Writing about Sex for Teens part two

unconSex, in the Western world, is a major issue in the lives of most older teens. It would be unrealistic if the literature aimed at them did not include this. Handled sensitively and written well (which I hope I’ve achieved with ‘Unconditional’), this is surely a better route than trying to sanitise young adult literature. As the hordes of young adults who have reportedly read Fifty Shades illustrates, if YA authors don’t write what they want to read, they will find it elsewhere. As to those who argue that this is symptomatic of the moral failings of this generation, I remember doing something very similar twenty years ago with my mother’s Jackie Collins novels. And I always flicked through to the sex scenes first. A conversation with my mother revealed she did much the same in her youth with my grandmother’s copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Perhaps things haven’t changed so much after all.

In fact, although the term ‘teen steamie’ may be new and ‘New Adult’ cited as an emerging genre, is there really any more sexual content in these novels than in the novels aimed at older teenagers a generation ago? I haven’t read every title on the market – and suspect that neither have most critics of the New Adult trend – but it seems to me that ‘steamies’ such as Liz Bankes Irresistible, Kirsty Moseley’s Free Falling and my own novel Unconditional are no sexier than the books I was reading in the mid nineties. Judy Blume’s Forever for example, which was actually first published in 1975, some of Christopher Pikes teen horror stories with romantic content such as Whisper of Death, and who can forget Joyce Carol Oates Foxfire; Confessions of a Girl Gang? More recently Julie Burchill wrote Sugar Rush, a teen novel that would today surely be classed as New Adult for its sexually explicit storylines, even though the major protagonists are only fifteen…

I make no judgement, literary or moral, on any of these books – though I have read and enjoyed them all – but rather in citing them hope to show that the ‘New Adult’ genre is not really very new at all. Teenagers have always read these books and authors have always written them, and perhaps attempting to label and categorise them is in fact a sensible way to point younger readers towards their preferred choice, rather than having a situation (such as seen in my local library) where Sugar Rush sits happily next to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

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