Book Discussion: Things I’d Like to See More of in YA

So recently on Twitter there has been a few discussions going around about things that need to be in YA books more. I’ve been a YA reader for 5-7 years and in that time I’ve not seen much growth in terms of content that I think should be in books

One thing I hate about YA, is that it’s supposed to be FOR young adults, but gets policed by adults. There are so many things I have dealt with and my friends have dealt with as teenagers that never translated into books, and I think it’s a lot to do with adult authors thinking thats “too messy” for teens. But that’s such a joke! This is OUR genre and it should deal with the things we deal with too. So here is some things I want to see more of in YA and why

1: Swearing

This is such an obvious one and it needs to be in books more. Nothing shits me more then when adult authors say they won’t include swearing because it’s “not good for kids to read”. NEWS FLASH YOU FUCKS teenagers swear ! Sometimes a lot ! I personally just find it really condescending not to include swearing because “uwu don’t let the kids know swearing exists”. Teenagers are not children, and lots of us swear to express our emotions. I think that YA should definitely include more swearing, I’m sorry but it’s realistic and deals with teenagers as they are, not in an idealised way.

2: More realistic sex

The sex in YA is …. weird. If an author wants to do a fade to black, I am totally on board with that. I understand not being comfortable writing sex. BUT, if you are going to write a sex scene I think they need to be more realistic and less perfect. Everytime I read a sex scene in YA, it’s always focussed on how perfect and amazing and healing and fulfilling the experience is. There’s no awkwardness, there’s no discomfort or pain or even anything messy. I think it’s super unrealistic, sets a really dumb expectation and needs to be improved on A LOT. Cam @justabookeater_ did a great thread about sex on Twitter that I agree with 1000%. I’d like to see more sex that involves foreplay, or sex toys, contraception/condoms, lube ?? Aftercare? PEEING AFTER SEX.  Where is all this. If you’re going to write for teenagers, it might be 1: educational for them and 2: not setting unrealistic expectations. Like I’d just like to see more awkwardness because thats NATURAL and it’s OKAY to be awkward. Give me people struggling to get clothes off, people making awkward jokes, nervous laughter. GIVE IT TO ME.

Look, I get sex can be uncomfy to write, and writing this perfect ethereal experience with no mess can ease that discomfort, but I think realism in this area is important, and also, all this can be beautiful and romantic and fulfilling and ALSO realistic.

3: Masturbation

Hell yeah, sticking with the sex theme lets talk about masturbation. First of all, can y’all just get over yourselves and admit we all do it. Okay. Good. Now lets write it into our books. Male masturbation and ESPECIALLY female masturbation. Masturbating actually has health benefits and can help people explore sexually in a safe and controlled environment where all boundaries are set by themselves, so I think we should be writing it more. Normalising masturbation and presenting it as something that it’s dirty or stigmatised is super important, imo!

4: Drinking

For me in high school, drinking culture and party culture was probably the biggest issue at school. The legal drinking age in Australia is 18, but the fact is by 14/15 people in my year group were regularly drinking and by 16/17 basically everyone was.

The legal drinking age in America is 21, so I get there is a demographic shift there, but I think drinking should be explored more. I think YA lit could potentially have a big platform to educate and explore drinking and how it can be fun, and a great experience and socially rewarding, but also dangerous and stressful at times.

At school, one of the best talks we ever had was on Alcohol. The guy who spoke to us didn’t come in and tell us not to drink, he didn’t tell us how we would All Die From Having One Alcoholic Drink like other speeches I’d been too. Instead, he said “look, I know that you guys are going to parties. Lets talk about how to be safe” Those lessons he taught us are things I’ve actually taken into the real world and used.

I think YA could be something similar. Drinking is rarely present in YA – and when it is it’s on an extreme. There’s  the “I had one drink and now I’m drunk” approach, which can be seen in both Becky Albertalli’s books, for example. And the, “I went to a party, someone died and alcohol is evil”. I am not disputing danger stories can’t exist, but we need a balance. The fact is there are plenty of teenagers going to parties, getting drunk and not dying. I’d like to see that more. Drinking is fun and exciting, especially if alcohol makes you less shy. I just wish drinking could be explored more comprehensively instead of through weird and unrealistic scare plots.

I also think drugs can come under here and should be explored too.

5: Less romance

On the other end of the spectrum, I’d love more characters that aren’t dating or thinking about romance in high school. The “high school sweetheart” concept is kind of a myth! Plenty of people don’t date in high school ! Maybe they didn’t want to, didn’t find someone to date, didn’t think about that. Whatever! I think more books that are just about people living their life and not pressuring themselves or their friends to be in relationships would be good.

On top of this, more aro/ace representation would be great.

6: Hobbies

So often I read contemporaries and the main character has literally no hobbies. Hello, teenagers DO THINGS. There are so many clubs and societies and sports and other things to be involved in as a teenager. Where’s the teenagers on the school netball or soccer teams? Where is the debate kids? The theatre kids? Chess club? Cooking club? Where is the designers, the readers, the artists, the gym junkies, the bloggers, the sports fans, the shoppers, the fishers, the beach rats? WHERE WHERE WHERE

In high school, my extracurriculars and hobbies were a massive deal because they were the only thing breaking up the monotony of going to school in and out everyday. Spending a day shopping, or the opening weekend of a theatre production, or having debating after school were big deals. They required planning, shifting homework around, communicating with friends and most importantly were one of the main social outlets.

On top of this, working after school and on weekends is a big part of the Teen Years too and should be in books more too.

7: Siblings

Um hello, not everyone is an only child ! When you’re a teenager, you’re most likely living with your annoying siblings and that it’s a really important and formative relationship. Books which ignore the siblings annoy me so much, they are always there and are such a central part of the family and you as a person. I spend tonnes of time with my sisters, if it’s just getting food or going to a movie or whatever. I’d like to see more siblings hanging out, but also sibling fights and dumb disagreements.

Also, siblings don’t have to be biological. Foster or adopted siblings, live-in cousins, friends who became siblings and all other types of families exist. WRITE THEM.

8: Driving!

The final thing I’m gonna put down is driving. In Australia, and I think America, you can learn to drive when you’re 16. The process of learning to drive was the biggest deal in high school. It was beyond exciting when someone passed their drivers test and could drive alone. My final two years of school is basically one long slew of after school McDonalds trips facilitated by whichever of my friends had their car at school that day.

Driving is an exciting and new experience. You get the freedom of being able to go places solo. But I’d love to see some of the annoying stuff about it too. Working your ass off to pay for the fuel, having to save up for years to even BUY the car.

Driving was a huge part of my older high school years and honestly if people could drive, what they drove, where they’d driven, and how many times it took them to pass the driving test was a Big Deal.

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Those are eight things I’d like to see more of in YA. I think that there are so many facets of teenage life that is ignored or glossed over in YA and I’d like to see it more heavily explored.

What do you think should be included in books more?

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12 thoughts on “Book Discussion: Things I’d Like to See More of in YA

  1. This was SO GOOD. I especially agree with your points on sex, masturbation, less romance and hobbies. I think showing realistic sex and realistic dating lives is extremely important, instead of sex always being amazing and romantic relationships always being the happily-ever-afters. I feel like YA books should include more break ups also, they are so important to realistically portray. I don’t think I’ve read a single YA book with masturbation in it, and that’s sad, really. And of course, hobbies! I hate it when sometimes authors just mention a hobby of the MC, like reading books, but it never really comes up throughout the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you agree! And yeah, relationships in life and books don’t match up at all and thats such a bad thing. I didn’t think of breakups but that should definitely be on there! I’ve only read one or two with masturbation but it was both male mcs not female, it’s something I’d like to see way more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this is a Good Post, these are all spot on!! especially driving, I’ve genuinely never thought about how little I’ve seen that mentioned in teen books, especially since in high school it feels like such a marker of maturity? also as an American I can confirm that high school age kids drink plenty over here despite our bullshit law (which is really a whole other issue I could go off about…)

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    1. I totally forgot to mention periods and I’m salty because it SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE. Totally unrealistic no ones fighting over tampons in the dystopian future. And yeah the only 2 books with masturbation I’ve read have been male mcs

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm I might actually do that 👀 I’ve had a few ideas thrown my way in the comments for this post. I’m pretty sure the two books I’ve read it in were ready Player one and history is all you left me and I think it was pretty throw away in them

        Liked by 1 person

  3. OH MY GOSH ALLLLLLL OF THESE!! i could seriously not agree more on this list jamie. i’m hoping to see more YA books in the future featuring some of these! plus, what tova said before me. THE PERIOD THING. in conclusion, yes yes yes YES to everything in this post!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SECONDED. I feel like I’ve never noticed how little safe driving there is in YA? But you’re right, literally 98% of driving I’ve seen in YA leads to some accident and a PSA about texting while driving because ALL TEENAGERS TEXT WHILE DRIVING AND IT LEADS TO DEATH BLAH BLAH BLAH.

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