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Let’s Talk Bookish – Sexual Content in YA

It’s time for another Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. This is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky at Eternity Books. This week’s topic is, Is there too much sexual content in YA?

I read a lot of YA, but the books I choose don’t tend to have a lot of sexual content. At least not sexually explicit content. I guess Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas is considered YA, and that does have sexual content, but, outside of that, I can’t really think of many books that I’ve read that have sexual content. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much contemporary; is that where all the sexual content is?

However, that being said, I don’t think there’s too much content in YA and not because I’m not coming across it. While I completely sympathize with people who don’t want to read about sex, sexual tension, or romance, when I was a kid, that’s exactly what I wanted to read. I read Forever by Judy Blume when I was in fifth or sixth grade because I knew it had sex in it. When my parents left me alone at home, I went through the adult books in the house looking for sex scenes. My library checked out any book to anyone, and when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I checked out a romance book. Even before the sex started, I knew it was the type of book I was looking for because of the sensual descriptions of clothing.

Many kids are interested in sex, and many kids don’t have access to healthy depictions of sex. Their parents either won’t talk to them about it and/or give them rotten information. Books with sexual content are the only place they’ll get an education. I mean, yes, in reality they’re going online and looking at porn and talking to their friends who are as badly educated as they are, but if they can read a book that depicts a sexual relationship and it’s consequences, isn’t that better?

Judy Blume wrote Forever in 1975 because the only books out there about teenagers having sex ended in tragedy. Her daughter wanted to read something more realistic or at least different. (Side note: I have no proof that’s why she wrote it; I believe I read that many years ago somewhere, but don’t quote me on it). So, Blume wrote a book about teens having sex and detailed (or at least soft-focused) the sex scenes. And while those scenes were incredibly cringey (the guy named his penis Ralph, and I pictured a penis wearing tiny glasses), they showed fairly realistic sex between two inexperienced people. And, how just because you have sex, it doesn’t mean your relationship is going to last. But it doesn’t mean your life is going to be ruined, either.

So, I think sexual content in YA is important. It seems that most YA depicts healthy relationships that focus on consent and protection and the consequences of rushing into things unprepared. I think of how hugely important Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was in not only portraying gay relationships, but realistically dealt with the consequences for one of the characters when he took risky chances.

Again, not everyone wants to read sexual content. But I also think there’s enough diversity in YA to satisfy everyone.

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Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Michael has just started a new school: St. Clare’s Catholic school. The only problem is, he’s an atheist. When a girl in his theology class challenges the teacher, he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit. However the girl, Lucy, proves to be a devote Catholic, and Michael despairs until she confesses her secret: she’s part of a club called Heretics Anonymous, a group of eclectic outcasts who feel stifled by the schools strict rules.

With Michael’s prodding, HA moves from strictly a group to gripe about their situation to one that takes action and tries to change the stifling climate at school. But when Michael takes it too far, he has to find a way to reconcile with his friends, family, the faculty, but, most of all, his conscience.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read with very engaging characters and an interesting plot. I identified with Michael and his problems fitting in to his conservative surroundings. He was rash and thoughtless, but had a good heart and his actions were always understandable.

I also really liked Lucy. Her faith and the way she talked about it was compelling. I’m not religious in any way, but I love when characters talk about faith in a way that sparks something in me. Lucy did that. She has faith, but it isn’t that of a blind, unquestioning variety; she challenges and researches and knows what she’s talking about. Faith and religion are a living, breathing thing to her, and it makes her an interesting character.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, thought-provoking read that discusses religion and faith without proselytizing or mocking it.

Four out of five stars