YA to Y-HEYYYY: Should a YA series grow up?

And if so, how?

I know I am not the only mom who started reading YA books because I was testing out the content my kids would be reading.  I have seen content on the young adult shelf that I would consider more the emerging new category of “new adult” (think eldest teens/college kids).  Every parent has to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with their children reading – some are more lax on this than others.

So what if you read Book 1 or 2 and it looks fine, so your kids dig in, what if you yourself are not comfortable reading anything beyond “closed doors” sexual content in a book due to personal or religious reasons…

…and then they have sex.

I’m not talking “and he kissed me and before I knew it, we had done it.”  I am talking descriptive, “‘YES, YES, YES’, his hands were in my blahblahblah…” kind of sex.

This issue has come up in the past of course, as far back as Twilight’s infamous trashed bedroom, but that is admittedly mild compared to some of the blush-worthy explicitness found in some of the newest releases categorized as “YA”.

Admittedly, these series begin all reasonable innocence and gentle caresses, but what happens when a few books in, there is some truly steamy sex?

Some authors will tell you that the majority of their readers are middle-aged women who WANT the detail.  That might be true, but what about the actual 14 year old girl picking up a series for the first time?  Should she also be subjected to explicit sexual content and more importantly, what are the legalities to exposure to such content?

When a character in a series “grows”, authors also express that they will participate in more “adult” behaviors including sexual activity.  But shouldn’t there then be a movement to the “new adult” category?  I realize that logistically for a library or bookstore, this could be difficult, but in truth isn’t that what we need to do?

My girls are older – one already in her first year of college.  But had I seen some of the content in current new releases, I would never have let them read it.  The problem with this is that they are often already invested in the story; how do you say “no” to Book 4 when 1-3 were deemed ok?

The answer is that it’s hard.  I recently had a situation where my teen was brought to a Broadway show that I had not approved, and that I would not have approved, had I been asked before it happened.  After the fact, you can’t take it back.  Likewise, after a child (or a sensitive adult) reads something like Chapter 38 of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, there will be backlash.  That is not to say that Ms. Maas is to blame; the industry has just not caught up with the trends.  There is no methodical process to transition and age-out a series that has “grown up”.  And with the extensive release day push and pre-sale offers, most feel pressured to buy early or on Day 1, so there is no chance to pre-read for parents, or any option at all for adults who shy away from sexual content.

I don’t know the answer.  I just think it’s a conversation we need to have.  Though some series can age their characters and experiences without sexual content or violence, other authors follow their characters to places that they didn’t see at the onset.  We don’t want to squelch that; we don’t want to stop buying or reading…

but we need to make some tough decisions and take action.

I know some of you won’t agree with this opinion, and you have the right to feel that way.  I personally would never want to miss out on Rhysand and Feyre at the cabin, but I am an adult who has no issue with the steaminess, and I am old enough to make that choice.

Let’s figure out how to make this work.