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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Sexuality in teen lit part 2

I recently interviewed several prominent novelists about their take on the young adult genre, asking them, among other things, what elements a young adult novel should include, what teens like to read, and how they deal with an aging readership.

The answers I received were quite surprising. I’ll repost the article here once it’s found a home.

During my interviews, I squeezed in a few questions about sex, hoping to gain some insight on the subject to follow on from my last blog about sexuality in teen lit.

The question is quite an important one for me. In my latest book (no date yet, sorry folks) one of my characters is in a serious relationship. I had to decide whether or not to include an intimate scene where things got a little hot and heavy, and if I did, how far I should take it.

Cecily von Ziegesar taken by Augusta Sagnelli

One author who isn’t afraid to go there is Cecily von Ziegesar, who penned the ultra-successful Gossip Girl series which has been re-invented as a popular television series.

Surprisingly, Cecily believes sex is irrelevant. “Romance is what’s most important,” she says. “When two seventeen year olds have been in love since kindergarten, sex is a natural result, and it’s very romantic when it finally happens.”

She is also a firm believer in not lecturing her readers in her books. “I’m not going to lecture anyone in my fiction. My characters will make all the same mistakes real people make,” she says.

I’ve always thought of my characters as real people, so Cecily’s advice makes sense. Letting them evolve on their own is a sure-fire way of creating characters that are both believable, and most importantly, relatable to readers.

Richelle Mead

I also contacted Richelle Mead, who is closing in on Stephanie Meyer to take the crown as queen of vampire romance fiction. The highly anticipated final book in her Vampire Academy series, Last Sacrifice, is due to be released in December. No doubt it will be a quadruple best seller, just like the rest.

Richelle says the use of sex should depend on where the story is heading, and shouldn’t be included just to make the book seem flashy. “Sex may play a major part or no part at all. What’s important is that if sex is there, it’s necessary for the story,” she says.

She offers similar advice for addressing teenage issues and like Cecily, believes an author shouldn’t lecture her readers. “If any issues come up as part of the story, then I address them in a realistic way that fits with the plot and the characters,” she says.

So in other words, instead of inserting a scene with the purpose of addressing issues like sex or drugs, rather let the story progress naturally. At the end of the day, teens, just like adults, want to be entertained, not preached to, which is the best advice anyone can give.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    September 10th, 2010 @22:14 #

    Richelle Mead looks like she should be a member of the Cullen family ;)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    September 12th, 2010 @14:40 #

    It's interesting, Sally, how characters become embodied entities. Why wouldn't they have sex and why shouldn't we write about them as an integral extension of the narrative? And, why, would anyone want to preach in a novel. If you want to preach, go to seminary.

  • ar
    September 13th, 2010 @16:02 #

    As a teen, I read unhindered wherever the family bookshelves or the library took me. I don’t remember it being as simple as wanting-to-be-entertained/objecting-to-being-preached-at. I don’t remember ever not finishing a good book on the grounds that it didn’t have sex in it/did have sex in it either, although I certainly did get my fair share of That Page from Princess Daisy. Eventually That Page came loose entirely, as I remember, and did the rest of its tattered travels round the back of the prefabs on its own, without its book. I wonder if it was aimed at teens? It wasn’t a good book.

    If it’s a good book it’s a good book.

    But those two kids Cecily mentioned, who’d been in love since kindergarten and waited ‘til they were seventeen before they had sex, that not only cracked me up, it also sounded a bit preachy.


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