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Sex in Young Adult Books

THE RISING-final coverI am currently writing my third and final novel for ‘The Painted Maidens Trilogy’. The first book ‘The Rising’ is available now on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, and iTunes. The second book ‘The Betrayed’ will be available this fall.

Without giving too much away, in the third book (tentatively named ‘The Taking’) the main character, Serena – who is 18 – makes the decision to share herself with her boyfriend. This is not within the confines of marriage because well, they are mermaids and they don’t get married.

I’ve done my fair share of research on sex in young adult books and am admittedly nervous to include it. I want to do it right. The best article I found so far is by ‘Writing Teen Novels‘. Advice in writing sex in young adult novels includes “how important it is to be honest, to be sober and to be in a committed respectful and loving relationship before you take the leap” and “girls should decide that they are in control of their bodies and of their decision-making”.

Another great article I found is by Amber Skye Forbes. Here the author says “Sexual experiences vary widely among teenagers, which is what is so great about YA literature. It encompasses experiences from a myriad of teenagers from all different walks of life” (like mermaids – LOL) and “sex between two teenagers doesn’t always have negative consequences”.

These are exactly the points that I want to portray in my book. My work up to the scene does include a lot of soul-searching for the main character as mermaid 2to why she is choosing to do this.

My next conundrum is how graphic should I get? I have to keep it PG-13 but I don’t want to completely gloss over the event.

One big benefit I have to this is my oldest son just turned 15 – and he reads this series. I can keep myself in check knowing he will be reading the book, but I can also include everything I want him to know about it wrapped into an entertaining fantasy story.

I would love to hear your advice on the subject – especially coming from avid readers, other YA authors, parents, and even teens. What lessons should I preach (without sounding too preachy, of course)? How graphic can I get? What were some of your favorite YA books that touched this subject?

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