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How spicy is too spicy for YA books?

Updated: 4 days ago

The rules have changed for young adult books these days. Gone are the days where if you were to categorise a book as YA, it had to have a teenaged character, and it had to be clean, meaning it contained little or no sex, swearing, drugs, etc.

While in some areas of the world, books are being censored and banned, the whole demographic of what is included in YA has changed.

For example, Sarah J. Maas’ books: A Court of Thorns and Roses and Crescent City contain a few spicy moments and were initially classified as young adult, although they now fall under the fantasy banner.

I was raised in a strict catholic household, so when I first started writing, the books I read and what I was told and was considered YA, were very different to what is considered YA now. But that is just my observation as an author, looking at YA fiction as a whole and studying it.

That’s not to say that kids who grew up in the seventies and eighties were reading clean and wholesome YA books.

In fact, it’s the opposite. I’ve seen quite a few people online say they read Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews at age 13. It was even prescribed in high school English classes!

No way would this have happened at my catholic high school!

I’m not a prude when it comes to sex and spice in YA books, or adult books. I love a good spicy fantasy romance like the next person. These are just my observations in how the landscape for YA fiction has changed over the years.

I’ve found that its more acceptable these days to slip in some spicy scenes in YA books. For example, in my Summervale series, my characters participate in underage drinking, sex, (there’s even a sneaky BJ), and they swear.

When I wrote New adult, which is where the characters are college age, they are out in the world, of legal age, etc, and I could explore my characters participating in spicy sexy situations and drinking, etc. I’m sure my fellow YA writers can agree that there is more freedom writing spice in New Adult than YA. However, I’ve seen more and more YA authors writing more adult fantasy, or spicier YA books lately, and their readers don’t seem to mind. And this is very freeing as a writer; not having to hold back as much.

But that’s not to say I don’t still enjoy reading cleaner YA stories. I will write what my readers want and write my characters as they speak to me.

If you are a YA reader, do you prefer your books to be clean or bring a little spice? Let us know in the comments.

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