Where I am in the writing process: Still not anywhere I haven't been for a while. I've determined I won't be able to really focus on my novel until after the wedding.
My current problem(s): Wedding
What do you think?
Sarah's ???: Drugs and sex and language. How much is too much in Young Adult?
My answer: Oh boy. *takes deep breath and jumps off the high dive*
I personally feel overtly explicit writing (detailed descriptions of sex, how to make or use drugs, and the foulest of words) should not be used. It is not that I don't want YA to be realistic, I just believe it can be realistic without having to delve into the dirty details. If I was that age again, it wouldn't matter what I was doing in my own life, reading these things in a book would either not interest me or make me blush furiously. I don't remember knowing anyone in high school who cussed like a sailor all the time or spoke in detail about their sex lives or drug use. I'm also from The South, so that probably is a factor.
I understand mentioning these things, especially when these things have bearing on the story or the characters. Also, if something is only mentioned once, like a detailed scene of sexual violence, however difficult it would be to actually read it (I probably couldn't - I can't watch Law & Order: SVU) that is not as objectionable as continued and prolonged exposure within a novel to overtly explicit material. Drugs don't bother me so much unless the lifestyle is being glamorized, and the curses don't much either, as long as they are sparing or in a context that makes sense (i.e. not just cursing to be "edgy"). But even the most graceful depictions of sex (I'm thinking along the lines of Graceling by Kristin Cashore) make me uncomfortable as an adult. I feel like sex is private, even between fictional beings, so I'm not into hearing all that stuff, especially if the act is between teenagers (kid porn much???) I'm all for talking about sex in the right context or in vague or "fade to black" terms, but the nitty-gritty I don't need. This may be due to how, IMHO, television sort of sets the standard for "normal" in the US. Sex is only truly graphic on stations like HBO, but language and drug stuff show up on every cable and network channel at one point or another.
Another factor that ties in to my view is that I'm a firm believer in "garbage-in, garbage-out," mainly because I have seen it in my own life. I don't feel that teens need to see an f-bomb in every paragraph to know that people curse. What you see every day can cause you to create habits that are not part of you naturally (think of all the beautiful = skinny garbage we are fed on nearly every TV commercial) so I'm not really comfortable with giving an age group of people who are growing into their bodies and minds (and won't fully develop physically at least until late teens and mentally/emotionally until sometime in their twenties - blame it on my educational psychology class) excesses of anything, no matter what media (books, TV, etc.) it may appear in.
But, as my dad pointed out to me once when we were almost hit by a semi-truck and he spouted a couple curses of his own, in certain intense or horrifying or shocking situations, intense expletives fit and can come out of even the cleanest of mouths. I've seen used needles on a city street and know people who have used various narcotics (and seen what they were like under the influence), so I know drugs do happen, and it is likely most teens will encounter them. Sex also happens more than most parents would be happy about. But if a teen or tween (since most book stores categorize YA as between 12-18) is really interested in reading about that stuff, or learning about it or seeing it, they don't have to get it from the YA book section. I would prefer them not to. Novels are about stories, about characters, and if drugs or explicit language or sex happens in those stories like it happens in real life, then fine. Life and people aren't perfect so neither will the lives and personalities of characters in novels. But it is not necessary in YA lit to be explicit.
One final thought: Of the many YA books I have read, most are not explicit enough to comment on. But one series always sticks in my mind when it comes to this issue, and that is the House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. In several places I've seen it shelved with adult books. I think this is telling because some in the bookselling and library industries recognize that even though there are teenage characters in the books, the story within goes beyond what I would consider reasonable for YA. I would not at all want this series near a shelf where a twelve or thirteen or fourteen or really even a fifteen year old person could expect to find novels. I actually liked the story and was highly interested in it, but I quit reading because I felt like I was having to wade through a sea of muck to reach an entertaining story. And I was 21 and just past my crazy college days. Maybe I'm just more sensitive, but I think there are more constructive, meaningful ways a teen or tween can learn about sex and drugs and the other crazy things that people get up to. I probably could go on, but I'm going to stop there. ^_^
My ???: Have you ever not been able to finish a series or book because it was too explicit? Do you think overly explicit books that are normally considered YA should be shelved elsewhere? Let me know your thoughts!
That's it for this time!
Thanks for visiting!