How much sex is there in young adult/teen novels?

I’m in the curious position of having to rewrite my romance novel for a teen market. The original published version as it currently stands doesn’t have that much sex in it, just three scenes, and only one is semi-graphic.

But for the additional teen version, I’m pretty sure I’ll want to cut things down a bit. I haven’t spoken to my publisher yet to see what he’s looking for, and I’d just like some points of comparison before I do. (By the way, this is the same publisher whose lack-of-cluehood lay behind this woebegotten thread, which is why I want to arm myself beforehand so I can give him some direction here.)

If it matters: the lead female character will be a senior in high school, let’s say 18; the lead male will be… a few years older, probably about 21. Since there’s a time travel element, and the young man primarily exists in Victorian England, the age difference won’t be egregious. I guess 18 - 21 isn’t that bad an age difference even now, is it?

Possibly irrelevant plot stuff follows:

[spoiler]Part of the shtick of the book is that the guy is a werewolf – yes, I know, I know, it’s played out, no need to tell me; the book is intended as a gimmicky gift – and thus there’s a lack of control on his part. That’s where the sex scene comes into play in the original adult version. The heroine in the original is utterly unaware of his true nature, and she – being a modern 21st century gal – is just happy to finally get this otherwise repressed guy to act on his attraction to her. The only reason he’s throwing off his inhibitions is that he’s just turned back from his lupine form, and is less able to control his instincts than usual.

I’m really not sure how to handle this plot element in a teen version, especially if they can’t consummate things.[/spoiler]

My main difficulty is that this version is aimed at 13 - 21-year-olds, and also, their parents (since these are largely given as gifts). Considering the younger side of the spectrum, I’m a bit concerned about how far to take things.

So basically I ask anyone who’s read teen books recently (I was a teenager in the '80s!): how much sex, if any, is in them? How chaste, if at all, are the lead characters? I know Twilight features a lot of dry humping and they don’t consummate their relationship until they’re married. That seems a bit weak to me. What do you guys think?

Well, the Hardy Boys never did it, I can tell you that.

LOL (literally)! Yeah, ditto with Nancy Drew, although if anyone would, her friend George seemed a bit ‘fast’.

The only relatively sex-related book I remember from those years was Forever, by Judy Blume. And this book Tomboy about a girl in a street gang, IIRC. I’m sure there were more graphic books, but I wasn’t the type to seek them out. Very prudish as a girl.

Nowadays, it seems you can do quite a bit, as long as you avoid out-and-out porn (i.e., you can’t say “fuck,” but you can show two people doing it.)

I recently submitted a novel to an agent who thought it had YA potential. This despite the fact I had a fairly explicit sex scene (for me) and was dealing quite openly with sexual issues.

Talk to a librarian. They’ll connect you with one of the librarians whose specialty is Young Adult books.

I think it’s a lot more prevalent than it used to be. It’s definitely not full of stuff like throbbing cocks and whatnot, but the kids seem to be having it a lot more and it’s not necessarily the domain of the “bad kids.” Francesca Lia Block put a ton of it in her books, though she’s a bit outside the norm…

I’m 30, so I was a teenager about halfway since I wasn’t. I’m also a librarian, though (although not in youth or young adult) and read some young adult. Even when I was a teenager, my favorite authors were making me feel relatively funny with some of their scenes, if you get my drift. I read Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet to pieces as a kid, and the heroine of that one has sex with two different guys in the last two books - she isn’t married to either. Oh, upon reflection make that three. I can’t recall quite how graphic they were, but I’m pulling them down from the shelves to refresh my memory. :slight_smile:

I used to pretend that the last book ended halfway through so whathisface (Liam Ironheart says my deep inner brain) didn’t have to die.

Trixie Belden never did it either. Think she maybe kissed Jim a couple times.

I dunno about the lupine form thing. Seems kinda close to the bestiality line for young adults. I’d probably be inclined to attempt a literary equivalent of the “blowing curtains/pounding surf” cutaway like in old movies. Let sex be implied, but off camera.

I would guess the Twilight books would be a good comparison. In that series, Edward and Bella did not actually have sex until after they were married, which was the last book. However, they spent A LOT of time having sex in the last book. Before that, they just fool around and talk about the sexual tension.

Thanks very much, guys! Quite educational and I really appreciate the input. Great idea to ask a librarian – and how cool is it that we also have one here!

So basically light but not too light so as to be ridiculously 1950s-esque. This can’t seem like a Frankie and Annette novel.

Part of me is balking at the idea of leaving any sex in, but only because I’m imagining my 14-year-old niece reading this. Which makes me feel weird. She’s so innocent! At least that’s how I like to think of her. Yes, just call me the deluded aunt. :slight_smile:

Another big issue is the gimmick of the books. They are customized gift books, which means the leads can be renamed to match the recipient and the guy of her choice (real or fictional). So how comfortable would a 14-year-old be reading about herself as an 18-year-old having sex? How comfortable would a parent be, buying a book that depicts their kid having sex? These are fantasies, obviously, but there’s something creepy about this possibility. Adults are able to see the parody/fantasy inherent in these books, but a young teenager…

Oy. Caught between a rock and a hard place here! I want the book to remain a romantic/mysterious thriller (there’s a murder mystery involved too, which I’ll have to cut back on as well) but appropriate for a younger audience to imagine themselves within.

I found an interesting blog post about sex in teen novels, and also this discussion, which was helpful too.

I’d be very interested in hearing more thoughts, if you have 'em. And thanks again the discussion so far!

I know you know this, but at age fourteen I sure wasn’t discussing sex with my relatives or parents, but I was thinking about it. And reading about it. (I think age fourteen was when I read my first child orgy scene–blame Stephen King!) And not quite acting on it but I sure would have if I could have…

I’d say it was Cousin Bess who was more of a tramp. :stuck_out_tongue:

I read a fair number of YA books and those that are set in the present day have their fair share of sex, but very few actually depict the act. They may say whether or not it hurt, or whether or not the boy was gentle or awkward or considerate, but I can’t really remember any that described Tab A going into Slot B. As you say, it’s a romance novel, it will be marketed to girls, it will be all about how your character feels before and after. ITA agree with needscoffee about talking to a librarian.

ETA: I’m trying to think of the names of a couple of very good examples. Will let you know when I come up with them.

The aforementioned Forever by Judy Blume, which featured a scene where the main character asks her boyfriend to stick it in deeper mid-coitus so she can have an orgasm.

I’m sorry to hijack, but WHAT? :eek:
Not judging you in context, but I’ve read alot of Stephen King and I sure don’t remember anything like that

I’m guessing It.

Yeah, I missed that particular Steven King novel, too.

Have you not read It?

Yup, it was IT. I still don’t know why SK thought a gang bang was the way to escape IT when the gang was twelve. Hell, if they all consenting adults it would still be a weird way to escape a gigantic spider clown thing.

No, actually that’s one of the few I haven’t read, but now I’m intrigued. It sounds too bizarre to miss.

Customizable lead names?


So a 14 year old girl with a crush on one of her adult teachers puts that name in her book…

Call me old fashioned, but I think there might be a potential for a snafu in there somewhere.