Hi dear friends,
I am back with another discussion post thanks to Greg @bookhaven ! You see Greg loves quizzes that’s why I put some every Sunday for him to play. Two weeks ago it was “YA make out scene” and he was all: What??? YA and make out? What quizz is that?
It made me think about indeed what I do want to read about in YA books and what I don’t want to read about in that genre.
I know many smart and well versed people will go with precise and lengthy definition of what is considered as YA or not.
I will simply go with my guts and admit that I consider YA all that my teenagers could read without problems.
I would say that YA to me goes from reads meant for 14 to 18 years old (but seen below about older readers).
Now that this is established, let’s look into what I don’t want to read in YA books.
What about sex?
Well I know sex is part of life and teenagers are usually hyper connected. Gone are the birds and the bees. But there is a limit between hinting at sex scene and having a graphic sex scene in the book!
I’m not a prude as I have read FSOG and Tiffany Reisz books. BUT when I read the sequel of a still to be released famous YA book and read all the details about sex scenes hinting even at BDSM I WAS SHOCKED! I felt …dirty! What I did not feel with FSOG. Because I expected that in an adult erotic book, not in YA.
I have no problems with kissing or words like “heavy petting” but more ….no.
I don’t want my kids to read these scenes even if I explained reproduction and pleasure in details since their young age. Go figure?
What about cursing?
Well I don’t mind cursing here and there and I know I go against the majority as long as they are few. If you have some at every page then no. No need to have a filthy mouth in YA books. It won’t make you attractive.
What about adult main characters?
Obviously that’s a no! What makes a young adult book to me is that the characters are teenagers of very very young adults. It’s all about their life, their journey and what they are going through, be it first love, overcoming your fears, opening your eyes or even a quest if this is a fantasy book.
What I do want to find in them and why I love them so much:
I want to find values.
I want stories with characters having strong values or challenging their beliefs. I think children and teenagers are inspired by what they see on TV, what games they play but also by what they read!
Giving them books with characters having strong moral compass, even if they make mistakes, will inspire them to follow their example! I don’t want to have books glorifying hate, racisme, laziness etc. No I want these stories to inspire and also to give hope and courage to teenagers because they can be lost or feel at odd with their classmates.
I want to find vulnerability and/or differences
I love when YA books talk about young people who are differents. I’ve always tried to make my kids open to differences because we are all different and because it enriches a life to meet people from different culture, beliefs, upbringing or sexual orientation.
I did not want to have stuck up and intolerant kids!
That’s why my favorite YA books are these with flawed characters like suffering from mental illness or handicap, with characters coming from “the wrong side of the track” or characters that experienced a hard life and feel vulnerable. Even characters having different sexual preferences (remaining PG see above).
I want to have well written books.
I read somewhere while researching for this post that YA books need to be “easy to read with simple sentences”. Well excuse me to disagree on this point! I think that having books with beautiful sentences, using sometimes more intricate words makes for excellent YA books! I don’t mean that you have to be so complicated in your prose that even an adult can’t understand what your meaning is! But I recall having read the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas father as a teenagers and being utterly smitten with the beauty of the writing and the use of old French phrasing!
So excuse me if I would love for my kids to read beautiful and no basic writing!
I want to find arresting topics. Rebelious ones or topics that make you think!
I’ve always wanted my kids to think with their head and heart. Not to follow everyone and everything like sheeps. Not to gobble up what they hear and see on the TV but criticize. God knows how media can show only one side of the story. And how many fake news do we see every day on internet?
I want the books to have “What if?” topics.
Take The Hunder Games for example. It was all about the government’s manipulation!
Or The Hate U Give and the really sensitive topic of racisme. Or “Speak” and “A Girl made of Stars” talking about rape.
Or “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” talking about religious beliefs and preconceived ideas.
I want books that open my tennager’s eyes. Books that are NOT black or white because life is not black or white but in many shades of grey.
I want books with kindness and redemption. With faith in humanity
We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn and how we grow up.
I think it’s important that our kids (or us adults because we are many way past our teenage years still reading and loving the genre) have stories about characters making mistakes, learning from them and still going on. Life does not stop after you made a mistake. That’s how human work. But it’s important to forgive. Others and yourself.
Try to do better yes but also be indulgent with yourself and others. Mistakes happen and that’s not the end of the world.
Have also faith in humanity and show good people. We see so many dreadful things on the news that we do tend to think that the world is rotten. But that’s so far from the truth! Most people are kind and good. I think it is important to show this to our kids. To help them hope in a better world. To help them have faith in humanity.
Pfew I will stop here!
Oh and for the record, I think we are NEVER TOO OLD (or too young) to read YA books. As long as you enjoy them go for it and read all your contempt! It sure did help me having fantastic bonds with my kids as we discussed the books we had read and loved!
Now I am really interested in YOUR answers. What do you want to read about in YA books and what do you NOT want to read?
Thanks for reading!
This is such an interesting discussion post. As someone who defends that YA fiction should be part of uni programs, I really hate when people say that the writing must be simple. Intricate and beautiful sentences need to be part of YA fiction. Dumbing down stories because its aimed at a YA audience is a stupid idea (pardon my not so sophisticated language).
Happy readings! 😉
GDI, I think it ate my post again! WTheck is going on with this. I said I like your yes and no’s in the books and that I agree with you. I can’t stand that I can’t post to you normal as I have been having my comments eaten up here and there.
I pretty much agree with you. I don’t to see explicit sex scenes or cursing etc. I do want to see values and morals and a HEA ending. I am turned off if it has these things. Great post.
Thank you Mary!! And yes we know what we’d like our kids to read about 😉
So I missed this post but I saw it linked over at Dani’s blog so here I am! And imagine my surprise when I saw my name mentioned haha! Seriously though- I love this post. So much to think about, and this topic means a lot to me also. I have fairly strong opinions about some things that shouldn’t be in YA- for me graphic sex is a no-no as well, for exactly the reasons you state. And I agree when YA gives hope or courage to young people- because yes they can feel lost! So true.
I also agree about well written. I don’t think books should be dumbed down for YA. Kids are more than capable of digesting complex prose. And your last point too (although I agree w/ all of them, really)- but yes being able to relate to and discuss these books with kids is priceless. It’s a way to bridge the generational divide- I’ve found that too.
I so agree Sophie! We totally have to have characters with moral fiber in books! And I also love books with solid writing. Simplicity is not a must in YA. ❤️
This is such a great post! I love it so much! I definitely agree that graphic sex scenes and excessive language shouldn’t be in novels labeled as YA. I definitely think that the moral values and kindness/redemption themes are what make me constantly gravitate towards YA! 🙂
For what I love in a young adult book is not necessarily what I want my kids to read when they’re older lol. I don’t mind graphic sex scenes or cussing in YA, the thing that I can’t handle is gore or too much violence. That’s why I put off reading The Hunger Games for years. And then I of course loved it ha! Currently I sometimes use common sense media to check out movies and tv shows, to make sure there isn’t something that will upset my littles. I saw they had a book section too, but I haven’t checked that out yet, but I have a feeling I will when they’re older. 🙂
Great post and I agree with you. I definitely want topics that will make them think and with vocabulary that will challenge them in terms of their reading level. I’m okay with the allusion to sex or even a brief, non-graphic sex scene since, as you say, it’s a reality for teens, but yeah definitely keep the graphic stuff for novels geared towards adult readers.
Thank you Suzanne! And yes I would not want a 13 year to read about grueling scenes or detailed sex!
I think going with your gut makes sense- I think the best way I’ve heard YA described is “YA is like porn, you know it when you see it!”. I really agree about graphic/erotic sex scenes- I don’t have a problem with a little bit of sex/hinting at it and going all out. And yeah mild swearing is fine, but again, I think there should be a limit in YA. And there definitely shouldn’t be adult main characters. And I definitely think it’s good to have values, vulnerabilities and differences. Really excellent discussion!
Bwahahaha I love your quote about YA being like porn LOL And thank you!!!
I’m 34 and I still read and deeply enjoy YA books and although I worry that sometimes I’m putting an ‘adult’ filter on books that aren’t ‘meant’ for me I do have opinions on the content of some YA books.
I think mature content – racism, romance, sex, sexuality, drugs, abuse etc. has a place in YA books but the way it’s written and explored should be different then if it were written for adults. Sex is something that does occur in teenage lives and is something that some teens think about (if not do) so I don’t think it’s misplaced to have this as a topic in YA books. But for me there’s a difference between healthy exploration of a topic and graphic content.
I’m no great fan of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series but one of the reasons why is because I think it should never have been written/ published/ marketed in the YA category due to graphic sexual content which wouldn’t be out of place in the adult erotica section. Instead of ‘fade to black’ scenes its incredibly visceral and actually I don’t mind erotica at all but I guess I get a bit squeamish at the idea of 13 year olds reading the mechanics of sex and not necessarily the emotions. If that makes any sense at all?!
Well when you said “I think mature content – racism, romance, sex, sexuality, drugs, abuse etc. has a place in YA books but the way it’s written and explored should be different then if it were written for adults. ” you totally summarized it! Yes we can have sex and hard topics but all is in the way to write about them and be appropriate for the maturity level and sensitivity of young readers!
I’m not much of a YA reader, though there’s a few that I enjoy. Having said that, I totally agree with you! A few curse words, maybe a suggestion or two that alludes to a sexy scene. I don’t mind my kiddos reading those. But having said THAT, I know that there’s books out there that are YA MATURE and I think as long as there’s a warning that says, “Hey…this isn’t for kids under 18!” then that’s cool. Make any sense? 🙂
Exactly TRisy! I would cringe if my 13 years old was reading about graphic sex scenes!!! Or really disturbing topics or rather presented in a disturbing way!
Greg is such a treasure! I enjoy his blog as well. I think that there is so much to be discussed here! I totally agree with you about sex in YA. Graphic scenes are just a big NO. I do think that realistically there can be some sex because lots of teens engage and will relate to the story, however it is not a requirement. The message is the most important aspect as far as I am concerned. I could go on and on… lol
Exactly! I am ok with some sex (they don’t live under bubble wrap anymore) but nothing graphic. It’s the connection that is more important!
Well said, Sophie!
Thank you Teri!!!
Great topic, Sophie and I agree with you on all of it. I do notice that many parents are very serious about what they want there teens to read and I’ve read some reviews that were rather angry about the cursing and sexual innuendos. The term YA seems confusing to many. I have come across some books tagged as mature YA. That confuses me. Is it YA or NA?
Well Laura it seems indeed that “mature” YA are NA! or at least at the end of the YA spectrum (17 or18 )?
I agree with everything you said! Great post Sophie!
Also, I’m suuuuuuper curious what the non-released YA sexy book was… *hint hint*
Kingsbane from Claire Legrand! I adored Furyborn but was so …weirded out here!
Oooo, not what I was expecting you to say. Weird!
I know! And the worst is that I really do seem like the odd one here!!!
I mean, I feel the same way about the Throne of Glass series.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Sophie. Even if I don’t have children of my own, I have 17 nieces and nephews! So there’s a great deal I don’t want them to be reading about before they get to enjoy their youth untainted.
17????? Oh my you must go broke with all the birthdays Alexandra!
This is a great post, Sophie! I have no problem with brief sex scene if it’s not too graphic and also few curse words. I love rebellious aspects in YA books! They’re the best!
Hence my favorite quote from Restore Me ” Idiots are highly inflammable love, let them all burn in hell”! True rebel LOL
I agree that YA books shouldn’t just contain easy sentences! I think YA should include a wide variety with books of varying technical difficulty. I was reading at an adult technical level when I was still in Middle School so it was hard to find books at my reading level that were also at my maturity level!
I am so happy to hear this Brittany! I always loved beautiful words so I don’t see the purpose of using simplistic words because you have teenagers! Of course you don’t want to become obscure and no longer understandable but give them beautiful prose please!
Loved this! Great post Sophie! I would reblog it if I could but you either don’t allow that or it’s because I’m on my phone. I expect it’s the latter lol
Totally agree with you! If its targeted at a young audience it doesnt need swears and graphic sex scenes…..
I read romance and YA…I like to switch between both as sometimes I just dont want all the graphic banging (!) but sometimes I do
I love this post, Sophie!! And it seems we’re pretty in sync when it comes to our thoughts, I just finished a post about YA heroines & hero’s and what values they should portray 😛
As for your post I am so curious to see what other will comment and say. I agree that by text book definition YA is roughly 14 – 18. Above 18 it becomes NA, That’s not really up to interpretation, that’s the way our age groups are defined in society. I guess if you really want to argue, one could say that YA is up to, and including, 19 – so NA starts when the teen year ends. But IMO that’s not really relevant, because what you want discuss is (I assume) aimed at the readers in the lower/mid – not the ones that are 18.
Authors have to remember that teenagers are very impressionable. I myself went through A LOT of different phases based on books, music and movies. I’ve raged against the “man”, told my white parents that they shouldn’t keep me down (yes, I didn’t really know what that meant 😉 ). So I think it’s fair not to expect negative values in YA. I wouldn’t like a heroine/hero who’s hopped up on drugs, swear and have sex left right and centre. There might be an underlying moral message somewhere in the pages, but it’s still inappropriate!!!!!
I love my smut but I still get weirded out when there’s explicit sex scenes in YA. It’s just not the right genre!! Last year I read an entire series, and then returned it. Something I usually NEVER do, because I don’t think it’s fair. But it was a YA series where the heroine had been bullied growing up. When her childhood bully comes to apologise, she starts thinking back and realises that she (the heroine) was the one that started the hate the bully was just stronger. Instead of then apologising to the “bully” she’s thinking “it’s been too many years now, and I just beat her up last week for no good reason, so that would be awkward”. There’s many more examples, but I can’t and won’t support authors who condone bullying. Especially not in YA.
Wow this is really long winded lol. But year, great post!! 😀
Bibi is your post scheduled? Because I went to your blog and did not see it and I can’t wait to read it now! About bullying… I can totally get what you mean! And my son has been bullied in high school, never told us about it and let’s just say we barely avoided a dramatic ending!
Yes its scheduled for the week after next, I think it is. Oh my gosh that’s horrible!! I hope your son is okay
Yes thank you! And I can’t wait to read your post!
Loved reading this post! It’s so true that YA books can affect the YA readers immensely and while sex, curses, and other stuff doesn’t really spark too much concern, the fact that the stories should actually make ht eyounger audiences think and should have stories that are realistic instead of one dimensional is a thought I agree on.
Yes Fanna! I think that’s the purpose of these books and as a mom I confess it’s a great help to raise your kids “right”! Plus I love talking books with them!