My current novel draft is realistic contemporary YA fiction, and so I’ve been reading a lot of realistic contemporary YA novels lately. For the most part, I’ve been impressed with what people have recommended to me: I’m finding YA authors who are willing to deal with big questions (how do we make meaning of life? how can we respond to the reality of suffering? how can we relate to each other?) in stories that are engaging enough to keep me up until 3 a.m. There’s no shortage of great writers in YA fiction today, and the bar for excellence in craft is set incredibly high.
At the same time I’ve admired current realistic YA writing overall, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the treatment of sex in the genre overall. It’s no secret, of course, that there is more sex in YA fiction than there was…well, at any other time in the not-so-long history of YA fiction. But I guess I associated sex mostly with the likes of the Gossip Girls series more than with idea-driven books like, say, John Green’s.
The most common problem religious critics have with sex in books is that of pornography: that even made-up sex can cause real arousal, and that on-demand arousal can cause significant spiritual and social problems. Today, though, I want to skip over that discussion entirely to talk about what roles sex seems to be playing in the stories I read in the lives of the characters. What does sex mean to them–and what does that mean for us?
Content advisory: there will be some sexual details in my discussion of YA texts. Continue reading