The pressure comes from that very fine line between Young Adult and New Adult books. Let me be clear that I’m a New Adult addict. I LOVE them, read more NA than YA, and couldn’t be more thrilled for the success of some of those indie and traditionally published ladies out there who have truly become pioneers in the New Adult market. Yet, as much as I read New Adult, I can’t write it. My voice is a sixteen year old’s, and my writing genre is definitely YA.
The industry has very clear definitions of what constitutes YA vs. NA. New Adult is based on characters between 18 and 24 and explores the tumultuous aspects of that age group, many of which are related to sex and intimacy. Still, my current anxiety springs from the fact that many sixteen year olds are grabbing up New Adult books like crazy, and some writers are even being classified as YA/New Adult in order to attract the younger market.
To relieve some of the pressure of having to add a dash more fondling and a pinch more nudity, I came across this awesomely thought-provoking article by librarian Kelly Jensen from Bookstacked. Kelly says:
Sex in YA is important, but sex in YA is not about being a steamy affair nor about being explicit and adult. It's about being awkward, about being confusing and scary, about being really huge experience that can be horrible or can be really amazing. There's an incredible range of experiences and exploring that within YA is perfectly acceptable and possible. But the key is it is about that exploration. Teen sexual situations are not, however, adult nor are they erotic.
As a YA writer, I find this viewpoint comforting because I still get to make my characters romantic, sexual beings without making any of them as over-the-top as Christian Grey. As a 42 year old reading New Adult, I understand what’s happening there. I like how fresh and new it feels because I remember that time in my life. But for a sixteen year old, reading this material could reinforce false precepts about what sex is and could create, for some girls, insecurities about how they should be acting sexually in the same way stick-thin models on the cover of fashion magazines have dictated to girls how they should look.
YA books exist to address the very embarrassing, mortifying, OMG-ing, first-kiss, first-love, frustrating, misunderstood, traumatic, rebellious, defining, BFF, mad-mad-world moments that occur during a teens life. New Adult books are by their very moniker adult books, and getting too graphic in YA books in order to come close to that NA line cheats teens out of stories specifically about them and for them.
On that note, I have a novel to finish. It is far from erotic but I have to believe, for the sake of my characters and for the teens I write for, that it is no less valuable in the market.