Thursday, February 20, 2014

Silly Rabbit, YA Books are for Teens

So, I've thought a lot about this, but I worried posting anything about it would come across as ranty. See, this is usually me...


And these days, I try to not blurt it all out. But this subject kept coming up and then I found other authors were frustrated over the same thing, and a few readers have mentioned it as well. It's this kind of remark about a YA novel: I liked the idea of this book, but well, maybe younger teens will enjoy it. Or, There's no sex, so this is obviously for younger teens. Now I'd never say what you can and can't put in a review, and I'm sure some people will know by those kinds of phrases whether or not the book is for them, but I do worry a little bit what message it sends to teens. You know, the people YA books are for? Whenever there's a debate about banning YA books because there's sex in them, there are hundreds of posts about how NEWSFLASH: Teens have sex. I'm not disputing that. But NEWSFLASH: Some teens don't. And now we get to the part that I can't believe I'm going to publicly admit (to my five or so blog readers) but I'm gonna say it anyway. When I was a teen, it was well known that I didn't drink or have sex. People would often tell me things like, "You know that's weird, right?" I wanted to say, "Hey, thanks so much for telling me that. I was so unaware of it before now." People also thought it was funny to ask me if my parents were virgins. Yeah, hilarious. I just wasn't ready to have sex and chose not to drink, I wasn't stupid.

I didn't get my first boyfriend until I was seventeen (an older teen, I'll go ahead and point out), and I didn't know what I was doing and I was awkward and felt weird about kissing in front of other people. Again, I was aware of the weird. I asked myself why I couldn't just date like a normal person? Over the years I've talked to a lot of people, and they had similar dating experiences, so I was more normal than I realized, which would've been nice to know back then. As I got older, when I'd started thinking I'd gotten the hang of dating, there were times I'd put the sex-brakes on, only to be treated like crap by the guy because of it. In fairness, there were also a few who were understanding about it, and a few who didn't even bring up the subject. (Maybe, just maybe, not all teen guys are ready for it, either.) But I think we can all admit that being a teen and dealing with those things is far from easy. The reason I love YA novels is because they're about discovering who you are and making mistakes and learning and growing and, of course, I really like the first love aspect of them, too. I think saying books like that only appeal to younger teens might make older teens feel like they're weird, and honestly, they've already got enough of that.

So what I'm saying is, it's okay to have teens who don't have sex. It's okay to have teens who do have sex. It's okay for them to regret sex. It's okay for them to like sex. And while I'm sure most authors are happy adults also enjoy their YA novels, they really are for the teens.

Anyway, that's what I wanted to say, and if you feel the need to throw things, I prefer chocolate, Mtn Dew, and shoes. Feel free to comment. The nice thing is I've been told I'm weird enough times in my life that I'm okay with it.

31 comments:

Andrea @The Bookish Babes said...

I'm going to lovingly toss you some chocolate, shoes without spiky heels, and a foam-covered can of Dew cos I don't want to hurt you.

I agree with you x's 10,000. Great post!

Ironically, autocorrect tried to change "spiky" to "GeekSex". Not sure why, bc I'm pretty sure I've never typed that phrase before.

Cindi Madsen said...

Thanks, Andrea! And Lol! I'm going to think of spiky shoes differently from now on. And I'm a ninja when it comes to catching Dew :)

Gina L. Maxwell said...

I love you. This is an awesome post and I totally agree. And for the record, so far my 14 y.o. daughter seems to be along the same path you took as a teen and I'm not going to be one bit upset if she's 17 and still a virgin enjoying YA books that give her the romance she craves without the sex. Good on you, girl. <3

Shelly Crane said...

I just fell in love with you a little bit.

Cindi Madsen said...

Hugs, Gina! And your teen is awesome. I enjoyed meeting her. And Shelly, right back at you :)

Lila Felix said...

Oh Cindi. I knew when you said last night that you were gonna post this that it would be epic. I bow to the master. I'm not worthy. Thanks for posting this chica.

Cindi Madsen said...

Thanks, Lila! :)

Mercy Amare said...

This is a perfect post :) In my books, I DO like to talk about regret when it comes to sex... Because as a teenager, having sex with my boyfriend was something I regretted. Also, we don't talk about consequences. My stepdaughter is 16 and has a baby... and I had a lot of friends get pregnant as a teenager... It doesn't mean we have to put "sex" in our books. But if we do, we need to talk about all the negative effects... Emotional. Physical. Spiritual... I love that you wrote this post :)

Tammy Blackwell said...

Maybe it's because only a certain kind of teen gravitates to library programs, but I've found that most of my YA kids (including the high school seniors) aren't comfortable with all the sexy times. (I had one group assure me that sex was fictional and babies came from the stork.) I firmly believe there needs to be books that speak to all teens, which means books with the sexy, drugs, and f-bombs, and books without.

Rebecca Green Gasper said...

Well said! I've been sitting here a few seconds trying to think of something to add- but you said it all and I agree!

Cindi Madsen said...

Thanks so much for the comments! I agree with them all! :)

authorariellamoon said...

Wonderful blog post! You just validated why I write clean teen fiction. ~Ariella Moon

Mandy IReadIndie said...

Great post!! I was just conversing with Lila about a book my daughter (who is 13 BTW) and it contains sex and is considered YA. I can't let her read it now. So yeah. Awesome post!!

momof5 said...

Love this post! So happy someone finally said it.

Rhianna said...

"it's okay to have teens who don't have sex. It's okay to have teens who do have sex. It's okay for them to regret sex. It's okay for them to like sex."

THIS!

I never really got to be a teenager which i one of the reasons I've grown to enjoy YA as an adult. I get to sort of live vicariously through characters and part of that is all of the above. :)

Victoria James said...

LOVE this post, Cindi! Somewhere along the way (and through different media), it seems like teens having sex became the norm. What was lost is the acceptance and tolerance for BOTH choices. Some teens do, some don't. BOTH are perfectly 'normal'...great post!

lisaricardclaro.com said...

Great post. I'm just glad that today's teens have novels out there that deal with these issues. Back in my day (gak!) there wasn't much to choose from. Glad today's kids have more options.

Cindi Madsen said...

Again, thanks, everyone! I'm also glad there are so many novels to choose from. I remember wanting more books that I could relate to as I teen.

mcundy said...

Thank you for the great post! I'm glad someone said this also. It seems like YA and NA have been meshed into the same category and get carried away with sex being a primary theme. My series doesn't focus on sex, it has a moment here or there in the second book, but it's completely readable by a YA reader. I've been looking at ways to advertise using the fact sex is not the theme or the main part of the couple's relationship. You give me hope that there are people still looking for a YA book that isn't all about the dirty business.

Rachel said...

What a great post Cindi! I completely agree with you. I also think that this is why the New Adult genre gained so much momentum.

I think that YA is meant for what it stands for..young adult and that New Adult is where the sexiness, and tougher issues can come out.

Theresa Gordon said...

I agree 100% i was a virgin when i met my husband and we've been married for 33 yrs and have 2 great kids. if i want sex in my book i buy an audult book but if i buy a ya book i don't want to read about kids having sex.yes i know they do but that doesn't mean i want to read about it.

Suzanne said...

I agree. I don't want to include the subject matter in my books because it doesn't apply to every teen reader. I hear arguments about how books without sex and drugs aren't authentic to teen readers, but that's not 100% true for every reader.

Michelle Merrill said...

This is fantastic! Great post. Definitely needed to be said. I can't tell you how personal this is to me and my MS right now. Thanks for sharing!

Chelsea Fine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chelsea Fine said...

Amen! I love this. Every single word.

Susan Burdorf said...

I started reading this not sure where I stood on the whole "teens as grown ups" thing, but you have convinced me that I can write an awesome story about a girl, and a boy, and a decision (sex, drugs, whatever) and NOT have to worry about what "age" my audience is. Thanks for putting into words what we are all thinking!

Janine Caldwell said...

Wow, mention the word "sex" and look at the list of comments. I love your honesty in this post and completely agree with you. I also write clean YA fiction inspired by the teen girls in my life who are now approaching their twenties. Some of them were certainly having sex in high school (& even jr. high), but they weren't happy about it. In fact, they were quite tortured by the kind of life sex had led them into, a standard and reputation they couldn't escape. The other girls were not even close to having sex. They were not emotionally mature enough. I want to inspire teen girls to hold on to their innocence for as long as possible. Be romantic. Be sappy. Life will get so dang complicated soon enough.

Jesi Lea Ryan said...

Couldn't agree more. I think sex in YA really has to make sense for the character and the story line. If it's gratuitous, well, that's just kind of sad. The important thing authors need to think about when writing sex into their books is to be considerate of the message they are sending. Teens are conflicted enough over sex and love.

Cindi Madsen said...

Thanks again for all the supportive comments! I love that we can discuss this. And amen to life getting complicated soon enough!

Patricia Lynne said...

I didn't drink or party when I was in high school either. I also didn't date until I was 17. Mostly because I thought I was unattractive and no boys liked me. Boy was that a shock to find out that some did.

I think it's great when there are YA books that don't follow the popular thinking. For a while, it seemed every YA I picked up the girl obsessed over having sex with her boyfriend (who always had a ton of experience while she had none.) It really made me hate the characters. When I was writing my one story, I had in mind that there wasn't going to be much romance or talk of sex. I wanted it to say "It's okay if you don't want to have sex."

Ripley Patton said...

Had to share this post because I couldn't agree more. I was a teen who didn't have sex. And I don't mind teens who do, in fiction or otherwise, but there is another reality. And it's nice to read about it.