I think it’s about time I officially weigh in on the great YA debate. In case you missed this post, The Perfect 10, my teen panel weighed in on this topic a while back and I figured if they can discuss this honestly and openly, I should be able to do the same.
First off, I have to mention that this post was inspired by a GQ article and a recent conversation I had with a Mom of two avid YA readers. Her girls are age 11 and 12 (a 6th and 7th grader).
Just so you know, this wasn’t an argument or me trying to insert my author intelligence, it was a civilized, engaging discussion that both parties fully enjoyed. It started with Mom telling me her girls looove YA books and me saying, “oh…it just so happens that I’m the author of a YA novel.”
She was very excited to hear this and after I told her a little bit about the plot she then asked the dreaded question, “So…is it okay for them to read? I don’t want them to read about sex or anything...”
Normally, I mention early on that the book is for 13 or 14 and up, but I left that out because she already told me that they looove reading YA. So, I said, “Well…it’s not about sex, but yeah, the characters have sex…it’s minimally described and a very small aspect of the novel.”
I could see her disappointment and just so you know, I’m normally an author who does not believe in book censorship and I’m committed to always doing what I think the characters should and would do and keeping it real. Therefore, realistically speaking, I truly believe that my 18/19 year old main characters currently in a relationship would be having sex. I’m not saying EVERY 18/19 year old main characters would choose to have sex, but the ones I created would and do choose this path.
But instead of arguing with Concerned Mom or defending my book, I started to feel a tad bit guilty because I didn’t have a book that these YA book loving girls could read and I really wanted to help with this and make sure that I did the right thing with my book. I also was insanely curious to find out what exactly it was about sex in a book that concerned her? I don’t mean that there isn’t reason to be concerned but to just say no sex might imply that you want kids to read books that don’t acknowledge the existence of sex. Her children exist because of sex. Surely they know that by 6th and 7th grade. So, I knew there had to be more specific content concerns than that.
I asked her, “Well…what are they reading? I know you said YA books, but which ones?”
Concerned Mom said, “They love those Twilight looks…they’ve probably read them five or six times…I’ve read them all too.”
My eyebrows went up a little. “They’ve read all the Twilight books? Even the fourth one?”
“Oh yes. I had to take if from them a couple times or they would have stayed up all night trying to finish.”
“But there’s sex in Breaking Dawn?”
Concerned Mom nodded. She knew this already. “Yeah, we talked about that together…I just thought it was really good that Edward and Bella waited.”
My author brain was reeling at that point. “Waited for what? The fourth book?”
Concerned Mom laughed. I think she might have assumed at this point that I hadn’t read the books. “They waited for marriage.”