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Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Post by Katie French: Sex and Young Adult Literature

My guest poster today, Katie French, is a mom, teacher, book blogger, and now with the release of The Breeders, a young adult author - although she’s been writing since she was a young adult herself. Katie is a contributor and co-creator of Underground Book Reviews, a book blog site “dedicated to erasing the boundaries between traditional and non-traditional publishing.” (Full disclosure: Underground reviewed Open Minds and I fangirled over the review - it was charming.)

However, “charming” is not the word I would describe Katie’s new book, The Breeders. Maybe “frightening” or “intriguing.” Here’s the blurb:
“When the Breeders come for ya, there ain't no escape. They strap ya to a bed and all ya hear is the thud of your heart and the cries of your friends as they wheel ya down to hell. Then the doctors come. You squeeze your eyes shut and pray you can forget. But you never do.”
Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world's last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches-- moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders' long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they're hunting Riley.
Add The Breeders to your TBR on Goodreads. Available on Amazon.

At the end: a chance to win a Kindle copy of The Breeders.

Katie’s post today addresses a topic that’s hit home as the publisher of my first book recently landed a big sale, billed as the “next” Fifty Shades of Gray. While that’s great news for them, and I have no problem with erotica in general, my publisher’s growing reputation as an erotic imprint is less great for their YA authors, who have sweet romances or adventures that look nothing like Fifty Shades. I like Katie’s perspective on this subject.

Sex and Young Adult Literature
by Katie French
Let’s not beat around the bush. Fifty Shades of Gray and all its replicas have made everyone hot and bothered. The erotica trend has hit the mainstream and everyone’s blood is pumping. Unfortunately folks in the industry are now scrambling to capitalize. One influential man who runs a website devoted to mentoring new authors told a writer friend of mine to sex up her Young Adult male protagonist. She cringed.

"It’s for teens,” she bemoaned.

He replied, “Hey, there’s sex in YA now.”

And that one statement frightens me to no end.

Now, I know that there are plenty of books with teen sex in them. There have been for a while and I don’t see that trend ending. Most of them are the edgy, coming-of-age stories that show the gritty realities of the world in which we live. Myself and my friends write fantasy and science fiction, a genre that, in the past, has shied away from sex scenes. There is usually kissing. Someone may get to second base, but that’s it. It’s a genre that’s innocent in a way. And that is how I like it.

If the new trend is every book must focus on sex in order to sell, I cringe at what we’ll be reading. Imagine Katniss in a sex scene or Thomas from The Maze Runner taking a break from running for his life to have a quicky. All those great scenes building worlds and racing from enemies will be rushed out of the way to get to the hot and heavy. And what will all this sex do to our teen readers? Aren’t they over-sexed as it is thanks to Barbie and MTV?

Hopefully writers will take a stand and fight back against the onslaught of sex seeping into our literature. I’ve always believed in avoiding trends and sticking to what you love. For me, I love a great romance, a push and pull until the final moment where the heroine and her love interest kiss for the first time. There’s something magical about that moment. And for me, that’s enough.

Ed: I love that magical first kiss too, Katie! Thank you for guest posting today, and best of luck with the sales of your new YA novel!

Katie French imagined herself an author when her poem caught the eye of her second grade teacher. In middle school she spent her free time locked in her room, writing her first young adult novel. Though her social life suffered, her love for literature thrived. She studied English at Eastern Michigan University, where she veered from writing and earned an education degree. She spent nine years teaching high school English. Currently she is a school counselor, doing a job that is both one of the hardest things she's ever done and the most rewarding. In her free time she writes, reads great books and takes care of her two beautiful and crazy children. She is a contributor and co-creator of Underground Book Reviews, a website dedicated to erasing the boundaries between traditional and non-traditional publishing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. You can find her at, at or on Facebook.  

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  1. I have to say that The Breeders has piqued my interest no end.It is refreshing to see a fellow writer who like me, cringes at the thought of sex scenes in YA.

    I don't think you need sex in YA books, although I can understand that sometimes, it is an intricate part of the plot for the reader to understand something about the characters.

    For the most part, I don't think Teens pick YA books because of the sex in them or the romance. They read books because the blurb attracts them to the story, or maybe they can relate to the main character.

  2. Awesome post, guys! BREEDERS sounds... crazy! I'll have to check that one out.

    As for the sexy, well, I think readers love a good love story. And while I still haven't read 50 SHADES (I know!), what I've heard is that underneath all the sex, there's actually a compelling love story. I can believe that, since it's based on TWILIGHT, which was a compelling love story to many readers that contained ZERO SEX. (I mean, even the consummation of their marriage was behind closed doors!)

    There is the glom-on mentality in traditional publishing, though, and I guess sex sells... (It' a great time to be an erotica author!), but I think just like there can be too many vampires, there can be too much sex. After a while it gets old, and writers need to be true to themselves and their stories. Readers aren't stupid, and they want authenticity. They want GOOD STORIES. :o)

    I'm sorry to hear that about Omnific, Sue. I guess it's a tough time for small presses, too. :o\

    Best to you guys! Now I'm hopping over to GR~ <3

    1. I haven't read 50 Shades either. Part of me thinks I never will.

  3. I'm not crazy about sex in YA, either. It's one of the big reasons I started reading a lot of YA instead of adult fiction (though that distinction had been blurring rapidly). I didn't enjoy reading that as a young adult, and now that I'm writing, I'm consciously leaving that out. I feel like there are just as many teens out there who want to read about a slower, more low-key relationship.

  4. Sex in YA novels is something I won't turn a blind eye to, but as a fantasy and sci-fi reader and writer, I'm not really interested in losing the focus of the story to sex things up for sells or to read a book that would have been just as wonderful without getting the 411 on how Bob got in Betty's pantaloons. Give readers a good story. I love your examples, Katie. I mean, what the heck would it be to see Katniss and Peeta do the horizontal boogie when they are televised across all of PanAm and meant to kill each other. Just...No! lol!!!

    1. getting the 411 on how Bob got in Betty's pantaloons.

      LOL! Angela you always make me laugh. And will you PLEASE publish something, so I can buy it??

  5. It's so refreshing to hear someone stick up for no sex in YA--thanks Katie! Like the rest of the comments here, a good story should stand up on its own and not have to rely on steam to sell it.

    (I also make exception for YA books that are contemporary and trying to be realist with a certain character's bent and situation.)

  6. The description of Breeders sent chills down my spine! This is definitely one read with the lights on. I had a flashback to Handmaid's Tale.

    Romance yes. Sex no. Good for you, Katie.

  7. I can take it or leave it. I think a good 'love' scene is hard to pull off. Graphic sex on the other hand, not a fan of. It also depends on the storyline, does it seem natural or is the author putting it out there just for the sake of getting a little bit more attention. I definitely prefer romance over sex.

  8. Thanks so much for this post, Katie and Susan. As the mother of an almost thirteen-year-old who refuses to read MG anymore, it's good to know that someone is leaving the "horizontal boogie", as Angela calls it, out of YA.

    Just got my copy of Breeders from Amazon, btw. :)

  9. I agree with everyone here. I think we read and write YA, not Adult Lit because it is young and innocent to some extent. I truly hope this fad won't take that away from us.

  10. I think YA is about growth and self discovery. An editor once told me that MG stories are about the main character finding their place in the family, but YA is about them finding their place in society. I think that's largely true. While sex may be a part of that process, 99.9% of the time it would just be gratuitous action. And as writers, aren't we always cutting out gratuitous action that doesn't advance the story?

  11. That's quite a dramatic cover! The Breeders premise sounds like a real rollercoaster of a tale, which I like! As far as sex in YA, I take the literary approach--enrich the emotions surrounding the relationship and let the kissy/feely stuff fade to black in a poetic sort of way.
    Catherine Stine’s Idea City

  12. THANK YOU for writing about this. I think sometimes as authors we get bullied into the idea that we should include any and everything in our books, and that's just not true. Sure, there are books about sex, and drugs, and suicide, and cutting, and any number of difficult but real life topics. But those elements aren't right for every book.

  13. I completely agree with Katie. YA should maintain some level of innocence. I think it makes the characters stronger too, to have something dear to them that they're willing to hold onto instead of give away freely. In my new novel, I considered the current trends as well but never even considered giving in to the sex-scene trend.

    Readers are noticing. One reviewer said, "It is refreshing to find an author for whom being attracted to someone doesn't instantly equal sex."

    Stick to your morals and let your characters stick to theirs.

    1. btw - Just finished The Breeders and I recommend it highly. I was thoroughly engaged. Thanks for a great read, Katie French!

  14. Katie writes wonderful. Very Informative post for me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I really impressed by your post. feel very similar on this topic but have some new ideas also. :)

    ~ Lina

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