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Young Adult writing, guns, racism…. and Boobs.

Posted by Charles Gray on January 10, 2012

Stephanie Faris makes a very good point in her post about sex in Young Adult books.  It’s well written and I think points out a fact that all writers need to consider– target audiences are shifting.  As a substitute teacher, I’ve seen kids reading Twilight at age 10, and Lewis and Clancy at not much older.  Equally, in a changing market it’s important to avoid limiting the audience.

But there’s another factor here, one that goes beyond sex, and it’s the simple fact that children, even facing children, to say nothing of teenagers, have far more access to the world around them than we do.  Some teens have video and internet pals across the world– I know one girl who talks via internet and video chat with friends in Israel– and the West Bank.  She is, far more than I ever was, aware of the problems of the Middle East, whenever her Palestinian friend speaks of problems with the settlers, or her Israeli friend speaks of the tensions and fear she experiences whenever a rocket comes sailing over the  border– her contact is personal.

We get the same today when you can watch youtube video’s or face book postings about the tsunami in Japan, or more locally about someone being bullied via the internet.  Like it or not, children and teens are exposed to, and aware of far more than we were, and that includes sex.  Go to deviant art, and you’ll see examples of artwork and images that not too long ago would have been, if a teen had them at all, a deeply hidden (or at least we hoped they were hidden) cache in the bedroom.  Today, you can get it on the internet, and I’m picking DA for a reason- it’s actually quite mild compared to what else you can find.

Now, this doesn’t mean that YA writers should cheer and start writing sentences that start with “His pulsating Piston of Power,”  but you’ll have to accept that in the modern world of youtube and texting, kids, some of them quite young, may know a lot more about the world, and the dark places of the world, then earlier generations may have.  They may be more willing to talk about it, at least to their friends, and that means that the books they read had better talk about it as well.



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