Saturday, June 5, 2010

Let’s talk about sex . . .

[ETA: Not sure if we're to introduce ourselves, but just in case, *waves* Hey, I'm Melissa. This is me: http://www.melissa-marr.com/]

Let's talk about sex . . .

It’s one of the first topics I had to ponder when I decided to be a part of a group blog. Actually, since I write YA, the sex topic is unavoidable. Attend a YA panel. Read YA blogs. Listen to a discussion of authors trying to decide if they will be joining the ever-increasing number of folks writing YA these days.

Authors, booksellers, librarians, parents, teens . . . one of the inevitable topics seems to be sex (and the semi-related topic of cussing--specifically THAT word which is a less PC word for sex-- but let’s hold off on the cussing chatter until another blog post). Some of the comments that echo in my discussions/inboxes/on panels/etc are--

Is there sex in it?

How much sex is in your book?


If I write YA, that means no sex, right?


YA shouldn’t have sex. Kissing is all there can be in YA.


It really shouldn’t have THAT sort of sex.


Dear Author, I am appalled by the sex. When my Very Young Reader read your teen book, she read about sex.


Dear Melissa, Thanks for being real about the sex.


The fascinating part of the discussion—ok, fascinating to ME at least—is that every last one of those sentence is totally legit, valid, altogether okay to say.

It’s not my place to suggest what anyone’s child but mine can read, nor is it my job to only write what another parent approves—in large part because doing so is impossible. What IS my job is to think about the topic and to make the best decisions I can for me as an author and for me as a mother. I don't always "wear both of those hats" at the same time--which, like everything else in this life, is an individual choice.

I've been thinking about this topic more and more bc my first adult book comes out next year & bc as of last year, my Wicked Lovely books are being re-published as ADULT novels in Germany. Not a single word changes in the text, but my books are published in three print versions in Germany. The hardcovers & trade papers are YA, but there are also adult mass market paperback editions via a second German publisher.

At the end of May, I was in NY for BEA. (My publisher pitched a panel to them, and they accepted it.) Not surprisingly, the panel I pitched was YA Crossing Over. [Unexpectedly, my German publisher was in the audience for the panel--which was exceedingly cool since his publishing decisions for my books were what sparked the panel.]

On the panel, I was joined by Michele Jaffee, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jeri Smith-Ready (moderated by Elissa Petruzzi from Romantic Times Magazine). Inevitably, the conversation circled around to “what’s different in your writing YA & adult?” topic. A couple folks easily said “the sex” or “the swearing.” My answer was the same; however, in my case, it’s a matter of more swearing in the YA and perhaps a bit more sex in . . . YA? Adult? Both. I’m not sure. It depends on the “more.” There’s certainly more of it in my YA, but I suspect there are at least 3 sentences more detail in the adult.

. . . which got me thinking. As a writer, the content of my books is based on the characters. In my YA series (WICKED LOVELY), I’m writing about the Summer Court (languid days & summer pleasures) and Dark Court (all sorts of decadence). In my adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, I’m writing about a commitment-phobe who is trying very hard NOT to end up in a relationship with a man who loves her (ergo, avoiding the sex).

When I'm doing the writing, the content is never about the readers. It’s not about worrying over parents, librarians, parents, etc. I write for my characters. It’s very cool that readers, parents, & librarians read the books, but when I write . . . none of you even exist. You are figments of a dream that I will ponder when I leave the characters.

Admittedly, I do think about how you all feel about sex (& cussing & religion & politics & all the rest of those difficult topics).

When?
It’s when I decide to do a group blog with folks who some sex that makes me blush. It’s when I write a blog like this. It’s when my teenager and her friends notice the eyecandy in movies. It’s when parents ask me “what age is this for?” and “Is my daughter old enough for your books?”

When parents ask about sex in my books . . .

I tell those asking that I am a mother, and my own son (12 in October) hasn’t read my novels yet. My daughter (16 now) was allowed to read them at 12. Before 12, everything they read, they read with me or my spouse. At 12, they get to the solo-reading, and by 16, the shelves are wide open. However, that’s my rule as a mother. It’s how we started our talks about sex—by being open, by (them or us) saying “this is too mature yet,” and by steps. I’m open about that as a writer bc it makes a lot more sense than ignoring it or censoring it.

When I’m writing my books . . .
I think about how my characters would deal with the issue of sex. In my first book, WICKED LOVELY, Seth has been a one-night-stand kind of person, so when he decide to become intimate with the girl he loves, he has STD tests. She has hereditary faery Sight, so her decision to have sex has to include thinking a bit extra about pregnancy. ---spoiler ahead-- In FRAGILE ETERNITY, Ash is a part of the Summer Court, so her attitude toward sex has changed.

When I’m revising my books . . .
I think about the scenes I have in text, and I decided if they are each required for the character and story.

When I decide to participate in a blog . . .
I participate in discussions with my co-bloggers on how to address the different audiences of our books-- “where are we on the fact that teens will read this & some of us write sex, violence, etc.?” [NOTE: It was a non-YA author who writes heavy sex and violence who had the most conservative view, incidentally.]

When it’s right now . . .
I ask you all what you think. The topic is wide open. The stances are myriad. They can all spark thoughts. So let’s talk about sex.

Oh, and to encourage talking, I’ll offer some give-aways:

1. A signed copy of RADIANT SHADOWS to a US resident.
2. A signed copy of RADIANT SHADOWS to an international reader.
3. A signed copy of WICKED LOVELY to a US resident.
4. A signed copy of WICKED LOVELY to an international reader.
5. A signed copy of any of my books to a library collection (must be requested by a librarian!)*
6. A second signed copy of any of my books to a library collection (must be requested by a librarian!)*

[*Librarian copies must go to libraries, so if less than two librarians reply, I'll send those copies to the first 2 librarians who request them after the contest.]

To enter to win, you can get
1. One entry for commenting.
2. One extra entry for linking to it from Twitter AND/OR Facebook.
3. One extra entry for being a librarian or a bookseller. (Tell me in comments if you are.)
4. One extra entry if YOU blog about sex in YA & link your post to this post. (Tell me/post a link in the comments if you do so!)

To give you time to ponder, blog, reply, etc. I’m keeping the contest open until my next blog post on July 6th. Winner will be drawn by Randomizer and announced on July 6.

And just for fun, if It'm going to borrow their title, I might as well include a video, right?

129 comments:

YAbookaholics said...

I think sex is ok in YA as long as it's tastefully done and not too graphic. I mean let's get real, teens do it, talk about it, know about it, and like it. There's no reason to shield them from it completely. I'd rather a teen read about it in a well done YA novel than google it. Great post :)

Here's my +1 for tweeting http://twitter.com/yabookaholics/status/15534142818

Sofia said...

Hey! My name is Sofia and I'm from Mexico. I'm glad that you get to talk about this topic. My family and I generally disagree about the content in books, but I'm 17 now so I get to choose what I want to read. I believe that sex is unavoidable because it is part of our daily lives and thoughts as teenagers (why deny it really...) and it should not be seen as something that shouldn't be like even mentioned. If you are open mm as a reader you tend to know your limits for all these topics.
PS: I love your books :)

Nicole said...

Hey Melissa! I love how you approach the subject about sex in the blog and in your novels. How you just let the novel take you naturally to the encounter and you know how the two people care for each other. I would like to enter the give-away for a signed copy of either of your books. I tweeted about this contest for my friends who read your series, there are a lot of them. We all have fallen in love with your characters. I personally love Irial, the way you protray him being strong, protective, and loving. My twitter account is Koskovich, plain and simple. I follow you and have put you in the tweet. Here's the link http://twitter.com/Koskovich/status/15534565074. Thanks for opening up this contest! Have fun writing!

fozmeadows said...

Great post, and a very interesting issue.

I'm starting to think that the difference in content between YA and adult novels is less to do with the presence of sex, swearing, drugs and/or alcohol, and everything to do with how those things are worked into the narrative. There are unwritten rules to the *how* of these things, fluid depending on the context, but still, as you say, subject to individual opinion. The following is my take on it.

Sex can occur in YA without the necessity of a "they get into bed and fade to black" discretionary curtain; it can even, to a certain extent, be described. But describing body parts below the waist is a no-no, as is (shall we say) anything deiberately racy. Similarly, from what I've seen, swearing can occur at times of stress - expletives used in the traditional sense - but not by way of casual emphasis. Something can be f***ed up or f***ing serious when the world's about to end, but if the characters are talking about the price of eggs, it cannot be f***ing ridiculous. Alcohol and drugs have a different boundary: they can be used, but that use, if gratuitous, is not to be painted in a positive light; or, if in passing, to be seen as acceptable or normal.

Which, for me, leads to the big difference between adult at YA writing. All of the above things can happen in an adult novel without the necessity of making them seem a Big Deal. Adults can drink, smoke, take drugs, have sex and swear without the fact that they are doing so needing to be further remarked upon; they can become background details, behavioural options, Things That People Do. That doesn't mean adult books never discuss those issues: they do, and frequently. But it is an extremely rare YA book - for me, anyway - that would allow any of its teenage characters to behave as though any/all of the above behaviours are able to pass without comment or consideration, because we do not want to inspire teenage readers to be similarly blase. We cannot deny that those things happen/exist - but we do want them thought about.

Marie said...

Hmph, controversial topic. Normally parents don't like that their kids read about sex. But the kids will see it in any place, movies, T.V., friends even school. Talking about sex to kids is very important because it is something that will form part of their life and see it from a biology side, it is vital in the circle of life. And sorry for the mistakes in my writing, English is not my first language.

Marie said...

I forgot! I'm from Puerto Rico and this is an extra entry

http://twitter.com/MariePuertoRico/status/15534150278

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Hi Melissa, It was great meeting you a few weeks ago at Joanne's store in PA. I loved how you approached this topic in your talk and here. For me, I think its all about the story. If it makes sense for a character to do something, they have to do it, if an act is important to the development of the story or a character than it needs to be in there, just as anything else would be considered. Is it really necessary for a character to spend 5 minutes talking to the school janitor? If yes, then it stays in the story, and if not, its cut. I treat sex and swearing the exact same way in my book...and drinking. When I was writing, I didn't think about glorifying anything or sending a message, it was purely what would my character do, and how would she view other characters doing similar things.

Nicole Howe said...

I agree that it has to fit the characters. I have read a lot of young adult that has had swearing and sex in it, but it seemed like what the characters would do and it fitted the storyline. (I mean the world is coming to an end and your not even going to utter one little swear word?? That just doesnt sit right)

+1 for mentioning on my facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Paranormal-Romance-Urban-Fantasy-Book-Lovers/277066277373?ref=ts

melissa_marr said...

I love the comments so far! Keep 'em coming, folks.

And *waves to Frankie* nice meeting you too. It sounds like you & I are the same page on this topic.

Marie, Exactly! It IS a difficult topic, which is exactly why I think we ought to talk about it!

fozmeadows, I'm not sure I agree with the idea that "Adults can drink, smoke, take drugs, have sex and swear without the fact that they are doing so needing to be further remarked upon." It is, of course, a personal opinion, but I'm not a fan of the double standard on the usage in YA having to be different than adult. I think whether it's YA or adult, the acts must be necessary or omitted. (I also like stances that make me ponder more, so thanks for offering a point of disagreement!)

YAbookaholics, that's the hard part. What is "tasteful"? As a direct example, I KNOW my neighbors & I will disagree, so it makes it VERY difficult for librarians/booksellers.

Sofia & Nicole, Thx :)

*wanders back to work now*

NOTE: I'll do my best to keep popping in to read replies.

Cath's Chatter said...

I've gotta admit i'm not overly worried about the amount of sex in YA novels as I'm generally monitoring the TV content more!!

However as a mid 30's mother of 3 I do think that there is less sex in YA books than there is in real life!! Which is scary........

thanks for the blog, please enter me in the comp
I have added link on my facebook
cheers

John said...

Great topic Melissa!

My coworkers and I were talking about this the other day. John Sanford did a signing at our store and was talking about wanting to write a YA book. He said he read 2 and thought the rules of YA were strange to him. He thought it was odd that you couldn't cuss, get naked, or have sex in YA books, but in some there were characters murdered people. We all wondered exactly which YA he had read where there wasn't cussing or sex, and wondered if we should give him a Gossip Girl book.

I think sex and cussing would be impossible to avoid in a YA book. Teens are foul mouthed balls of hormonal insanity. I don't have kids, but what I appreciate is that if there is sex in YA books, there are consequences. I think if the author keeps their audience in mind writes about sex in an honest, and realistic way, it can be beneficial for teens. If you completely ignored the subject, the story wouldn't feel as authentic to the teen experience.

here's my extra +1 for tweeting http://twitter.com/johnnie_cakes/status/15537322946
and 1 more +1, I'm a bookseller.

Emma Kate "Coops" @ Whats Cracking Coops said...

This is a fabulous topic and so, so true.

I think parents have a duty of care to their children, obviously, and want to be careful about what they're being exposed to. HOWEVER - They can't control what their children are being exposed to at places like school. And it is at places like these where topics like this are coming up earlier and earlier in their lives. Teens are starting young these days which is sad, but true! Which is why I think sex is a NECESSARY topic in YA. Where are they going to get positive values about the topic from? Their friends? (Who could either be really strong, wonderful role models, OR, already sexing it up at 13 years old!) Or the current affair/news? Where teens who are pregnant at 11 are being broadcasted?
I think YA books set the PERFECT stage to put some positive values forward again. And I most definitely think it should be included - especially with characters 16, 17 and 18+ which is where, in reality, that age group is beginning to start with all that stuff.
The BEST thing about YA is reading a book where a strong, smart female MC is in a steady, loving relationship with the guy of her dreams and things like this come naturally...and aren't induced by parties or drugs or peer pressure like so many kids are being taught inadvertently these days. :)

Just my 2 cents! Or maybe its 5 cents now 2 cents has been out for donkeys ages...bahaha :D

projectanime said...

Hello! I'm a really big fan of your books, and saw this link from your livejournal. What a really interesting topic!

When I was growing up, my mother was a bit unconventional, in that she essentially allowed me to roam free. I was allowed to go where I wanted, watch what I wanted, and, especially, read what I wanted. This was all based on the mutually understood fact that she could trust me, and that I would never do anything 'bad' with my freedom.

As a result, the thought that some parents would actually ban their children from readings books until a certain age is very alien to me. My mother was a high school drop out, who never enjoyed reading, so when she saw her daughter so eagerly picking up books she was always encouraging. I have been teased for reading too much, my bookshelves are bursting with my collection, but I have no memory of ever even being asked what my books were about, let alone being told I wasn't yet old enough.

I am beyond grateful that I was raised this way, because I firmly believe that keeping secrets or hiding things from children only creates confusion and the overwhelming urge to do the very thing being banned. My mother answered my questions when I asked them, because she felt that by being able to ask the question, I was ready for the answer.

Sex was a subject that was not too often talked about in my household. Although the reason my mother left high school was because she became pregnant, she never looked on it with regret, or instructed me to beware of the dangers.

In books, I think talking about sex is important for many reasons. Mainly, I think it is a very poor decision to pretend as if teenagers never have sex. Teenagers will keep having sex no matter what books they read, what music they listen to, or what movies they see. At that age, teens are being attacked by raging hormones as well as a natural curiosity in their own bodies and others. What I don't think is good is for books to glorify the act of having sex as an important passage of becoming an adult. I enjoy books when they portray sex as an expression of love or a natural part of life. I also appreciate when the more unfortunate sides of sex are shown--the complications and emotions that can run high. (I think that you, Melissa, do this very well in your books). Teenagers, even preteens and younger, are constantly bombarded by sexual images--to ignore or glorify this is irresponsible in my opinion. But to take a realistic view of a situation,and write about it without glazing over the bad, is to give teenagers perhaps a more accurate glimpse of what sex really is, which is, in my opinion, a very good thing.

lavendersbluegreen said...

Interesting topic to tackle... Many would be afraid to address this in an open and honest way.
I really like your philosophy (if I may call it that?) "As a writer, the content of my books is based on the characters."
When our kids can turn on the TV and watch their peers on pregnancy shows and having beyond ostentatious birthday parties; it is nice to have books available to them which address sex within character development rather than as a glorification of stupid behavior and irresponsibility as well as a glossing over of consequences. The thing about a well developed character is that they are well rounded not a one dimensional vapid caricature of a teen. Unfortunately those caricatures are what our kids emulate if we do not expose them to well balanced media / books.
Sex and sexuality is part of the cycle of life. Refusing to address it with our kids is irresponsible.
I like that many good YA authors (whose books I appreciate too) address sex and sexuality in context. Our children develop character based on observation and emulation. Challenge, overcoming adversity, learning to spell... I would rather give them your books any day!
For an extra entry for linking from Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/lavendersbluegreen?v=wall&story_fbid=116714678371722&ref=mf

Helen Lowe said...

I believe that a book is primarily about the characters and the plot and that the evolution of the story should drive what happens/doesn't happen in terms of any aspect of the story, including sex, violence, language, the whole nine yards.

But since we're talking about sex, I don't think it is the presence or absence of sex that makes a book a great read: it's the depth of the story and the characters and the extent to which they speak to me as a reader. The presence or absence of sex is pretty much incidental to that, regardless of whether it's "YA" or "Adult" literature.

Like other posters here, I read avidly as a teen and what I would call both "up" and down", ie I would read adult books, both classic and popular, one day and the next I would pick up the latest kid's book out. So I guess I wonder if a lot of the differentiations made between "YA" and "Adult" fiction these days are an artificial creation in terms of the ability of young adult readers to handle a broad range of content.

When I read Wicked Lovely I liked that it was realistic about sex--not just that young adults are curious about it but that it is very much a part of their lives today. It was part of the "real life" of the story.

Charchelar said...

I think it is fine to include sex in YA novels. Lots of teenagers have sex and to not include it in all young adult novels would feel like denying that it happens. Sure some of the stuff makes me blush and i dont think the sex should be very detailed, but i do think it would be wise to include characters practicing safe sex and getting tests done. As long as its responsible i feel like it can have a positive effect on teens. If you talk about birth control maybe one of the readers will read it and decide to practice safe sex instead of taking the risk.

Tweet: http://twitter.com/Charchelar/status/15551475944

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/profile.php?id=665043045&v=wall&story_fbid=124837557550398

Songs for the Sick said...

yeah because teenagers dont have sex, right? haha!
Cant wait to read the next book. I'm a huge fan of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.

Heres a link to my twitter for ane xtra point https://twitter.com/songsforthesick

Jessica said...

Sex in YA is okay if done right. Not jumping into the bed the moment characters feel something for one another. If done too quickly it seems almost wrong. The characters need a chance to grow. But of course if they do jump too quickly, it can still be done well. I can't think of an instance where sex happened too fast in a YA book.

But sometimes it still unnerves me to think of high schoolers having sex. 16, 17, 18 seems too young to have sex. But as I said it happens and I know this, reality and fiction wise. I don't mind it in books, but it has to be done tastefully. Like the characters have known each other for awhile and they really care for one another and aren't just having sex to have sex.

Cougar said...

Hello,

I have started reading The Summoning and am loving the book. Hmm let's talk about sex..well I have to admit I like a little nudge in that direction , used in the right context of course. YA books offer a wide range of ages to read them so nicely put is always good for the younger readers. Stephenie Meyer managed it really well, kept the reader wondering and then nicely written into breaking Dawn. Not wham bam thankyou mam..but nicely written.

Snazel said...

Given the fact that I'm 21 and never been in any sort of a relationship, I am a little freaked out by the idea of teenagers having sex. But, I am also freaked out by the idea of anyone having sex, so I shouldn't blame the teens. I tend to not think too deeply about those scenes.

I like the mention of how the amount of "scandalous content' you include is driven by the characters and the story. THAT makes more sense than most of the other rules I've heard people try to lay down on this subject. This is rambly, and probably I should have gotten some coffee before writing this. Sorry.

Anyhow, I'm international and I'd love a copy of Radiant Shadows, if my comment is drawn? I heart Ani very hard. :D

Claire said...

This is always a tough topic to think about for YA novels, but I love that you base it on your characters. A lot of teens appreciate "realness" when it comes to sex, but there are also those who want no sex whatsoever in the books they read. However, it's not very often, in reading the YA genre, that I've come across any books with sex scenes written in a way that have been offensive or made me uncomfortable. And I know I appreciate when an author is realistic about sex, not necessarily meaning in an explicit manner, but not beating around the topic because the book is intended for teens.
From there, however, there is the risk of explicit or gratuitous sex scenes with the intent of being "real." That's something I definitely don't like to see when I'm reading YA.

Twitter link:
http://twitter.com/Clairesy13

And I used to be a library page before I was laid off due to budget cuts? Does that count? Haha.

d-a-w-n-79 said...

I think this is an excellent subject! The 1st thing that always crosses my mine is people who cry foul when there is sex in a YA book I wonder what they their children watch on tv. Last summer for fun my 12 year old and 10 year old sons and I watched all 7 seasons of Buffy. Now for the most part it fairly sex free, but well there are some pretty spicy moments. Instead of shying away from the topic I took it straight on and had a "talk" with my sons about sex. It felt like they were to young for this but honestly sex is sold in so many ways from books to tv to magazines I feel like it benifits them to be aware. I would let my 12 almost 13 year old son read a book with small amounts of sex in it because I feel like he is prepared and he knows he can talk to me or his dad. I don't think sex should be so taboo. I mean when I was that age and parents were saying "sex is bad sex is bad!"thats exactly what I wanted to be doing.

tanya said...

I agree with it being the parents responsibility to choose if a book is ok for their child to read. I believe sex in YA books is fine if it isn't too explicit. I find myself as a parent of two teens reading more YA books now and loving them and wanting to pass them on to my daughter. Loved Wicked Lovely!! Thanks Melissa ;-)

Bella said...

I have to be honest, I don't think that authors should censor themselves because they're writing for a younger audience ... if that's where your story is headed, then that's where it must GO. I read a LOT, and a huge variety of books, YA and adult, when I was young ... my parents never tried to tell me what to read, because it just seemed silly to them, as it does to me too ... if they had, well, I can tell you now that I'd most definitely have gone out of my way to read whatever they were trying to prevent me from getting my eager teen hands on because that's how curious young people are! And, really, whatever I read didn't change me in any way ... it's always interesting to read about different cultures, opinions, reactions to things such as drugs or sex or whatever, but it doesn't mean you, the teen reader, will go out there and replicate what you've seen on the pages! I think people need to give young people a little more credit than that ... teens aren't THAT impressionable, lol ... they're perfectly capable of making good, and bad, decisions on their own. If anything, reading a wide range of topics, and seeing different characters react in different ways to them, will be more likely to encourage responsible choices in the reader than not being allowed to, and being treated as though keeping you in the dark about something will keep you safe. Nuh Uh. News Flash: Teens DO know about sex, and stuff already. It's better for them to read about characters making bad choices, rather than experiencing the consequences of those bad choices for themselves.

Knowledge is power!

Tweet Tweet: http://twitter.com/izibellz/status/15558209586

Deana H. said...

As a teacher and a parent I have to say that I also agree that it should be about the story. There are worse things in YA books than sex and cussing. As a mother of teenagers, I can tell you that is all they think about. I try to keep communication honest and real. You always want what you can't or aren't suppose to have!! As for the parents who are apalled at the sex that is in a book their young teen just read, Hey try reading and checking into what your child is reading, That is YOUR job, not the writers or the librarians for that matter. Thanks for all the great YA writing that you do and thank God for writers who help foster teen's love for reading. I say keep it real!

Donna said...

As a YA writer, I choose not to include sex scenes in my books. But that's a personal choice I've made.

As a mom and YA writer, I don't mind. I bought Marked for my 11 year old last year, desperately trying to get her to stop re-reading Twilight. It worked like a charm. She devoured the entire series and wanted more. I finally read Marked a few months after she did and it had a BJ in it very early. My heart did a flutter and I thought, "Oh my god, what have I done?" but I kept reading. The book wasn't about the sex, but the scene was referred to throughout the series.

I decided I didn't mind because the book got her reading. That's what it's all about.

Bella said...

Oh, forgot to mention - I'm international :)

Sharon said...

Wow, you hit a great topic here. I have read very little YA (so far, I plan on reading more now). The point would be to keep it *real for your audience. Adults and YA think differently about most subjects. 16 year olds see the world much differently than 25 year olds and then us 40-ish, see it even differently.
So funny about the salt-n-pepper video! That was the first song I thought of when I saw your blog .

Mireyah Wolfe said...

I love how you handle your kids reading material--it makes a whole lot more sense than simply censoring it all like a lot of parents do.

I, sadly, haven't had a chance to read your books yet, but I've heard wonderful things about them, so I hope I get the chance to do so soon! :)

Great post!

Mike said...

As a writer I follow one axiom, if it doesn't movethe story forward, leave it out. If sex is needed for the story, then so be it, if it is gratuitous, eliminate it.

This also applies to cursing. If the character is course and vile, they may swear more than others, however, everyday people usually don't swear near as much as they protray it in movies and books, so why do it? That being said, teenagers often swear because they feel it makes them more mature, so in a YA it may need an occasional swear word including the f bomb but if other characters correct the individual or remark on how imature it makes them seem, then maybe it can be positive.

Hey, at 16 I graduated then 3 months after I was married and int he navy (and 17). So I skipped that whole looking for love in all the wrong places stage (37 years and counting this September.)

Mike

Kelley Vitollo said...

This is a facinating blog topic. Thank you so much for posting it. I'm an aspiring YA author so its interesting to me to see how other writers and readers feel about this. I know its a topic I've thought about numerous times.

The thing is, I think it depends on the books and the characters. Sex isn't right in every YA book, but I do think it is right in some. Lets face it, having sex as a teenager is real. Do all of them do it? Nope. Do some of them? You betcha. I'm all for making books real and that's a topic that a lot of teens face. I think to ignore it or never be willing to take that step isn't right for ME as a writer. That doesn't mean every other writer as to be the same. But for me personally and the books I'm writing, that is how I feel about it.

Thanks again. Loved reading this blog.

Jeaniene Frost said...

I'll jump in to stir the pot (you're shocked, I know! ;). Seems to me that a percentage of the underlying concern about sex in YA - gauging from reviews I've read and some discussion boards I've visited - is gender biased. Have a teen boy in YA who's known for getting around, and I haven't seen two many raised brows. Switch that to a teen girl in YA, and all the sudden there's more tendencies for controversy and concern as to the book's content.

As a romance author, I've seen plenty of the same sterotype. You can have a hero who's been promiscuous as all get out (raises hand) and few will bat an eye. But have a heroine with an extensive sexual history, and the word "slut" will inevitably come up.

So, while I think graphic sex scenes are something that YA is best left without, I wonder how much of the unspoken concern about *any* sex in YA is merely a reflection of the same discomfort you see in adult romance about female sexuality. To paraphrase a comment I saw on a YA book review once, I wonder how much of it might be "Boys will be boys, but GOOD parents don't want their teenage daughters having sex"?

Kt said...

Personally sometimes I get frustrated with a lot of YA books. I just do not care for how most of the time the sex issue is just skirted around. It just doesn't seem realistic. I understand the necessity of it on a count of the books being for another audience, but since the teen years were a while ago it just seems disappointing to ignore the sex.

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Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lexie said...

I am fine with sex in YA as long as its not as explicit as its mainstream romance counterparts. It would be silly to exclude teens thinking about sex, or talking about it with friends, or wondering about it because they do. Sex Ed was in the 4th grade at my school--most of us weren't even ten yet and they discussed this stuff with us.

I began reading mainstream romance titles around 9 years old--so yeah I was introduced to sex in novels pretty early. When it came to my sister's turn, and I had control over her reading, I waited until she had the Sex Ed course, patiently answered her questions and then asked her if she thought she was ready to read novels that included the mention of sex (she was about 12, apparently they pushed back the class in the decade since I was in elementary). She didn't feel she was. When she was ready, I gave her books that i thought depicted it well and began the hunt for YA's that had honest discussions about it.

But I'm only a sister, I'm not a parent so my voice isn't usually the one people listen to.

Rachel said...

I don't see the big deal, everyone I knew in high school was obsessed with sex. Whose having it with who what kind, and "girl, OMG! did you really do that!"

How can books that are targeting teens actually ignore sexual situations altogether or make their characters chaste... I think this may be one of the reasons there are so many teens that dont read.

So you rock for approaching the topic in a very real way. I often help some high-schoolers with with English and often recommend your books so that they can find the enjoyment in reading again. It always works <3

I agree too with the comment Jeaniene made as well. and that attitude bugs the crap out of me.

Shahenda said...

As a middle school teacher I think sex is a topic that should be allowed in YA books. You would be surprised how many students actually ask teachers questions instead of going to their parents, but then again the area that I teach in this is a norm.

Some YA books I've read have innocent sex and then one in particular dealt with a rape. Although the rape was uncomfortable I think it was great that it was discussed.

Another topic that I think should be covered, as it pertains to sex, is the use of protection. When there is sex in a YA book and there isn't a discussion of the reach for protection I get disappointed.

Sex is real in the life of young adults and should be tastefully discussed. :)

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Kelley Vitollo said...

Good point, Jeaniene. I completely agree with you. I read both adult romance and YA and I've seen that time and time again. It really does make me sad. Why, as women do we still have to pretend we don't enjoy sex. Especially as adults, in adult romance or in the "real world". The whole boys will be boys and girls are trashy if they do the same thing really bothers me.

angelusprex said...

I think that sex in YA is a good thing because it can encourage discussion of an important topic teens are dealing with in their daily lives. Plus, as others have said, it just makes the books more realistic.

I'm an archivist in training in the US... But I bet that doesn't count as a librarian!

Jessie said...

This is funny, because I actually blogged about this somewhat on Friday. http://jessieharrell.blogspot.com/2010/06/flashback-friday-summer-lovin.html
What I'm wondering is whether we see enough hesitancy from our characters. If I think back to my own teen years, it wasn't like I was totally naive about sex, but I wasn't ready to jump into bed with a guy either. There were lots of road blocks and hesitation. And I question whether we aren't seeing as much of that fear in our characters b/c the authors know they aren't going to write actual sex into their books?
In my novel (unpublished), my characters impliedly have sex, but (a) they're married - it's a retelling - and (b) there description tapers of dramatically once you get past kissing. By the time you reach sex, the description is nothing more than an implication. I know teens are having sex, but if they wanted to read about all the gory details, they'd pick up an adult romance novel.
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Patricia Lynne said...

I think sex in YA novels isn't impossible. I've read a few where it's happened, they don't go into heavy detail like a romance and I think that's what makes the difference. adult novels can get away w/ getting down and dirty about sex but with YA you have to tread more carefully.
Let's face it though, teens KNOW about sex. whether a parent knows it (or likes it) or not, teens know! they talk about it with friends, google it, think about, dream about it. sex is on every teen's mind at some point.
there have been a few YA books I've read (swoon and sunshine) where the detail in sex (or anatomy) go into more detail and that's fine too, but in those cases I think not all teens should read it, maybe they need to section off YA a bit more, have a more mature section for teens over 16 (IMHO 16 just seems like the age that teens may mature enough to handle more graphic material, it may not be entirely true, but we are a society that likes to have cut off ages on stuff - ie cigarettes, alcohol, clubs etcetera) or some kind of warning saying the novel might not be appropriate for all ages.
I guess my point is teens are aware of sex whether parents know or not and it's not wrong for teens to be curious or to read a book where characters talk or have sex. if a parent is truly concerned about the content of the book, maybe they should read it first and then explain to their child why they believe the book is to mature.

rachie203 said...

To ditto a number of the previous comments I agree completely that it's not about the content, as how it's handled. I think it's unrealistic to assume that all teens are abstaining, both in real life and in fiction. Sex happens, especially among teenagers, let's stop pretending it doesn't. If I can't let my kids READ about it how can I talk to them about it and how can I create a safe space for them to talk to me about it? It's not the role of the media (in whatever form) to parent our children. We're not going to give them the idea to have sex because they read it in the book, they'll figure that one out for themselves eventually. So leave it to parents to do their jobs and parent their children, and let's quit pretending that if you're under 18 you somehow either lack hormones or have a great deal of self-control! The last thing we want to do is create an attitude of shame around sex, and teach our children that they can't talk about it until they turn 18.

jjohn1026 said...

I think that the way you approach it in your writing is the right way. You don't go out of your way to put it in there you just go where your writing takes you and I think that is the right way. I have three kids so I think each parent knows when is the right time to let their children read certain books. The books are not going to make them go out and want to have sex so I think there is nothing wrong with it being in YA books.

darkstarpoet1 said...

well my take on the matter is a few easy points i look at

1. do the same parents that complain about sex let their kids watch racey tv? if so then lay off the books.

2. are any of our teenagers going through the mental strain of dealing with vampires/weres/ or any of this supernatural realm? no, our kids deal with normal issues day to day and still have sex in real life in their teen years.

3. are your kids out getting in trouble by themselves? probably not if they are sitting around reading a good book.

to me the biggest thing a parent should be happy is that their kids have found a joy for reading. my favorite books from my teenage years were about vampires and murders. did that make me go out and kill a bunch of people? no. to me readinf fiction is about reading and the love for the characters in a book not whether they are having sex or not.

to me there is no difference between ya and adult novels besides the type of events they have to handle. ya involves matters a younger mind can wrap around in my own opinion, but adult novels are more complex issues to me. i think if the books goes towards sex it should be in, but i do not feel it should be forced in either young adult or adult books.

Victoria said...

Sex in YA should be expected if that is the path the storyline is taking. It's not like kids don't know about it or participate in sexual activity. As long as it isn't graphic erotica I see no harm. You do an excellent job with incorporating sex in your Wickedly Lovely series.

Barb Riley said...

Each generation approaches sex and morals differently. Historically, life spans were shorter and girls were married and having sex at much earlier ages. That all changed through the years, and now there's a lot of controversy on what age is best to introduce sex. I have an 8 year old daughter, and her best friend's sister is 10 and developing. There has to be some conversations around what happens to a girl, and why it happens. I think it's much better for a child to be informed rather than mis-informed or un-informed.

Melissa, I think your method with your kids is great. I heard/read before from you that your daughter picked up a book and told you it was too mature for her right now. I think your method is a good one, and I hope to use the same for my daughter. As I said, she's 8 and she's loved dark things all her life. She grew up with Harry Potter's ever-darkening movies, she loves Van Helsing and she would watch any vamp movie I put in front of her. She would love to watch Vampire Diaries, but it's too much sex and drugs, so I don't allow it. I can't wait until she's old enough to share some of my favorite books with me (Charlaine Harris, Richelle Mead, PC Cast, etc). But that day will come, when she's older and ready!

red_reaper said...

I feel like if its discreet and tasteful it can be included in YA books but I also feel like there should be a label like on cd or video covers. That way a parent knows what to expect I have four children ranging in age from 21 to 10 boys and girls and they were all treated slightly different when it came to movies,books and such because every child is different on what they are able to handle.

Melissa said...

I think sex in YA should be as varied as there are YA readers. People would actually be shocked in how young they start and what they know. So I do not think that this issue should be taboo. All areas should be explored especially that of deciding if it is right for you, consequences, to even the dark side of rape.

Jennzah said...

i dont really mind a bit of sex in YA, look at what Maggie Stiefvater did in SHIVER. it was tasteful. i think if it's done right, you can write about anything in YA! :)

im a librarian in training, does that count??? thanks for this contest! :)

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nymfaux said...

One of my friends was asking me the other day about the differences between YA and everything else--My answer was that YA seemed to be more fun--more open to the magical and mysterious and the paranormal--although I do see the adult world opening up. As writers, I agree that you should go where the character goes--and the book will end up where it belongs, either YA or adult. As a reader, though, I'll read anything...It bothers me more when a character is nonchalant about learning their bff/bf/gf/grand parent is a werewolf, vampire, witch than when they gloss over sex. I noticed that the way I read into things, or the way I watch movies/tv has changed as I've grown--Books and media can be read/watched at many different levels--when I watched something as a kid, sometimes I didn't even conceive that there was anything racy going on, because I just didn't think about it, or if something *hinted* at sex, I read it as attraction, as *wanting.* The more worldly older me, will sometimes reread/rewatched the same passages and say "of course they're doing it." So there is a lot of stuff you can get away with if you're not too explicit. As a young reader, I was even able to do this when I stole my mom's and my sister's romance books--I was a voracious reader and I just wanted books and stories and words--If something was good, it was good; but sometimes they also had a mass-produced feeling (Sweet Valley?)--Back to the original topic of sex, it seems that the Romance genre has been going through the same transitions--It used to be a rule of thumb that the thicker the book, the more sex/more descriptive a book was--now skinny books can have more explicit sex, too...just choose which brand you want to read. Someone mentioned hesitancy, but I think it has just as much to do with the readers as with the characters--Teenagers and adults ask a lot of the same questions--is it right to give different answers?We both want to relate and escape with the characters--It's a fine line, and the answer is sometimes just the age of the character--Older characters go to work/Younger characters go to school. Even as a child, I was interested and had questions about relationships, but I got intuitive feelings that I shouldn't be, so I carefully stole and replaced the books I wanted to read, so that no one would know. Maybe it's just me, but buying a romance novel sometimes seems as awkward as buying condoms. This topic is really about so many different factors, but what it comes down to, is a good book is a good book--everything in the story has to be true to the characters or it will come out preachy and fake...A good book will find its home, people will recommend it, pass it on, and little kids who "shouldn't" will find it and pass it on to their friends, and adults who don't want to be seen reading "kid's books" will read them, too. Good is good, everything else is extra.

@Barb Riley--The Vampire Diaries were a book series first, by L.J. Smith. I also love her series The Secret Circle--Granted, I read them in high school, but I seem to remember them being more about finding your soulmate and concentrating on paranormal issues that required more attention at the moment than on sex...so your daughter might be ok for the books, if not tv.

@Marie--you're English is perfect!--I never would have known it wasn't you're first language!

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Cory W. said...

I haven't read much YA fiction since I was a YA. . .I was so timid around boys--I didn't want to think about sex--For me it was all romance, kissing and a complete fantasy of that world because all I ever did was hold hands..that was even just once! I felt so afraid of everything, and yes distrustful. I wonder now how much of that was based on my socialization from my primary group (family, other relatives) to my secondary group (experiences with peers, teachers, et al) ? I know it wasn't my family--they were pretty open I guess. For me, denial of the existance of sex, adolescent body changes et al, allowed me to remain more innocent than other girls who were my friends. In fact it could have been b/c of the horror stories (abuse, neglect, betrayal) my friends shared with me that I avoided interactions with boys. And the negative attn I got from boys..teasing, provoking etc just made me really dislike all of them except for NKOTB...River Phoenix was like my hero...;) I really only liked archetypes and boys I would never meet...interesting. I'm in grad school to be a therapist; as I read what I am writing I am filled with a sense of self-understanding and am able to move beyond the personal blockages to enjoying a healthy, happy romantic relationship. That's my goal and I am getting there. I think sex in YA fiction would have been healthy for me to read about because I could have used some good role models--I really didn't have any! Something to gain insight, and a sense of community with the other readers. Granted that was over 15yrs ago and I don't think the paranormal genre was as alive then as it is now. If I were a parent, I would be open to my kids reading about sex when they are 12. then it would also depend on how open they are. I'd find out how best to talk/communicate with them probably through trial and error...if they didn't want to have a face to face conversation, perhaps writing notes, or maybe getting them a book or sharing numbers of people I trust to share info with them. Or a good book I think best represents my views on love, sex and relationships. Then giving them info on multiple perspectives, even multicultural perspectives. Well I think that's all I have to say for now!
I'm going to link this to my FB and my twitter...

sandyg02 said...

Interesting topic. I also agree that sex in YA is inevitable. It doesn't bother me to read about it, even when I was younger. when I see parents walking around B&N and actually looking at the age range of books for their kids - I think it's weird - but my parents never controlled what I read, only what I watched on TV.

Cassie said...

I'm bit goig to lie when I decided to start reading 2 years ago (being 20 at the time) I was hocked to find out that YA was allowed to have swearing in it and also shocked that there was sexual references to it. I have a younger sister who is 14 and has been reaing longer than me(I hated reading in school) and she said it was completely normal and that it's nothing nearly as bad as what her friends talk about. Then I remebered when I was a teen we were way worse than the novels so I think as ling and it's tastefully
done it's fine and it shuld be up the the teen/parent to decide if they are mature enough to handle the topics.

Cassie(international reader)
total points 3 -commting,posting in facebook and Twitter

Christina Harrison said...

This is a great blog with good timing. I have a 9 year old niece that is coming here for the summer and I'm not sure how to find age appropriate books for her. The last books I got her were the Tinkerbells Fairies collection and she could read one in just 3-4 hours. I want to keep her challenged but I can't have sex, drugs, profanity, violence, etc. Can anyone suggest somethings for her? She's planning to do the summer reading program at Books A Million.

Danielle Gorman said...

I think sex in YA books is okay. If teens want to read about sex they are going to find ways to read about it somehow.

nymfaux said...

@Christina Harrison...I can't say how many of the same books are still around, but around her age, I loved the Sweet Valley (Twins for her age) and Thoroughbred series, and I know they are reissuing the Babysitter's Club. I also liked R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary(just heard there's a new Ramona movie coming out). Rent a Third Grader (I reread that one over and over). Where the Red Fern Grows (I still reread this one). The Westing Game. Harry Potter. Tera Lynn Childs. Tamora Pierce. Meg Cabot. Damien Graves Midnight Library. The Black Stalion. Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli. L.M. Montgomery--Anne of Green Gables. Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted, and other princess books. Daddy Long Legs, Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster (you can download those for free on your computer from google--I use bn. ereader). Cheaper by the Dozen, Belles on Their Toes. The Great Brain series (LOVE LOVE LOVE). Hope that helps!!!!

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi Melissa

Congrats on being the first one of us to bring sex onto the board :) I doubt you'll be the last.

I have to say I've not read a lot of YA, but I've seen this conversation around a lot. From my ex-teacher perspective, I believe that the sooner you introduce concepts to children (in a manner that they can deal with), the easier it is for them to learn about it and deal with it. That to me seems to be the place for YA - you introduce things like sex in a manner that young people can understand and work out their own feelings about before they get older, out into the world and have to face the myriad of possibilities, desires and dangers out there.

Adelina said...

I'll be honest and saw that alot of the time I prefer reading YA because even though some have sex(which I don't mind if it does or not) it's not graphic. The sex can be there, no problem, I just don't care to know every little detail, but if it does it's not gonna turn me away from a good story. I think teens want to read a good story. Sex or no sex it's the story that keeps them turning the pages.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i think parents are not realizing the things kids know at a much younger age. teens have sex. Lets not pretend.

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stacey said...

When i was Fifteen some of the books i read had some sex but most did not but what madder to me was if it was a good storie not if it had sex or not.

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Barbara E. said...

I think the rules that you have in place for your children are perfect Melissa . I believe it is up to parents to set an age for their children where they can be trusted to use their own judgement in what they want to read or see in movies and television. Before that a parent should be monitoring these things. An author should use their judgement as far as what the story needs, and yes, teenagers do think about sex, do have sex, and there's no reason sex can't be mentioned in a YA story.

Sweet Vernal Zephyr said...

I think completely bleaching out the sex in YA novels is not true to the audience. At that age I was hungry for anything intimate. I found it. And would have rather is was set up in a YA novel similar to my age group than the bodice rippers I stole from my mother.

h.anna said...

I think one of the differences between YA and adult books is the role played by sex. Adult books that include sex often use it as an indication of lust (presumed to be love). The act isn't a big deal, and a lot of times I think it's incredibly superfluous. YA, on the other hand, can take an entire book or series and focus on the issue of sex. Whether to 'do it' or not, what it means to a relationship, whether the characters are educated about sex, experimentation, or what it's like dealing with the worries of STDs and pregnancy. To adolescents and teens, it's a BIG DEAL. It's thrilling and worrisome and mysterious and scary.

So if they don't encounter sex in the world of YA, how are teens going to have a chance to process it? Parents are often reluctant to talk about sex; sex ed in schools is woefully inadequate; friends are unreliable; television often makes it more glamorous than it is. Reading about sex in adult novels or romance novels doesn't address any of the issues teens are thinking about, and yet these are the avenues available. YA is meant to deal with the issues teens deal with as they become adults.

Martha Lawson said...

I think sex in YA books is fine! I don't think it should be graphic like in adult books. I'd rather the kids read a tasteful book with sex in it, rather than what they see on tv and the movies.

Btw, I am a branch librarian in our system and I'd love to be entered to win a book for our library. Very generous of you.

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Blodeuedd said...

Sex in YA books, well I recently read Shiver my Stiefvater and I liked the way it was portrayed there. Just under the covers and end of sentence. It shouldn't be graphic in these kinds of books, but that is my opinion. And I do feel it's nice when there is none at all

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bandia13 said...

My Oppinion:
It really depends on how the child was brought up and what people believe to be a young adult. My sister has just turned thirteen, and she has started to read books that have small sex scenes in them. I do not believe it's the age that matters but the maturity of the child... Yeah ok, if the child is under ten then, fine, moderate their readings, but if they are of an age where they are learning about sex within school (because this is when puberty normally starts) then why not read small sex scenes within books? Hence why they are Labelled 'Young Adults'. I started reading Adult books at the age of fourteen. My mother was getting rid of some old books she didn't want and I scavenged threw them and saw once I might like to read. She didn't know at the time but one of the books was and Adult book. It was covered in sex scenes - now I have had a sheltered child life and am just realising how young children are when they are exposed to things like drugs, let alone sex. I know someone who is fourteen and has already dealt weed to people. Needless-to-say, I was shocked - When I told my mum I had read the book she was also shocked, so she sat me down and we talked about it, we talked about the sex and she made sure that I understood that is was just a book. I knew all of this, but the author caught me, so I researched for more adult books. I skipped the complete step of reading Young Adult books because they bored me.. they didn't have enough action (I do not mean sexual action but normal action, my chosen genre is heroin with some sex scenes like Jeaneine Frost - Night Huntress) or flow. I guess the point I am trying to make is, Let the idividual decide what they wish to read and when they have read it - as a parent - sit down with them and talk to them about it... be open with them. Although I do not feel as if my point was made in the correct way for people to understand where I am coming from.

Blessings

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mmafsmith said...

I am fine with a bit of sex and language in the YA books. I was so sheltered growing up that I am dterminted to be very open with my daughters (11 nearly 12 and 6). My oldest loves to read like me and loves the same genre. While I won't let her read the more graphic adult books, there are plenty out there that just touch on the sex subject that I don't have a problem with. Lord knows she sees and hears just as much on TV! This has made her very comfortable coming to talk to me about everything...including boys!

Lena said...

I love this post.

Quite honenstly, YA swear and have sex. Not all of them do, but a good chunk does. It's just being realistic. Plus, it makes the story more believable and enjoyable. RAWR, lol. ;)

alanajoli said...

Thanks for the discussion, Melissa. I think that I've read more YA novels that take sex and its consequences seriously than adult novels (as mentioned in your description of Seth and Ash in WL). Maybe I just don't read the right kind of adult novels for the frank discussion of sexual consequences. :)

I'm entering here for myself (I haven't gotten my own copy of Radiant Shadows yet!), but also on behalf of my library (where I am a Reference Assistant).

Crystal said...

I agree with the majority that sex in YA is fine as long as it doesn't get too graphic or into details. As well with the swearing; a word here and there is fine. If teens aren't doing it themselves then it is most likely happening around them so it's not a shocker. I think Melissa handles the situations in her books perfectly. We'll leave the graphic scenes to Jeaniene and Cat & Bones for the Mom's! Love your books Melissa and Jeaniene, can't wait for more =)

Immortal Hellion said...

As a parent I believe it is our decision on what the child reads up until a certain age, my daughter has read a lot of the YA books that include sex and I don't have a problem with that. The YA books don't have the graphic descriptions of sex that some of the adult books do and that is why they are in the YA group- now just using two authors I love as examples- Melissa and Jeaniene- would I let my daughter read about Bones and Kat when she was between the ages of 12-15 no def. not but I would let her read about Ash and Seth. Not sure if I am making any sense here, I know these two authors are from different age groups with their books- I think what I am getting at is it's all what you think your child is mature enough to read- lord knows if they watch tv they see enough hints towards sex (The CW & even ABC Family) and honestly if they go to school nowadays they hear about sex. At the age of 16 if I thought my daughter could handle reading about Bones I would let her and I would hope that if she had any questions she would ask me them. I have seen girls at her high school reading the BDB books and was a little shocked over that but like I said before it is up to each parent to know what their own child is doing & reading.
I know 25 years ago when I read my first YA sex scene I thought nothing of it, if it is done tastefully and not done with hard graphic descriptions on how big things are(haha) then I don't see what is wrong with having sex in YA books. I would rather my child read about sex in YA books to understand and to know what was coming in the adult books that I know she will be reading one day.

nymfaux said...

I totally love the idea that so many parents are involved--and mine certainly were, but if kids are looking for it, they'll find it, and even if they aren't...my two examples...When I first started swiping my mom's and sis's romance books, I just wanted the story, I skipped over the racy stuff, until it became a little more interesting to me....

My second example is how I was interested in the magic and history of fairy tales, and came across a boxed set trilogy redoing the story of Sleeping Beauty...does anyone see where I'm going here?

It was Anne Rice's Beauty trilogy. Something felt a little *off* when I started reading the first page...by the time I got to the third page, I couldn't close the book quick enough. Needless to say I didn't find it in the YA section. Actually, I don't think the store had a section for those books, I didn't have any indication from the outside about what was on the inside.

My point is not to freak anybody out, but just to share that as a young reader, my parents didn't need to pick out or censor my books, they had given me the tools so that I could judge for myself what I was ready to handle...and put those books away for a long long time.

Susie Sharp Librarian said...

What a great subject!
I am a librarian in a rural area and there have been times when teachers have come to me after a student gives a book talk and says"Hey this book has a alot of sex and drinking in it".I say well I'll make sure noone else does a booktalk with this book but I am not going to stop them from reading it.
I think it is up to the parent and not teachers or librarians to decide what is "appropriate" for your child to read.
I mean really have you seen the shows on tv these days that are marketed towards teens.
When I was a teen there wasn't a YA section and some of the books I read when I was a teen involved alot more than teen sex(VC Andrews anyone?), and I don't think it scarred me for life.

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kai said...

I know that sex is a distinct reality in the life of a teen. What I don't like to see are books that treat it casually. I've blogged about this in the past, http://cleanwriter.livejournal.com/37563.html. I want the consequences (beyond the obvious) to be addressed, such as feelings of disappointment, loss of self-respect.

Great post, Melissa. I'm going to tweet and FB the link (KaiStrand)

Jessica Peter said...

I feel a real sense of "this is right" with this. It's all about the characters. Thanks for the post.

(And for the contest: I'm international, I'm tweeting it, and if I end up winning the signed Radiant Shadows, give it elsewhere because I already have one!)

brlemon said...

Hi....I am a high school librarian in Kansas who has struggled with this very subject in relation to YA books. I live and teach in a very conservative area so I have to be careful in what books I select for the libraries. (I do have your series in the high school).

I make my decision a little bit differently than others I think. For me, I take a look at other media and use them as a guide to what would be acceptable in books. For example, would the sex scene be shown on NBC or MTV or is the scene one that would only be on HBO? Same thing with language and violence in books. If they are going to see it on TV (and we all know they do and will) than what is so wrong with it being in a book? And like you said in your blog, these books often serve as a jumping block for students and their parents to discuss the issues the students will be faced with in the "real world." In fact, there are some students who may never get any information over any subject except in a book through a main character. These students can learn through their mistakes and "experiences." For example Speak by Anderson. Hopefully, most of the readers who read the book will never be faced with being date raped but for the select 1 to 2% who have and are hiding the secret from everyone, maybe reading the book will help them realize that telling the truth can be their salvation.

Renata said...

Just found out about this blog and I would like to tell that is AWESOME of you to offer giveaways and contests to international readers! I'm from Brazil and almost never I get to participate of those things! Actually, I've NEVER EVER got a change to participate. This is the first one!
Congratulations!

nymfaux said...

Yea!!! Renata/Roses!!! so glad you found it---I just signed up to follow your blog, translator works!!! yea!!!
*Good Luck* Hope you get to win something!!!!

Lisa R said...

In YA books sex needs to be handled just right. You can't leave it out as the YAs want realism in their books.
It can be done tasteful so that no one is offended.

Carlinchen said...

Sex, violence and swearing do belong in YA books. I am now 23, but still read a lot of YA books. Sometimes, when there is no sex/swearing in a book, I think it's unrealistic. Alcohol, drugs, swearing and sex belong to to the progress of growing up. As long as the author treats the subject realisticly, I think its all right. What I don't like, is when authors are to responsible or there are to much consequences for irresponsible actions of the caracters. I don't like it when caracters get pregnant from having sex once in their life or when they are "heavily adicted" just by drinking or smoking once, because it's just unrealistic again.

I'm rather appaled of the adult books, where drugs/alcohol and casual sex seem so normal. Of course there are alcoholics and durg adicts in the world and I know that adults can handle reading about all that, but I still think that in some books those topics are treated too casual.

The rather ironic thing is, that lots of adults are in long term relationships and have sex with only one person. Teens (at least in Germany) are rather those who have unprotected sex with different partners and dont care about the consequences. In books its rather the other way round. The same goes with drinking. Adults rather drink responsible, where as teens tend to drink far to much.

My parents never restricted any books while I was younger and I never chose any adult books. If I was thinking to hard about some topic they would talk to me about it. I have never read a book which taught me something new about sex or swearing. Most teens already know way more about sex than adults think/hope. I just think its important that the parents are open enough to discuss every topic with their children. Mine always where.

mountie9 said...

Fantastic post and I think it a wonderful discussion and its been interesting reading everyones comments

Sex is a wonderful beautiful thing and should not be considered shameful or forbidden

That being said I think parents and children should discuss whether a particular book is appropriate for them. I read things that were considered mature for my age, but I was a mature kid. Many other kids my age were not as mature -- so it really is an individual thing.

I think talking about this with your kids without going in to much detail (ewww mom I don't want to talk about oral sex with you- gross) is a wonderful bonding experience and helps them grow up to have a healthy attitude towards sex.

I do think with YA books that it is often best to stay away from the darker areas of sex, but that is just my opinion and lets face it I am 40 and really don't know what the teens are into these days.

Also I would much prefer if my kids read books with tons of steamy sex than books with tons of violence

I'm a Librarian at a college in Canada and I tweeted about this post at http://twitter.com/mountie9/status/15726989024
I've mentioned sexual content in my reviews of YA books, but mostly just a heads up and never a judgement since well I was kicked out of a girl guide camp because I was reading Wifey by Judy Blume to my fellow campers (at 13)

P said...

I don't think parents/ adults should monitor their kids reading- but I guess I am a little biased. Teens are having sex a lot younger now and I don't know what it's like in other places, but everything I learned about sex came from my mom not realizing I could hear her, tv, online, or even in school. It's not like, just because we(teens) love a book and the characters in it are having sex, we're going to go ahead and do the same things. Plus, like you said, it depends on the characters.

I linked it to my facebook but it's set to private so...

Lynsey Newton said...

Love this post as this is one of my biggest bug bears in YA fiction. People assume that teenagers aren't doing it...well...some of them are. I think as long as it is tasteful then it's fine. Ignoring sex is not realistic.

Thanks for the contest, I tweeted (@lynseynewton)

lynsey(AT)narrativelyspeaking(DOT)com

Amante dei Libri said...

Hello, I'm Lindsey P. from sweltering hot Florida. I'm a 17 year old, but I've been an avid reader since before I can remember. Neither of my parents are readers, so I never really had a parent hanging over my shoulder to keep an eye on the books I was reading. I sort of picked what was appropriate for myself. Hell, I started reading the Anita Blake series when I was 15, and I certainly have not morphed into a pervert (despite some of those later books being beyond risque). From my point of view this seems perfectly natural, but then again, I'm not a mother. I don't think any parent should limit what their child reads (perhaps excepting Harlequin books for those that aren't at least in high school). If a kid wants to know about sex, it's usually better that they read about it in novels (however unrealistic they might be) rather than look it up online or talk to peers who don't know what they're talking about.

Also, I don't think the content is really what determines whether a book is YA or not, I truly think it depends on the main character's age. Even to me, this sounds like oversimplifying it, but is the main character is under 18 for the whole book, there is a good chance it is YA, sex or not. Although, usually, any sex in YA books leave out the gory details and just mention that it happened rather than running through the whole thing. Then again, a lot of good adult books do this also. A lot of books are marketed as both, and that has little to do with content, and a lot to do with sales numbers. Oh well, at least it gets good books out there to several audiences.

What makes sex okay in books, most will say, is when it is "tasteful." I think this is the wrong word to be using for this, as it is quite subjective. Rather, sex is okay when it advances the plot, or pertains to the plot in some way. If it's just their to have a trashy scene, it's pointless filth (this is where a lot of Harlequin goes wrong).

I'll admit it, I enjoy a good trashy romance myself. I see nothing wrong with it. But I'm going to be an adult in six months (by a technicality only) and I'm probably mature enough to handle it. Which brings up the point of what exactly am I handling? We're not in the Victorian times anymore, it's socially acceptable (in most circles) to think about sex. Most parents worry a little too much that reading about it will somehow plant the idea in their child's brain, or encourage it, but honestly the thought is already there. Why fight against it so hard when in the end it does nothing?

Amante dei Libri said...

Oh, shoot. Forgot to say I tweeted this blog post.
http://twitter.com/lindseypro21

buddyt said...

I think that by and large sex in books should correspond to what YA readers are already and the present climate amongst them.

Of course this will depend on the authors view of what their present thoughts on sex are, so it can differ from author to author.

I am not one of those people that think YA readers can really be influenced for good or evil by a best selling book.

Just my view !

Carol T (International)

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Angiegirl said...

I have to say it's refreshing to hear an author talk about their approach to this sensitive issue and include their take on it as both an author and a mother. As a mother of two young children myself (a boy and a girl), and as an avid reader, I find myself thinking about this topic quite a lot and I appreciate and agree with your comments so much. Thank you!

angiegirl (at) gmail (dot) com

debbie said...

I have always been very honest with my son about sex. He has severe dyslexia and other learning disabilities, but loves to read. One of the things I always did was read the same books he did, so we could discuss it. I guess I never worried about the sex in books, because we always talk about what goes on it the books.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

k_sunshine1977 said...

i think as long as it's done tastefully, there's no reason it shouldn't be in the story. of course, i'm saying this as one who doesn't have kids...perhaps when i have them, my opinion will change.

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

throuthehaze said...

AS long as it is tasteful and not graphic and it actually has a reason to be in the story then I don't think there is anything wrong with sex in YA.

arielb said...

Hi, I'm Ariel. I'm from Canada and I think that your books are appropriate for YA. The fact that you have sex doesn't make it too adult as long as it doesn't describe anything too graphically. I myself read wicked lovely when I was 12 and I didn't mind it at all.Kids nowadays they know so much at such a young age...
Anywho I posted this on my facebook group Radiant Shadows which I made if you wanna join...http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=107855362571765&ref=ts

You're the best person in the world.

NatyaPierce said...

As a young adult reader and as a 17 year old girl its really nice to see authors being realistic about sex. It is something that I am surrounded by and not to include it in some way would almost being lying to your characters. I view sex as a part of a relationship, it may come later but almost every relationship discusses it. All together sex is no longer just an adult issue. My Mom has always been really open with me, which has meant that I been exposed to sex in books since I was 13. Sex to me is not a big deal to talk about.

Because of this I believe that YA novels should address sex when and if necessary. In the topic of the Wicked Lovely Series, the well rounded stories and compelling characters need to deal with sex, especially when dealing with the Dark and Summer Courts ideals.

Emily said...

For me, the issue isn't so much about content as it is how readers interact with content. I blogged about it here: http://www.whatbookisthat.com/2010/06/fever-cure-sex-and-ya-literature.html

Scarrlet said...

I've been reading books every since I was 9 years old and now I'm 16 and find that reading about sex in books makes me feel more confident in the world. Sure, there is a lot i don't know but I'm not clueless, and i find no harm in the suggestion or happening of sex in books.

But I'm not a mother yet and i would like to think i would let my kid read to the reading level i'm at now. I would hate to have a restiction on my reading and I wouldn't do that to others.

Faith said...

I think what bothers me about sex in some YA novels is that it seems gratuitous. And just written in to be racy. Sex in a romance novel isn't, generally, gratuitous, yet most parent's would frown on their teens reading a romance novel. I don't care about the sex in YA novels as long as it's there for a reason. Actually I don't care about the violence/sex/death/whatever in most novels as long as it is there for a reason. make sense?

Buried in Books said...

If you compare the tv shows that are geared towards YA and the books geared towards YA I'd say the books are far more tasteful as far as sex than the shows. I know it's all about ratings, but books have to sell. Kids are having sex whether parents like it or not and the way Melissa Marr wrote about it in her Wicked Lovely series was very natural. It didn't jump out at you, it flowed with the character's development and was the next step in the relationship. I hate when books tease and call it "sexual tension" when you know in real life those teenagers would be having sex. I like my YA fiction to be realistic and if you're writing about teens, there will probably be sex. As long as it's done tastefully like Melissa Marr did it and not graphically like the adult novels do it then there's a place for it in YA novels. I hate to see YA readers being treated stupid because they know what's happening too. And I do have kids, boys, and it might be different because they don't read these types of books, they want action and there doesn't seem to be any relationships going on in the action books. But, I would not be opposed to my 13 year old reading any of the novels I've read and might see if he's interested.

And if I can figure out how I'll hook this up to my blog Buried in books at Blogspot

Pearl said...

Well, I never really thought about it, until I tried to write my own YA novel, sometime ago. I wondered if I should include sex in the novel, shouldn't I? And starting noticing its inclusion in other YA novels. I think it's ok, as it's a natural part of humanity--really, teens think about it all the time, are we really so ditzy that we don't believe they do? So if the author treats the subject with respect, and really has the character (and plot) ready to accept the love scene, why not include it?

I've also put up a post about this at my blog, and tweeted this very interesting post. I already have a copy of Radiant Shadows, but look forward to getting/reading Wicked Lovely too... Thanks for an interesting discussion, Melissa!

Pearl
Café Pearl

ladystorm said...

I myself do not like to read about sex period, whether its a adult book or YA, I usually skim through it till its over then continue reading.

I do think it can be tastefully done in YA, but it can be a real turn off to the novel if I think it is sending out the wrong message.

I was reading this one book and the girl decides to have sex for the first time with this guy because she is mad at her parents and feeling sorry for herself..umm that is so not right and sends out a very bad message to teens..I couldn't finish reading the book because I was miffed.

OlwenIsis said...

I think swearing and sex in YA can be done believably and in relation to the character and his/her life. If you're just throwing sex and dirty language in just for shock value it brings the whole book down. I think parents want to believe their kids don't swear and don't ever think or talk about sex and that is so far from the truth. Melissa does a great job with it and some other YA authors have as well.

mclicious said...

Very interesting post. I think you hit the nail on the head for the writing about sex thing, so I don't really have much to add, but I was struck by how you said your kids couldn't read solo until they were 12. Did you mean that they literally only read with you until that age, or just that they had to run the books by you? I remember only two instances in my life when my parents ever told me I shouldn't read something--one time was when I was 13, maybe, and had heard that The Handmaid's Tale was a good book. And even then, I wasn't forbidden to read it. My mom just said she thought I should wait until I was older, and I took her advice. Looking back, I'm quite glad I didn't read it then. But everything else I read I think I dealt with well enough.

Melissa Marr said...

To clarify-- the "not reading solo" doesn't mean they were "limited." It means I (or Spouse) read every book WITH them. Daughter & I read Harry Potter (not aloud), but I read it at the SAME TIME. So, when they read a book , we did like mom-and-daughter or mom-and-son bookclub. Now, Son has the whole shelves I read w Daughter, so as he reads, I know the content & we can talk.

It's a good plan (IMHO) bc a) I know what they are getting exposed to when they are, b) we never run out of topics to discuss, c) it's fun, & d) I'm not blindsided by them needing data but not being ready to answer it. The result of this was that we've never needed "issue" talks bc it was part of our book club.

. . . of course, the other result was that I started writing YA books because of reading w her.

. . . and the less fun result was sometimes I had to muddle thru books I didn't enjoy AT ALL & sometimes Spouse & I had to draw straws if we both were not interested in a book.

Now, we still share books & I think that's one of the long term results that I didn't foresee: we are all 4 of us sharing books & swapping books & we still co-read, but now it's only to share, not to prep for talks. It's a treasure when we find share-worthy books, but co-reading then means now we ALL go out of our way to find them.

Marie Lamba, author said...

Great post! I found it through a link posted on Verla Kay's blueboards site, where we were discussing sex in YA novels. I'm a YA author myself, and just blogged on this topic this week and this raised a lot of questions with me...such as, do editors have an unspoken code about how much sex their imprint will include in a YA novel, and does including sex in a YA (not gratuitous sex, mind you), automatically shift your book off of certain school and library shelves, and therefore jeopardize chances of a manuscript being accepted by certain publishers?

Here's the link to my post, which I wouldn't have included but for your cool contest!:

http://marielamba.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/sex-and-lies/

Best,
Marie

Nicholas Johnson said...

I think it all depends on the characters. Sex shouldn't be included just for the sake of it, but neither should it be excluded because it may offend.
I remember being a teen. I didn't read much then; so, I'm not sure what was in books then, but I was definitely thinking about sex.
I just don't see it as a problem. As long as it's what the characters would do and it fits the voice of the novel then it's fine. The voice is important and I think that will determine how the writer can actually describe the sex.
Bottom line, YA can have sex, but the sex scene has to be consistent with the character and the author's voice.

nymfaux said...

I posted before, but as a reader, I just thought of another concern--I realize that some stories "fade in/fade out" on sexual encounters in order to reduce the amount of sex, or be more appealing to a wider range of readers, or just even for artistic license, leaving it up to the reader to imagine/interpret what happened...

Except, sometimes as a reader, I need it spelled out for me; sometimes I can't tell if the characters "did it" or not--and that makes it difficult for me as a reader to anticipate certain physical, emotional, and social consequences that the character may have to face--and just leaves me confused...it doesn't have to be gratuitous, but just a "I'm so happy we did it," or a "I'm so confused that we did it," or a "I will never have sex again," thought bubble would be nice...I just recently read a book where the main character's best friend tries to get the juicy details from the main character, but the response is so "wink wink, nudge nudge," that all though I think they "did it," it could kind of go either way...and this certainly wasn't the only book that I've read this way...I just want a little bit of confirmation, one way or the other.

pinktopcoat said...

I think it is unrealistic to believe that sex should be omitted from YA novels. Let's face it, as "young adults," there is going to be a lot of talk about sex. I know I first really found out about sex from books that were YA, and I wasn't scarred from the experience, even though I was reading some of these books before I was 10 years old. As long as the sex included fits within the plot of the book, there is no reason that it shouldn't be there.

My issue with this isn't sex, but what defines YA novels. Who fits into this group? Is it determined by age, or maturity?

anastacia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mclicious said...

Thanks for clarifying. That does seem like a lot of fun. I can't say my parents ever did that. They still assume that the things I read are childish and not good enough, and I'm 21 and applying to grad school in English.

Intangible Eternity said...

Sure, the "sex or no sex" topic is a sensitive one; however, I have no problem with it in the young adult genre. The age group the usually lifts up those types of books have already had some form of sexual education. In fourth grade, I was given my first lesson in sexual education. That lesson was a year before I read my first YA novel. If a child has not had sex ed, then the sex scene works as an education for the kid. Perhaps the "Birds and the Bees" conversation may occur a little earlier than a parent or guardian wanted, but it really isn't a big deal. In any case, the YA literature provides a seaway of sorts for maturing children. It links innocent children's books to the sophisticated adult writing. It has a duty to expand the narrow mind of children, even if it is introducing those readers to sex.

anngatti said...

Nearly half of teenagers age 15 to 19 have had sex at least once. If this statistic is true then why would YA novels shy away from talking about a subject that obviously affect that age group. In fact I think that YA should addressed those topics more often and explore the diversity of the reactions and consequences rather than pretending that this sort of thing never happens. Adolescent years are a confusing time where your feelings are not very clear and you are caught between what you want and what everyone is doing. Sorting those feelings and willing to stand on your ground regardless of what anyone think I would hope is something that YA novels should explore more often.

I'm a firm believer than an author is there to tell a story. If your characters and story dictates you write about sex, drugs or murder than be true to that story. Trying to make everyone happy is a sure way to make everyone unhappy.

projectanime, your mother and mine had the same approach. I'm also beyond grateful for it.

Susie Sharp Librarian, Thank you for leaving the choice to parents. Far too often I read in amazon or Goodreads about librarians not buying a book because of elements they don't think teens should read. Again, I think the parents should have that choice of that their child read.

Bookaholic (Jessica) said...

Great post! I'm really glad you talked about this issue because I've been interested to see how authors deal with sexual content in YA books.

I'm fine with sex being in YA books. It all depends on how the content is written. One of my pet peeves with books is when the couple doesn't have sex, but talks about the fact that they are NOT having sex throughout the entire book! It becomes such a main event when it isn't even related to the overall story.

The bottom line is that teenagers know about sex. They hear about it more often than parents would like to think. Reading about teenagers having sex will not change what they are already seeing in life. In order for books to be unique and truly tell a story, they must deal with these issues in the correct way.

I've read quite a few YA books and I can say that I have only had 1 or 2 instances where I have thought "wow, that's a little too much information" and most of the time the entire book had more issues than just the sexual content.


Tweeted: http://twitter.com/TotalBookaholic/statuses/16373084549

totalbookaholic[at]hotmail[dot]com

Rita said...

I'm 15.5. I think sex in YA books is fine. It shouldn’t be the only thing in the book, but if the story calls for it, let it happen. I agree with Bella and Projectanime and have a lot in common with them. A person in my family had sex at 13. I havent and don't plan on it till I marry. Reading about sex helps me cuz nobodys had the sex talk with me. Even at school we dont talk about it. It’s not public school so there isn’t a sex ed class. So reading it in books sorta makes up for not having that talk. Some of my friends are having sex and I feel bad for them. My sister lets me read all her books. I can ask her anything. If my dad knew what I was reading he would probly think I shouldn't, cuz he wants me to be his little girl. My mom basically lets me read anything, but one time she caught me with "Forever" by Judy Blume and thought I shouldn't be reading it. She took the book, but I told my sister and my sister gave me another copy she had(I was at her house)and told me to read it before my mom came. So I did. Sometimes my mom eyes what I read, and then she'll take it and read the summary or a few pages to make sure it's okay. She still hasn't given me "Forever" back. I know she's forgotten about it. My mom didn't have the sex talk with my sister(now 31)until she was almost 18 and it was too late for her. I wish my mom would just talk to me about it. I'm mature for my age. When I was 14, I asked my teacher how old I acted and he said 18. The way he said it, he sounded like he could’ve just as easily said 21. Teens can handle sex in books. We aren't gonna go do it if we read about it. Everyone knows what they like to read. I sometimes read Adult books. The YA books are okay. What I don't like is when the author writes ‘..they kissed..they're on the bed..and now it's morning.’ It's too abrupt and fake. It takes you out of the story. I like your books. It's fine to go a bit into detail, but not too much in YA. Part of the problem is preteens read from the wrong section. It's like a 4 yr old reading an adult book. We all have preferences, so if I want to read a book that has more detail, then I'll read an Adult book. I like YA a lot though. It's sad when parents watch what kids pick out to read. It's not fair. Let kids make mistakes. And you know what? Not all teens are that bad. If they are reading, that means they’re not doing somethin they shouldn't. My fav books are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Sex is a part of life. If you leave it out, it doesn't sound right. I'm glad my mom lets me read about any book. My friend's parents won't let her read Harry Potter until she reads the Bible twice. I understand, but really, I know my friend isn't going to go "evil.” She can read what she wants, like with the sex. I think aprox age 12 is when it's okay to start with all the sex stuff. Some don't want to read about it though. I always look to make sure theres some kind of romance in a book. I like reading about sex. It makes the book seem powerful. It's not a good book if sex’s just mentioned too much. If it's written well then it can be YA. If it's got a *lot* of detail or sex is the only thing going on, it’d be Adult. Thanks for being real about sex and not writing it how everyone thinks it should be. I don't mind the cussing much, as long as it's not the useless kind(every other word). I don't cuss so I prefer not to read it. I'd love a book. This summer I've been volunteering at the library cuz they needed another person there.

Rita said...

I don't know if you will count this, but let's say that the comment I just posted is my entry and that this comment is my library's entry.. ? It makes sense to me. So, you already know what I think. But I wanted to add one more thing- I learn from the sex in books.. You would be surprised about how much I don't know. haha :) Anyway, I'm a volunteer librarian. Thanks!

Rita said...

Sorry for a third comment but I saw that a few people wrote their emails on here. I don't know if you would like it, but here's mine anyway. I would have posted this on my facebook, but I commented about my family a bit so I don't want them to see it....... RitaLilly87@yahoo.com

nymfaux said...

@Rita, you should tell your friend to have her parents read "The Hidden Key to Harry Potter," by John Granger.

While I believe that Harry Potter can be read on many different levels, without any of us turning to the dark side, Mr. Granger's book really opened my eyes to the kind of Christian undertones you can find in the Harry Potter series if you're looking.

Glasgow Lindsay said...

I have enjoyed every word of your Wicked Lovely series so far and I have to admit that when I read book 1 and Seth presented Ash with the clean bill of health for the STD check I was a little shocked but more because it was so up front and because they generation your writing for seems so mature to me sexually than because I thought there being any sex in YA was a no no. If that is how young people are now then that is a good thing. Another person has commented here on the BJ which occurs early on in the ‘Marked’ series and I found I was shocked with that myself. I found it distasteful not so much the act itself as the way it features between two characters who don’t even like each other anymore (if they ever did) and because it is witnessed/watched by another character (watching even accidentally seemed a bit much to me for a book set at school.)

I was surprised at my shock because your books are far sexier really. I think you handled rape very sensitively in ‘Ink Exchange’. I think all your books, but especially ‘Radiant Shadows’, are very erotic and also tremendous fun in the way you handle sex. The way you wrote about sex, sexuality and the dark court’s sexual behaviour was inspiring and very real for today. I certainly wouldn’t agree with a generalised rule which said no sex in YA books as it would have left out so much that is important to the way the characters develop and grow in your series.

I was allowed to read what I wanted, when I wanted to, when I was a teenager and by the time I was 13 and living in NJ my Mum had signed a permission slip at our local library to let me borrow books from the adult section. I always remember the disapproving librarian telling my Mum it would be up to her to check the content of my reading matter was suitable as the library would no longer be responsible for my reading anything ‘inappropriate’! Mum just laughed (they thought she was odd being Scottish anyway so she was used to being disapproved of!) and I lived to tell the tale… I’m not a mother myself so I cannot say what I would do with my children but I am glad your ‘author’ and ‘Mom’ hats are not always worn together…think of all that we would have missed in regards to Irial if you had a strict ‘no sex’ rule! :-)

PS I cannot wait for your next 2 books in 2011 and I'm international obviously!

- Concursos de la Blogosfera - said...

Woww... a lot of comments! Mmmm, i don´t know write very well english, but i can read and understand it. Write about Sex in YA books must be very difficult :/ I´m 16 years old and I´m studying "Relaciones prematrimoniales" = that means people that have sez before get marriage. And it´s a topic that no everybody want´s to talk about. For me it´s not a problem, actually, my mother is a biology teacher, and she is always talking about sex.
dani(dot)prmr(at)hotmail(dot)com
mmm. i think i have +1 entry for comment

BYE!

Karen said...

HI melissa,my daughters and I love your books and I like your approach to sex in them. It always seems connected to what's going on in the story and it provides a great talking point for us. I initially started reading YA novels to know what my girls were reading and found that I loved them. Any book that is well written and has great characters can be enjoyed by anyone, YA novels just have young adult perspective. Teens are interested in sex,but it doesn't have to be graphic for them to get the picture. You do a great job in your books making the characters and their feelings about life, love and sex realistic and enjoyable to read.

Kate said...

I prefer the *idea* of sex in YA. For example, in Breaking Dawn it was more of the foreplay and then a nice cut-away to the morning after. I dont think I need to visualize two teens having sex, because I think for some older readers, like myself, its a bit strange to visualize that. I think more tension is built-up when two teens dont have sex, or get really close and interrupted. It is a tough part of childhood and should not be exploited. There are a lot of mixed feelings and I think that should be focused on more than anything.

But I would not be against sex in YA, but I think it should be tastefully done and more *real*

Claire Dawn said...

I think that sex NEEDS to be included in YA. There's no way that the average 16 year old has never come into contact with sex (whether it be through talkin with friends or fooling around with a guy) unless they're home-schooled or in a convent. And I'm not even sure about the convent.

I think it's better to give teens information in a manner we can control, than to let them find out incorrect info from unreliable sources.

I'm going to blog about YA and sex tomorro and I'll be back with the link then.

+1 for comment, and I'm an international reader.

Honey Cuddles said...

I agree that it is a topic that should be discussed often. As far as sex in YA books, I think it should be realistic but not graphic. The way you write about sex is never so graphic it makes me think "wow, I could never recommend this book to any of my girlfriends kids/teens." It's funny to think that those same people have no issue with their kids/teens watching it on tv or in the movies, listening to it in their music or chattering about it amongst their friends, but would be appalled if their children read about it. I love the way that you always keep it in perspective in your books. Never making the books focus about the sex, it's just part of the characters lives, as much as the mystery, love, violence and day to day.

and here's my 1+ for tweeting:
http://twitter.com/honeycuddles/statuses/17370427960

Honey Cuddles said...

I also love that you shared how you as a mother handle sex in books with your kids. I always wonder when YA authors let their kids read their books. I think it's fantastic that you shared that with us. ^_^

Claire Dawn said...

+1 linked
+1 blogged
+1 comment (I commented earlier but I'm not sure it went through. )
I'm international.

I was a bit surprised at the reactions on my blog. Everyone who commented said that sex SHOULD be in YA as long as it wasn't gratuitous. My followers are the smartest people on Earth.

ejaz14357 said...

I initially started reading YA novels to know what my girls were reading and found that I loved them. Any book that is well written and has great characters.

ejaz14357 said...

I cannot wait for your next 2 books in 2011 and I'm international obviously

Chookristine said...

See, this is where I'm confused. Teenagers swear and a lot of them, *SHOCK HORROR*, have sex. It's a part of growing up. How can you write an authentic book with normal teenagers without at least one of the character doing these things?
Not all do it, but many do or say they do.

I just don't really see what the fuss is all about. Though I guess I'm only a teenager and don't see this argument through the eyes of a parent.

stand_alone_with_me@hotmail.com

Ladytink_534 said...

I think sex in YA is natural as long as it's tastefully done and doesn't read like erotica. Wicked Lovely is a great example since I haven't since seen it done so well without going overboard or leaving you with just a vague impression

Ladytink_534(at)yahoo(dot)com

Natasha said...

I love your books Melissa!! You rock!
Honestly, I think it is okay to have sex in a YA novel, if it`s done tastefully and not graphically. Sex, is everywhere theses days. Teenagers DO have sex. But if we`re going to see it or read about it, it should at least prove to be something agree`d upon on both sides, and thought through fully before hand. It shouldn`t be just nothing, or just another day thing. It should be portrayed as something beautiful and loving and agreed upon in advance. If we`re going to have our young readers read it, it should at least prove to be an educational read.


+1 comment
+1 I am a bookseller at Coles book store!

natashajennex(at)gmail(dot)com

Rachel Vance said...

I think some sex in any book is ok but there are some writers that go overboard. When it takes over the story and the story becomes second in order after the sex I don't like it anymore.



I am a bookseller

+2

nymfaux said...

congrats to the winners!!!! yea me!!!! I'm SO EXCITED!!!!!!

THANK YOU!!!!