Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Adult Fiction - YA Lit + Sex?

The Telegraph has an interesting article this week called Sex in Young Adult fiction – a rising trend?  It examines the growning tread of books being identified/published as New Adult Fiction, which is as far as I can tell means YA fiction with sex in it.

One theory is that adult readers of YA books are not satisfied with the chastity of the average YA read:

Pearson explains the impact of the age gap between teen fiction’s intended and actual markets. “Two things happen,” she says, “one is that the older audience are less likely to be satisfied by the omission of detail regarding sex, another is that it changes the gateposts for publishers and booksellers.” 

It seems to me that these throngs of adult readers are being drawn to YA lit for a variety of reasons, and it is very likely that many adult like the lack of smut in them.  Not trying to judge here...I think there is a time and place for smut and I'm proud to work for a library system that does a very good job of answering our patrons demand for it.  But really, why are the publishers trying to change a good thing to cater to an audience that was drawn to it in the first place?

If there is a place for sex in YA lit, I certainly don't think it should be for titillating an adult market, which is why I suppose this New Adult category is being produced.  What sex in YA lit, if it is to be included at all, should be about providing healthy role models for teens, and encouraging them to make their sexual decisions based on the best information and what is right for them as individuals, not subject to peer pressure or societal expectations.

According to Dr Lucy Pearson, a lecturer in children’s literature at Newcastle University, it’s nothing new: “Sex has always been an issue in Young Adult fiction, but historically a problematic one,” she tells me. A turning point came, Pearson says, with Forever by Judy Blume. Forever, published in 1975, “is noticeable as a book which tells of teens who want to have sex and do have sex and nothing bad happens”. Pearson continues: “It’s still rare in that aspect – there aren’t many Young Adult novels out there which feature healthy sexual relationships.” 

I feel we do teens a disservice if we completely ignore their hormones and pretend the are completely asexual being.  But how do we preserve and give example to strong boundary setting, while respecting privacy, religious upbringing, and individual and parental rights?  I guess the same as we always have, by collecting books that answer these needs and hope our patrons find them.

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