What is the appropriate heat level for YA romance?

We’re loving the monthly themes here at AO&R and we really hope you are too. If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like us to cover, please suggest away in the comments or on our facebook page. We’re always open to ideas. Anyways, the month of June is all about romance. So hold on tight so as not to get swept away in the swoon-fest!

It’s a widely known fact that many readers of YA are more ‘young at heart’ than actual young adults. Not speaking for myself of course … 😛 Okay, okay, so I’m totally a mum to one, almost two, real young adults. My little bookworms’ emergence into teenhood has brought with it an unexpected element and a new way of looking at YA books. Where I once devoured anything with so much as a sniff of romance, turning pages until I reached that happily ever after, I often now evaluate as I read. Thinking about books in terms of heat levels and other age appropriate issues. I know, I know. It totally ruins the reading experience.

Many people (including some parents) don’t see the sexiness of a book as an issue when it comes to young readers. In fact, they don’t know that there are different heat levels. They believe that if the book is in the YA section of a bookstore or library then it’s suitable. But as a reader / writer of this category I’ve realised that there is a rather large heat difference between publishers, individual libraries, and especially online bookstore categories (think Amazon and iBooks). Not easy for the cautious parent to navigate.

My teen is thirteen, the other twelve, and although they both know all about the birds and the bees, reading about it in a novel setting is a whole other thing. Neither of them are ready for that. One isn’t even ready to read a make out scene. Eww — girls. 😛  You see, when we read an image plays out in our heads, and it often has more impact than watching a scene that is ‘told’ via a screen. This is because we create the visual, using pictures familiar to us and becoming the main character. Essentially living the scene with them. So, these images are lasting and on a developing brain can have a psychological impact.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess that is why most traditional publishers recommend YA for 12+ and most have restrictions on levels of sexiness within their books.

I’ll never forget the first sex scene I read. I was sixteen. It was in John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began and barely lasted a few paragraphs. At the time I felt so naughty and grown up, but looking back now those scenes are very tame and very age appropriate. That book was written before YA was a thing, but it still holds the familiar depth of romance we see in many traditionally published books for the young adult market.

Since becoming an author I’ve learned that most of the big 5 publishers love romance in their YA books, but their kissing and make out scenes are restricted to far less detail than we’d find in a new adult or an adult book. Sex scenes, likewise are okay, but generally not in a blow by blow account. As a parent, this is a relief. It sure makes vetting appropriate books far easier.

I know not all children are the same and some may not need censoring, but my precious, empathetic souls do. Being advanced readers doesn’t make it easy to choose books, but we’re stumbling through this together.

Stay tuned for part two — a more in depth look at YA in libraries — coming up later this month.

What about you — what heat level to you think is appropriate in YA books?

Stacey Nash writes YA and some sexier books that fall under the NA banner. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries not to only romance), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

 

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