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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Age & Nightshade


Recently I read Nightshade by Andrea Cramer. It was pretty good. The mythos was fascinating and not something I had read before. The characters were real and I could relate with them. And I was excited because the language was nice and clean.

However, this book did bring up something that I've noticed in YA books. If I had read this when I was actually a teen I would've been very, Very, VERY uncomfortable. There were at least three scenes that were heavy on the sensual and I had to question myself: Is this appropriate? I mean, the one bathroom scene was so disconcerting. Is this really happening in schools?? And if it is, why is this okay? When did the physical boundaries between guys and girls get chucked out the window?

Now, I understand that in the books situation the girl was preparing to get married and was being treated as an adult and all that. But still. This is not the only book that pushes the physical boundaries. My friend read the Halo books and said there was a scene in them where she was going "Holy Crow! She should not be doing that!"

I also am reminded of one of the panels I sat in on at Polaris where one of the YA authors said their agent was telling them to make their book Sexier. Omgoodness... WHY!? There is a large demographic out there that does NOT want it to be sexier, who are Tired of Sex permeating Everything, especially our used-to-be safe books. And they're pushing it younger and younger. Independent Readers/Middle Grade books are starting to get a little scary when it comes to the relationship aspects to life.

My question is: When did it become okay for teens to have sex with random people before they're married? When did it become okay for authors to TELL teens that this is okay behavior? Yes, yes. I understand that you want a world to be believable. Diana Peterfreund in her Killer Unicorn books has to deal with that temptation because if the girl's aren't virgins they ain't going to be Unicorn Hunters. But I think she does a pretty darn good job of not making it Way Too Awkward for me to read.

At first I thought one of the reasons for the Sultriness was because it seems like a whole lot of Romance novelists are writing for YA now, but that's not fair. Karen Armstrong wrote for YA and her books were very well written and tastefully done when it came to the romance. It was *gasp* Age Appropriate.

So I'm curious what you think? Are Teen books becoming Too Much Sexy? Are you okay with the sexified state of books? Also: On a slightly unrelated note, do you think it would help if a twenty-something age group of books were developed so you could have slightly sexier books without them being for teens?

1 comment:

Alan Andrews said...

I haven't read much "Young Adult" fiction lately, so I'm a little (okay, a lot) on the outside looking in. But based on the sampling that I've seen in THE STORE and what is broadcast through television, etc., I would have to agree that the "sexification" is really going over the top. Some writers decorate it with fangs and undead, but it's really just another way to desensitize readers to subject matter that (I believe) is inappropriate to teens. And that raises an interesting point.

You have an intriguing idea of a delineation between marketing for 20-something readers and the current "Young Adult" sphere (see there - "sphere" - I can also think circularly). This may be drawing a very fine distinction here, but wouldn't anyone between the ages of 18 and somewhere in there 20s be considered a young adult? The problem doesn't seem to be so much that there's too much "sexification" in Young Adult literature (whether it's necessary or not), but that so many who are reading it have NOT yet BECOME young adults. They're still adolescents. That literature is not, or should not be, geared toward them.

So, is there a solution? Well, many people will think it's cliche, but like many cliches, it's a cliche because it happens to be based on old truth: parents really need to monitor what kind of materials their brood ingest. Not just written materials, either. This includes being mindful of boundaries and establishing them beforehand, to help young people (specifically teenagers, but it starts long before then) learn to distinguish between what's appropriate for them, and what's not.

Look, I'm blogging on someone else's blog again!

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