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Explicit Content in YA Books and Why it Needs to Stop

So this has been on my thoughts and heart a lot lately... I'm just going to come out and say it. I love Sarah J Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses series. If you've been following my blog for at least a year now then you know that I really love her writing, I love this series, and the characters. The characters themselves, their arcs, the intricate plot, the relationships are all so masterfully done. It's breathtaking and sweeps you off your feet and into the world of Prythian. But (yes there's a but) if you've been following me, then you also know I disagree 100% with a lot of the content she puts into her books. I find it disgusting and gross and wrong.

See there's this line that authors, Young Adult authors especially, shouldn't cross. There's the innocent kiss, a few heated scenes, make out sessions, scenes that are on the brink of really should not be in a Young Adult book. I may not agree with it and I may not even want the on-the-brink-of- being-too-much-for-a-Young-Adult-book scene in a book but those type of scenes usually aren't explicit. The authors don't go into great detail because they don't want to be gross, and any good author knows that their readers read up. (If you don't believe me read Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adults and Middle Grade Readers by a YA and MG editor Mary Kole. It was the first craftbook I ever read and I am so glad I did because it gave me a good well-rounded perspective on the two different genres).

Ten, eleven, twelve year olds want to read books about thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen year olds. Thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen year olds want to read books about sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen year olds, the "big teenage kids" that they look up to. So when crafting a book with main characters that are upper teens, an author should keep in mind that kids as young as thirteen will be reading it. It doesn't even matter if you have an age warning that says 16 year olds and older should read this book. Lots of kids don't look and lots of parents don't look either. So, writers, authors, when you're writing a book be mindful of the age that some of your readers will be.  Do not cross the line into explicit, no longer make out scenes, but sex scenes that shouldn't even belong in an adult book let alone in Young Adult fiction! Please... just stop and don't do it. It distracts from the plot and characters and from everything else that makes your books so good! As a reader, a nineteen year old reader for crying out loud, put romance and love stories in your books. A few kisses, I don't even care about a make out scene but please don't go into detail and don't get explicit with the scenes. It's not necessary and its not needed and most teens don't want to read that stuff.

Let me just skip the first book, though it had its fair share of heated scenes and go straight to the second and third book. (*SPOILER ALERT*) Rhyse and Feyre’s relationship was sweet and wonderful. He brought her back from the darkness of depression and made her feel again. They fell in love in a really beautiful way and I admit I am a big shipper of them. I loved it. But then they actually got together, like admitted their love to each other, and they got into quite a few heated scenes and by the end of that book I sat back and was like wow… huh… I was not expecting all those F-bombs and all of those very detailed scenes that I had to skip because it was kind of really gross. I actually thought about not even reading the third book. But… I caved. And I did under the false hope that Sarah J. Maas would slow it down a little. But instead she sped things up. Big time. More explicit language, more very sexy, detailed scenes that should have been skimmed over instead of going on for pages at a time.

Yes, Rhyse and Feyre were married by the third book but that doesn’t excuse Sarah J Maas’s ridiculously detailed scenes… I was much younger when I read the Twilight series so my mom actually had me skip the pages of the last book when Bella and Edward were on their honeymoon. We don’t own all the books in the series so I can’t reread any of them but I know from others’ thoughts and opinions that Stephanie Meyer didn’t go as far and as detailed and as deep as Sarah J Maas did in her books. So, two characters being married doesn’t at all excuse explicit scenes.

I’ve decided that I will read the three companion novels to this trilogy (I mean I must know what happens with my favorite ships. Nesta/Cassian and Elain/Lucien!!) and am fully prepared for more language and explicit scenes to skip but I will not read any other books beyond this series that she’s written. The content in her books are a huge turn off for me. I went into Thorns and Roses unaware of the kind of content she writes for young adults and now I know and have decided not to read any more of her books.

I'm not writing this post to bash Sarah J Maas. She's an excellent writer and teller of stories, I'm not denying that. I just strongly disagree with the content she puts in her books. But this is the sad, scary thing. Thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen year olds are reading this. Reading those scenes and that language and are being exposed to very adult things. They aren't mature enough to handle reading about those kinds of situations, especially the messy, complicated situations Maas puts in her books. So as young readers and even older readers and readers in general I suggest you look at the age limits they usually put on the books and do your research before diving in.
And this isn't the only book like this. I can say with confidence as a young reader that Jennifer L. Armentrout goes too far in her Lux series as well. I was fifteen I think, when I started that series. What drew me in was the amazing characters and plot. They were so good! And it was sci-fi and aliens and I love those things. But... the heated make out sessions became a little more than just making out and despite really loving these characters and this world and really wanting to read more, I had to stop myself and say no, I can't poison my brain with this stuff, so I stopped. I hear that The Fault in Our Stars (and many other John Green books for Young Adults) also have very heated scenes... actually I think The Fault in Our Stars went a little farther than it should have.

Now that I think about it a lot of the Young Adult books have very risqué, heated scenes in them. Why, though? Why do YA authors feel the need to put those scenes in there? Why are we exposing tweens and teens, from twelve years old to up to seventeen years old to this content? Why are YA authors normalizing such detailed scenes, some of which are borderline porn? To certain kids those sorts of scenes can be triggering, they can be harmful, and they can open up doors to bad situations and porn as they get older and become adults. You think I'm over-exaggerating but I'm not. This is serious and real and wrong. Young Adult novels are for just that: Young Adults! Not adults. I feel that this sudden increase in explicit scenes and language is because adults are reading more YA books. If that's the case then authors of Adult fiction! Step up your game and do better!

I am fully for YA books speaking out and addressing real, relevant topics. Mental illness, death of family and friends, the trails and darkness of life. Most young adult readers are mature enough and hungry enough for deep, real books that talk about deep, real things. I'm for that. I love reading a good book that has a real, relevant theme (but it also has to have hope at the end of the tunnel and a happy ending for me to enjoy it). What I am not for is mature content that are too much for young adults. Us young adults don't know everything and we may like to think it but we aren't mature enough for certain things. Especially not for explicit scenes, or too much gore. Some things you can't unsee and you could regret reading too much of both of those things. As for language I know a lot people swear and don't mind but I guess this is more of just my own personal preference. I can't stand swearing, especially the use of the F-bomb in any sort of entertainment whether it's in a book, a movie or a TV show.

Oh and one more thing. For authors like Sarah J Maas there's a new genre. It's called New Adult. It's for eighteen to late twenty year olds. If you feel the need to put bad language and explicit, detailed, risqué scenes in your books while having your characters be seventeen or eighteen I suggest they check it out. That genre is perfect for these series and books like A Court of Thorns and Roses that are between YA and Adult.

For all you YA writers out there, don't ever feel pressured to put explicit scenes I your books. Don't feel pressured by the media, by editors, by anyone anywhere to even put bad language or heated, make out sessions in your book. If you don't want to, then don't. People will tell you that YA books with no romance or without any sexy make out scenes don't sell. I'm here to tell you that that's not true. I get so excited when I find a book with a beautiful romance that doesn't go too far. I will gladly buy your book that has an innocent, adorable, fluffy romance in it. I will buy your book that has two characters that love each other and don't go far and I will buy your book that has heated scenes that last only a paragraph instead of several pages. Don't go too far and don't write something that you would feel embarrassed about or regret later on.

Have a great week everyone!

What do you think of the scenes in ACMAF and ACOWAR? Or of explicit content in the YA genre in general. I'd love to hear from you in the comments! 


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