Taboo Topics in YA Literature
by Eva Márquez
Explicit sex. Drug-use. Severe violence. These are the top three taboo subjects, in my opinion, which many YA enthusiasts prefer not to see in what is perceived to be a ‘light hearted’ genre for older children and adults. In essence, these can be considered taboo subjects by many YA lit lovers; however, there are YA consumers that are more tolerant of serious and ‘real life’ subject matter in the YA genre. Let’s demystify the explicit sex taboo in YA literature first.
Many YA readers believe that explicit sex should not be included in YA lit and if it is included then the inclusion of such a subject renders the book adult literature. The nature of the sex is important. For instance, my debut novel Sweetest Taboo does not include overly graphic sex scenes but does include one or two instances where a sexual encounter is described tastefully. Nevertheless, some YA readers feel that the type of sex, in this case sex between a student and a teacher, will dictate the genre of the book. I, however, disagree. My experience with YA literature extends back to the mid-80s when I began devouring the VC Andrews Flower in the Attic series. I was perhaps 13 at the time and reading what was then considered YA literature, a series of books that included sex between a brother and sister. The scenes were not overly graphic, but as a 13 year old I was definitely aware of what was being described in the book. I firmly believe that if sex is treated realistically and tastefully in a book that is YA classified (i.e. a book that is written from the perspective and voice of a young adult/teen), then explicit sex should cease to be considered a taboo topic in YA lit.
As for drug-use and severe violence, many believe these should not be included in YA lit and if included, again, the book ceases to exist in the YA genre and should be classified as adult fiction. As I’ve argued in several other posts, young adults (primarily those 14 and older) are exposed to many of these taboo topics in their day-to-day lives. Young adults are faced with many unpleasant situations in their lives. Teens may have friends with drug-abuse problems, or they know someone that was depressed and attempted suicide, maybe they have friends who have been molested, raped, or physically abused by relatives or boyfriends. Sheltering young adults from literature that contains mature subject matter is not doing them a service, but rather these young adults miss out on the opportunity to learn about how others address these difficult issues in their lives, how they cope, how they seek help and how they overcome obstacles. Life is not always as pleasant as we would like and by providing young adults with realistic literary content, teens venture beyond vampires and fairy tales to learn how to cope with life’s trials and tribulations, and also learn from the mistakes characters make throughout any given story. In Sweetest Taboo we learn where Isabel went astray, we see the exact choices she made that sent her down a very dangerous path. In She’s Come Undone, we learn to recognize the signs of eating disorders and the importance of self-worth. There are so many rich lessons to be learned in our young literary journeys, why limit the opportunities of self-discovery by labeling mature content as taboo?
Thank you Eva, for a wonderful and informative post and for visiting with us today.
Visit her website at: http://www.eva-marquez.com/
*From the author’s website*
Publication: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Terra-Mía Press
Retail Price: $11.99 / $7.99 eBook
Page Count: 296
Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they started dating, and 16 when she lost her virginity to him. By the time she turned 18 and went to college, everything had fallen apart. This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends, or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student, but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
*** 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist ***
*** 2013 London Book Festival Honorable Mention (YA Fiction ) ***
*** 2013 Los Angeles Book Festival Runner Up (YA Fiction) ***
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