to get different things out of a sexual encounter.  If sex is represented honestly as part of a character arc, it won’t be gratuitous.  I keep working hard to not sanitize or simplify my writing.  Kids are smart and as a rule, I don’t think they like to be BSed.

Alternately, you can always make your character too busy to think about sex.  That’s what I did in my last book.  Of course, it didn’t get published, so that might be some advice to ignore.

So, what do you think?  Do you include sex scenes in your young adult books?  Do you imply that sex has happened?  Or do you try to avoid the whole issue by making your character above all that mushy stuff?

P.S. (12:00 PM)There must be something in the air!  One of my favorite agent-type blogs features a post on sex in YA today!  So, for a professional take on the topic check out Mary Kole’s blog.

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