This Chicks Bookish Discussion: What is YA appropriate?

I started reading Young Adult books a few years ago because I wanted to try my hand at writing one. I thought that if I immersed myself in the genre that I would learn a lot about what those readers are looking for, but also how authors are tackling writing in this much discussed and kind of difficult to understand genre. Now, full disclosure, I am an adult woman. I’m talking about my age, specifically, although I’m still young in imagination and heart. As a fan of this genre, I know that the majority of YA authors are in fact mature women or men, not the age of the group they are writing about. I am generalizing because I’m unsure if there are some famous teen writers who may actually be in that age group, but the majority are not.

  1. Do our experiences as adults shape how we write a YA novel?

Of course they do! It’s not like we can shut off our life’s experiences.

I know that the teens of today are more self aware, sexually active, and politically motivated. I’ll admit, when I was a teenager I didn’t have as much on my plate. I went to school, played sports, did homework, and went out with friends. We may have had a few beers at a friends house but without today’s technology it was a pretty slow childhood in comparison with today. Cell phones and social media have aged and matured teens and created a peer pressure that endangers their self esteem. I’ll get off my technology soap box by just saying that I’m thankful I grew up in a simpler time. Now back to how this applies to teen representation in books.

I recently sped through the first three books in Erin Watt’s ‘The Royals’ series. I really enjoyed these books. They were fast paced, action packed, and really dramatic. They were also filled with a lot of sexually explicit jokes, language, and physical acts. I totally forgot at times that these were 16-18 year olds that I was reading about. I get it, I really do! Just because my childhood was pretty innocent, doesn’t mean I didn’t have friends who had sex in high school. Sure they did! Here’s my next question….

2) By writing explicit sex scenes in books that are targeting young adults, are we educating them in a healthy manner about these physical acts OR making these acts more commonplace and normal?

I want to re-iterate that I REALLY liked the Royals series and am not harping on it in particular. It’s just an example because I just read them. I’ve certainly read other ya books where there are sex scenes. But, by having them so commonplace, are we normalizing sex, violence, etc.?

I remember my parents saying, and news stories talking about how violence in movies and video games are normalizing guns. Are explicit sex scenes also normalizing behavior for our young adults?

I love the romance genre. If I look at all the books I read in a year, probably 80% of them are in the romance category. Whether those are YA, adult, romantic fantasy, romantic suspense, etc. I read romance novels as a way to escape life and fulfill my fantasies, right? We read other genre’s to pretend to solve mysteries, or save a world, or educate ourselves about a particular part of history or whatever. Teens read YA books to escape, learn, and fulfill a fantasy or two also.

3) Besides word of mouth, how does a reader know how explicit a book is (I’m talking YA specifically) before they pick it up?

I’m sure there are young adults who lean more to the innocent than the experienced side of life, right? I recently read a blog post from a teen blogger talking about how she reads books before her little sister so that she can recommend books that are appropriate. I am in no way trying to censor because, again, I like to read all types of books…

4) Should there be a remark on the cover? A key of some sort? One heart on the cover means innocent to four hearts for explicit?

Am I the only one that has ever had these thoughts? I’d love to hear the world chime in on this discussion.

Please comment in the section below if you’d like to share your own thoughts.

thanks!

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