Friday, 1 July 2011

Let's Discuss Something: Romance in YA books

Just yesterday, I saw a post written by Kate from That Book Blog with the title 'How Far Should Romance Go In YA Books?'. She wrote this particular post as a response to Mia from Gripped Into Book's post of the same title (which you can find here) and I couldn't help but say a few things about it myself.

For anyone who has been following me for some time, you will have noticed that I tend to read a lot of different genres, regardless of whether the books in question are oriented towards an adult audience or towards a young-adult/teen audience. However, there have been loads of things going on concerning the content of books which are aimed at young-adults and I haven't said a thing until now, because I couldn't seem to find the right words.

As a young-adult/teen myself, I read whatever took my fancy. Living in Greece, where English books aren't easy to get hold of and Greek books are classified as either 'Adult books' or 'Children's books', I didn't read many books that I now know to be YA. I read mostly adult books, that my father bought or my grandparents and aunts and uncles supplied me with at Christmas and on my birthday. Which is why I can't come up with a big statement that YA Saves. I am sure it has helped many people, but not me.

So, having read both YA and adult books in my life, I have seen vast opposites in the way sex is portrayed in fiction. But to say that romance in YA books should stop at kissing, holding hands and subtle innuendo about what is going to happen (without ever mentioning the S- word), is just like an insult to teenagers. It's like they're trying to say that there's nothing after the kissing. 

I would like to say here that I was not a sexually active teenager. It's not that I was prudish or anything. I just wasn't interested. All my friends were doing it and talking about it, but not one of them ever pressurised me into doing anything (though even if they had, I still wouldn't have done anything). But still, I knew about it. And I loved reading about romances in books. I mean, who doesn't?

YA books are targeted to young-adults. Which means people who are - in general - sexually active. Even if they aren't active, then sex is probably on their minds. They know it's out there, that it exists. Hence, leaving it out of books, when to all intents and purposes, the whole story seems to be developing and leading to it happening, seems very hypocritical to me. Sex is not something to be ashamed of and the mere mention of it is not going to send teenagers out on a sex rampage (or whatever you want to call it).

Of course, I am not saying that every single book written should contain sexual elements in it. That would be just plain ridiculous. Some of them have no romantic elements in them at all, others have budding relationships where everything is kissey-kissey, lovey-dovey and there really is no need for the mention of sex. But others, where everything seems to lead to it happening, and then 'it' doesn't happen, leaves the book with the feeling that something is unnatural. Unfinished, if you like.

Another argument I've heard is the question as to whether sex should not be a part of YA books because of the fact that younger teenagers also read them. This, in my opinion, is a rather empty argument. Adult books (and I don't mean bodice-ripping Mills & Boon and Harlequin romances) are targeted towards more mature audiences. Yet, many younger people read them. I know I did. Have you ever heard anyone complaining that the content in one such book is too explicit for younger readers? Well, I haven't and the reason for that is that younger readers are not the author's target audience. When I came upon a book that my parents thought was not suitable for my age, they would let me know and encourage me to try another book. I feel that the same should apply to younger teenagers. If the parents feel that a certain book has certain content that they wouldn't want their child to read, then it's up to them to talk to their child and urge him/her to read something else. After all, younger teenagers are the target audience of middle grade books, aren't they? So they do have books more suitable to their own age group to read.

To end this post, as I feel as if I have been ranting a little bit, I just want to say that I appreciate it when authors call a rock a rock and a spade a spade and do not conveniently NOT mention sex. Just because it might be present as a notion, does not automatically mean that it has to be gruesome and explicit. Each author should set limits as to what he/she is prepared to write and not be dictated by how he/she thinks the audience will react to it. The limits should be set from the reader. The reader should just choose those books that they feel they will enjoy. If they don't enjoy reading about sexy scenes, then they should just endeavour to choose books they feel won't offend them.

I do not mean to insult anyone's beliefs as to what should or shouldn't be included in YA books. The sole purpose of this post is to talk about my thoughts. Please tell me what you think about this particular matter. I'd love to hear what other people think about it!

PS: Sorry for the lack of pictures...


  1. I very much agree with you. I don't think sex should be a dirty word or hidden concept in YA. That said, I don't like books who just throw in sex for a "coolness" or edgy factor. It should make sense with the plot and characters.

  2. Of course it shouldn't be used in that way. Just because a book might feature sex, does not automatically make it cool. It should be put into books only if it is conducive to the actual storyline.

  3. Yaay! Thanks for responding to my response (:

    You can probably guess from my post that I agree with you on this :) Though I think you handled it better because mine offended someone :-/

    Great post :) You should write more of these (:

  4. The things I hear on buses... OK I can't comment on teenagers in other countries, but they're certainly not that innocent in the UK! I read adult books (and some very steamy stuff at that) when I was a teenager and none of it turned me into a raging hussy ;)

  5. LOL! I am wondering what types of pics could be included in such a post...? *wiggles eyebrows*
    Sorry, I'll be serious now. I think you make some excellent points. The thing about adults is they worry about young people growing up too quick. I like to remind them of the 1960s when it was all free love and peace. YA books should be representative of real life.


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