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View Full Version : Risque issues (sort of piggyback)



Ilovepensandpaper
01-02-2007, 04:05 AM
Has anyone written a YA novel that has sexual abuse, gay/lesbian issues, and other risque issues, or is at least thinking about that? I grew up on Sweet Valley High, and I just couldn't relate to life being so...clean. I mean, I knew drugged out kids, kids who got drunk, kids who got pregnant - the whole nine. I tried writing like SVH, but it was so lifeless. There is your 16th birthday, your first date, your first crush, and many other things, but those are not the only things in teenagers' lives. I queaky clean story is boring, and it is hard to write.
I hear on tv many times of teaching children the correct terms for body parts, so I will keep that advice. I guess I don't want to do the young adults struggling in the world a disservice. Any advice is wonderful, and I will have to pick up the 'dummies' book for YA novels. Pretty sure there will be more tips and stuff. Thanks.

giftedrhonda
01-02-2007, 04:08 AM
I've read YA where the sexual abuse and gay/lesbian issues have been a subplot. But I know there are also books where these are the main issue. YA can range anywhere from clean to very edgy.

Best advice I have for you - go to the library and ask the YA librarian what kids are checking out. Read those books - see what appeals to readers. Also peruse Publisher's Weekly (I get the daily lunch emails) - they tell you what YA has just been bought so you can not only see what's out in print now, you can see what will be out in print.

Rhonda

Cassidy
01-02-2007, 07:36 AM
hi,

my YA novel (coming out next fall) has a queer character and another who is unsure about her sexuality. one character (who is not queer) discloses past sexual abuse by an uncle, although this is not a major focus in the book. the story also touches on issues of self-harm and eating disorders.

having said all that, it's not a book about any of these issues- they are things that are present in the lives of the characters but they are not what the story is about.

i'd say write what you want to write. there's a huge range of books that fall under YA and so there should be.

-cassidy

moondance
01-02-2007, 02:06 PM
YA has changed a LOT since SVH. Go to your local library and borrow some books written in the last five years - you might be surprised what sort of topics they cover. Basically, anything goes in YA these days!

kwwriter
01-02-2007, 11:43 PM
hi,

i'd say write what you want to write. there's a huge range of books that fall under YA and so there should be.

-cassidy

I agree. Writing for yourself ensures a certain level of satisfaction regardless of the final status of your work ( ie pubbed or unpubbed ) And the posters are correct: the range is wide for YA and changing faster than any other genre.

Grey Malkin
01-04-2007, 02:35 PM
Ilovepensandpaper,

I read your message and immediately thought you sound exactly the sort of person who should be writing for the Young Adult market. There is a big difference between mid-range and Young Adult.

Gay and lesbian, as primary plotlines, might limit your audience for that particular novel, but I certainly wouldn't advise against writing it (Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan). Drugs, abuse, teenage sex, pregnancy, disease - basically pain and misery - are all suitable subjects, but it has to have a damn good story to carry the reader. You can't survive on subject alone.

Grey

kwwriter
01-05-2007, 01:16 AM
You can't survive on subject alone.

Grey

Good advice for ANY writer.

janetbellinger
01-05-2007, 01:32 AM
I don't know that much about it but I do believe that the plot should come first and personal situation second. I don't see a homosexual as being risque or a teenager who does drugs or is pregnant etc. But if you are going to make the story about that, it might not fly. I think all these issues should just provide the background to the main plot.

emsuniverse
01-10-2007, 10:30 AM
Write what's real. Please. When I was in high school, I picked the books that were more true to life than the ones that could have been made into a Disney movie. Be creative, be bold and, most of all, be real!

skelly
01-20-2007, 02:05 PM
I guess this post fits here best ... if I'm wrong some one will no doubt tell me. I have the following line of dialogue, from an ignorant bully who will provide conflict for my MC's throughout the entire story.

“Yeah, we live out that way too,” pinch-face called after him. “Ain’t no ghosts out there nowhere. You might wanna tell your little N-WORD friend to mind his own business.”

Of course, he actually uses the "n" word, and he will probably have to make a few other off-hand racist remarks in order to stay in character. Is this over the top, in anyone's opinion. I suppose it wouldn't be that hard to cut it and avoid the whole issue, but there is a certain racial undertone in this rural setting, and that is how I imagine this dork talking. Just wondered what you folks think. If I seem to be hijacking the thread, I apologize. It is unintended.

moondance
01-20-2007, 03:00 PM
Skelly, if you go to the top of the board, you will see a button called 'New Thread' - this way you can start your own topic if you want.

As regards your dilemma though, I don't have a problem with it - particularly if there is a reaction from your characters to the use of the word. The message is then clear to the reader that this remark was intentionally racist. There are racist people in the world, and you are quite at liberty to put one in your story. Put it in exactly as you want and then argue it with a publisher later.

Swear words and racist comments will not prevent a publisher expressing interest if they like the story. They may simply ask you to make some changes. At that point you can consider your options - but don't compromise yourself before sending it out. There's time for negotiation about that sort of thing later ;)

skelly
01-20-2007, 03:12 PM
Great advice moondance. Thank you. It works fine in context, but, as you correctly guessed, I was worried that an editor might bounce me for it. Appreciate the response.

Bonnie Shimko
01-22-2007, 04:54 PM
My first novel, Letters in the Attic, is a mother/daughter story told by a budding lesbian narrator.

My new novel, Kat's Promise, deals with sexual and emotional abuse, alcoholism, death of a parent, and some other pretty big hurdles Kat has to deal with.

Sonarbabe
01-28-2007, 01:27 AM
This thread has been VERY helpful to me already. Please forgive me for hijacking this thread, but this seemed like the perfect place to ask this question.

I, too, grew up with SVH and have a budding series that I would like to see published, but the issues I deal with are more risque. (Think modern day Hardy Boys meets SVH) Mine deals with drinking, smoking (two of the MC smokes and are constantly being ragged for it), death of a friend and the main concern I had.... One story dealt with rape. I do NOT go into graphic detail, the bad guy(s) is/are caught and the primary focus of the story is more about friendship and healing. I need this story to further other ones in the series, but do you think that this is pushing the limit a little too much and no publisher will touch it? Any help would be appreciated.

KiraOnWhite
01-28-2007, 03:28 AM
Squeaky clean books are just plain boring. YA audiences should read books which help them deal with real life issues that can turn out to be serious, they gay/lesbian thing proves to be one of them. Then, due to the demands of society, drugs have been getting common as of late and cases of schizorephenic(?).

Friendship and the likes as the theme of the good ain't so bad. In fact, its nice to finally read something without romance. Personally, I think romance is the thing that ruins the teens nowadays...the ones I grew up reading creates a false implication on it, as if its really the 'happily every after' staple. Good luck with your book, I as a teen, would love to read it someday. ^_^

moondance
01-28-2007, 01:54 PM
Sonarbabe, rape is perfectly acceptable in YA these days. You are using it as a plot device and sound as though in the context it works fine. The only hesitation I would have with using a rape story is that rape is always difficult to prove, and even if 'the bad guy is caught' there is no guarantee that he'll be convicted of his crime unless you have a witness or something that counts as concrete evidence. So the fallout from a case going to court could be potentially more devastating than the rape itself.

If I were to include a rape in one of my books, I might even be inclined to have the victim keep quiet about it because of the fear of a court case and her own sense of guilt about it (was I asking for it? did I say 'no' loudly enough? etc). Remember, YA doesn't have to have a hearts and flowers ending - teens can take the idea that life isn't fair sometimes.

However, publishers can sometimes be wary of controversial themes and ideas. But I guess your agent (if/when you get one) would know which ones to avoid due to the subject matter.

Sonarbabe
01-29-2007, 01:37 AM
Thank you, moondance! I was really concerned about it. I've been working on this series for a long time and in this Harry Potter crazed world, I know there will eventually be a place for my "old school-ish" stories. ;) And you just made me feel better about it! Thanks again!

ChumleyK
01-29-2007, 06:29 AM
To go back to the original question about sexual abuse or gay/lesbian issues in young adult: I think the main difference between young adult and adult books with the same theme is that young adult books are less graphic. They might imply sex, but I don't think they would go into the sexual detail that you might see in an adult novel sex scene. I might be wrong on that, but most young adult novels I can think of off hand are less graphic than the adult novels I read.

Also, I think it's important to keep whatever you put into your book in context with the way the character would view it. A sheltered character will see things differently from a character who has experienced more.

Sonarbabe
01-29-2007, 05:36 PM
They might imply sex, but I don't think they would go into the sexual detail that you might see in an adult novel sex scene. I might be wrong on that, but most young adult novels I can think of off hand are less graphic than the adult novels I read.

Also, I think it's important to keep whatever you put into your book in context with the way the character would view it. A sheltered character will see things differently from a character who has experienced more.

You make an excellent point. In the stories I've written, my characters have had sex, but it's elluded to and never shown. The most I've ever shown is kissing and the fact that they admitted to their friends that yes, they did have sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend.

skelly
02-04-2007, 06:46 PM
Well, since I last posted to this thread I've managed to include--in addition to racism and racial epithets--teen sex (consensual), child molestation, teen pregnancy, incest, self-mutilation, three dead bodies, tampon dispensers, a box of condoms, and more foul-mouthed-but-lovable teenagers than Stephen King could shake a stick at. I'm starting to think that if I actually sell this book to my intended target, I'll be outraged. Happy, but outraged. :)

blackholly
02-05-2007, 04:15 AM
At the Nebulas last year, Andre Norton finalist Susan Vaught (http://www.susanvaught.moonfruit.com) said that there were only two things you couldn't do in YA -- bestiality and boring.

As soon as she said it, hands shot up with examples of bestiality.

skelly
02-05-2007, 12:54 PM
At the Nebulas last year, Andre Norton finalist Susan Vaught (http://www.susanvaught.moonfruit.com) said that there were only two things you couldn't do in YA -- bestiality and boring.

As soon as she said it, hands shot up with examples of bestiality.
:ROFL: That's encouraging. And I need all I can get. Nice to meet you.

TsukiRyoko
02-05-2007, 01:10 PM
As far as YA fiction goes, I've only seen watered down or candy coated examples of these issues. As for YA non-fiction, however, I've seena wide array of books covering these issues. Gay/lesbian is quite popular among the risque issues, as well as teen pregnancy, sexual and physical abuse, and drugs.

skelly
02-05-2007, 01:41 PM
As far as YA fiction goes, I've only seen watered down or candy coated examples of these issues. As for YA non-fiction, however, I've seena wide array of books covering these issues. Gay/lesbian is quite popular among the risque issues, as well as teen pregnancy, sexual and physical abuse, and drugs.
Dammit. I knew I was forgetting one. Thanks! :D

alainn_chaser
10-07-2007, 12:01 AM
I actually started a thread asking about this sort of thing before I saw this one. Whoops. I think you're fine personally. I completely agree about your very clean books as they end to be very dull.

There is one author who does write a lot about gay/lesbian issues and while I forget her name (Peters?...) she wrote Keeping You A Secret.

Hope that helps. :)