"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wondering about the whole *** thing in YA

S*x. How much is too much? How much is too little? What age is it OK? Should it be left out at all cost?
Can anyone say Flowers in the Attic? Yeah, I read this at like twelve or something. And, yeah, I'm thinking this way crossed the line.

I recently read a review on Twilight where the reviewer commented that some educators/readers/etc lauded Twilight for displaying abstinence. Um, yeah, sure, they didn't actually do the deed, but basically Bella is begging him to for much of the novel. To me, this doesn't scream as a referral for abstinence.

I think when it comes right down to it, I can talk about it all I want, but I'll write what I write and then revise accordingly after getting plenty of input on the actual written word.
Critique group, are you ready?

Your thoughts?

In other news, check out Cynthia Leitich Smith's write up on our awesome Austin happy hour the other night. I snagged this picture from her blog of me and author Debbie Gonzales. Debbie is a fab writer (I read the beginning of some of her stuff at a workshop back in June) and is also just such a darling. Can't you see her genuineness exuding here in this picture?

And a special shout out to my cousin Mary Lou who my aunt told my mom reads my blog! One great thing about being from an enormous Polish family is I have tons of cousins, and all of them interesting. The coolest thing I remember about Mary Lou is she worked on the set of Miami Vice and knew Don Johnson. I have a cousin in the Boston Pops, a cousin who designs giant telescopes, and a cousin who runs a New Age Church. And that's just the start!


Christine M said...

This critique group member is wondering what you have in store for us!

PJ Hoover said...

But you're such a good Catholic girl. I'm afraid you'll disapprove. :)

beth said...

About the sex...

It depends. On the age you intend your audience to be (obvs), but also on the purpose. I think that's the biggest factor. Is there a purpose to the sex, or is it just there for entertainment. I have a problem with entertainment sex (not such a big fan of the romance novel for that reason--really, only when I want the book equivalent to escapist TV).

However, there are times when sex is a part of the story. Obviously, a book like Speak deals with sex and consequences. But beyond that, there is also the question of it's purpose in the story. Sex came up quite a bit in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely. Not the act (if I remember correctly), but the characters did talk about it in a very realistic way (i.e. sincere guy waiting for the girl to be ready, girl nervous because first time, medical tests and condoms). This was a part of the story: it emphasized how little experience the MC had with any kind of love, and made her decision--which would have been a life-long choice for a guy--even more important.

So that's a long, rambling rant that basically means: it depends :)

Kelly said...

I'm looking forward to whatever you bring, Tricia. Sounds like you definitely have something in mind. And...Beth hits the nail on the head. If it is appropriate to the story, so be it.

Angie Frazier said...

I think the tone of the book, the MC, the situation he/she is telling the story from, all shapes how sex is going to be shown as a factor (or not!). For my YA, I played up the sexual tension, romance, and intimacy. That's the stuff I love to read anyway :) Foreplay :) I think the main thing is to be true to your story, and to make it satisfying for the reader however you use it.

Working Mom said...

Nice shirt!

Haven't read the Stephanie Meyer books yet, but I did read several of those V.C. Andrews books (probably when I was 12 too). Is Judy Blume still read by YAs these days, or is she totally passe? For YA, I say think less V.C. Andrews and more Judy Blume, but, s** sells...

PJ Hoover said...

Perfect input!

Beth - yes, I love this. Is it justifiable? It's a great question to ask. Thank you so much for the input.

Kelly - I'll leave it to you and the group to tell me if it's appropriate! Oh, wait, am I giving too much away?

Angie - I agree that sexual tension when well done is perfect.

Working mom - LOL! yes, I got it! We'll have to coordinate :) I think Judy Bloom is still pretty popular, but if any other commenters with kids that age want to comment (Chris), please do. And Judy did write those Wifey and Forever books (which my mom never let me read).

Thanks for stopping by!

Tabitha said...

Great comments about sex in YA.

The only thing I would add is the level of detail given. Wicked Lovely does deal a lot with sex, but on a very high level. Even the one sexual scene is handled in an indirect manner - you *know* what she's talking about, but she never explicitly says it. :)

I think Beth said it great with "it depends on the story." And I think that, if the story calls for it, then it shouldn't get any more graphic than Speak.

PJ Hoover said...

I will have to read Wicked Lovely (is it bad I haven't). I'm finding it very interesting to read the "scenes" I find in other books.
A Great and Terrible Beauty has a dream scene, and Madapple has a kind of dream scene (more like drugged scene). But, for reference, I found they seemed to go a bit farther than Speak. Or maybe there were just such different emotions at play?
Thanks, Tabitha!

Angela said...

VC Andrews...yeah, I think those crossed the line all right. For me, the sex in YA is fine, as long as there's a good reason for it. And by good reason I mean actual plot ramifications, not using it as a way to characterize a MC as a horny teen.

PJ Hoover said...

Plot ramifications is a nice way to look at it, Angela. It's definitely something to keep in perspective. And too funny on the horny teen thing. So was Bella from Twilight just a horny teen?
Thanks for the opinion!

keri mikulski :) said...

Yikes. The 's' word. I'm struggling with this and how far I'll go with my sequel. It's weird, yesterday, I read a similar review by a parent about TWILIGHT and like you, I had a different spin on it. I think it's inconceivable to believe that teens aren't thinking or talking about the 's' word. And like you, I can write about it with ease, but when the book is ready for printing, yikes, I cut based to what I'm comfortable with. Have fun with the group. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Keri! Nice to know someone else is pondering this exact same subject. And you're totally right on - kids are thinking about it. Whether they wait until they're 50 or not.

Angela said...

I would say that her physical desires were linked to plot because it required Edward to 'be strong for both of them' and avoid what they both wanted because he was afraid of his caral side. So it supported the central idea of why they must not be together as a couple, yet are.

Angela said...

Whoops--that should say carnal side. I belong to Forgets-To-Spell-Check Anonymous. Ha.

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Angela! Yeah, I actually don't have a problem with the s*x thing in Twilight at all. I just don't think the book is a poster child for abstinence! Nor can I imagine it was intended to be??? Or maybe it was. Who knows :)
Thanks for the comment! And I never spell check on comments so no worries!

Vivian said...

If you ever visit your cousin in Boston, you'll have to let me know.

And Beth does say it the best.

Sarah Rettger said...

Hmm... I'm curious too!

Count me as another in the "it depends" camp.

What really impresses me (and I'm still phrasing this badly; one of these days I'm going to post about it) is authors who can make a vivid scene that happens mostly off-screen - Deanna Raybourn is the latest place I've seen this, but I'll come up with some other examples.

(I might have said this in another comment somewhere... or here, but I really don't remember. Who says August is a slow month in the book industry?)

PJ Hoover said...

I'd love to come visit you in Boston, Vivian! It almost sounds like an invitation :)

Totally, Sarah, about the most of it happening off screen. I'd love any more examples you could come up with!


Amy said...

I think the sex-thing totally depends on the story. You've got to write the story the way it's meant to be written. You have to stay true to the story. Which can mean going to places that make you or others uncomfortable. Or not.

Aren't those nebulous answers sooooo helpful?

PJ Hoover said...

Your nebulous answer are totally helpful, Amy. Thanks! I think revisions will clear everything up!