Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll – why too taboo for YA?

You know, I had a bit of downtime today (and when I say downtime, I mean early this morning when I was able to concentrate for a few hours on my books and marketing) and I was taking a look around the place. And by place I mean the internet. And I was looking at books in particular. So I was looking at books on the internet (research, really, not procrastinating – I swear).

There’s a lot of books out there, especially Young Adult books. I mean, the market is just so oversaturated with them, yet they all seem to find a home in someone’s bookshelf. They all deal with a range of topics…some are straight forward high school. Some are paranormal. Some are dystopian. Very few deal with a young adult outside of high school. My series, Experiment in Terror, does…I mean, just because you are 22-years old (as Perry Palomino is), it doesn’t mean you’re an “adult” adult. I mean, I myself turn 30 in, oh, 10 days and I certainly don’t feel like one.

Anyway, that was one big difference I noticed with my books. Perry is a young, confused woman, not quite an adult but not a teen. She’s no longer in high school – hell, she’s no longer in college either – but a lot of her hangups and her dicey past revolve around her vaguely described high school years. This combination creates a series of novels that have a decidedly YA feel to them, yet aren’t written for high schoolers. The Experiment in Terror Series is kind of an enigma, just floating around with components that can be pulled into any genre…YA, horror, adult, paranormal romance, thriller, suspense, supernatural, urban fantasy. I think it works, the fact that it can shapeshift according to the reader, but it also makes it very hard to classify at times.

The other difference I noticed was…man, my characters don’t make it easy on the reader. There’s no huge pay-off at the beginning. Answers aren’t handed to you. The characters behave realistically but realism can drive you nuts. They aren’t perfect and aren’t trying to be. They make mistakes. OFTEN. If you want to look at my books from a YA perspective, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that A) there is no life lesson about religion here (unless you can deduce one for yourself) B) there are no chaste teens here (there is sex…maybe not at first, but definitely later) C) there are no goody-goodies (my characters have used drugs in the past, and particularly in Book #4 Lying Season, use it in the present) D) they’ve done some morally controversial things (see Book #3) and E) they don’t censor their language (as one reviewer pointed out “who says ‘darn it’ when confronted by a ghost” – you say “Fuuuuuuck!” and run away).

A lot of people might tell you that it’s not the sort of book that’s considered YA solely because of it’s controversial content. As if teenagers these days A) aren’t spiritually conflicted B) don’t have sex C) don’t use drugs or drink D) don’t have abortions, shoplift or lie D) don’t swear. My novels in no way make any of the above look cool (except for the sex but that’s just my opinion) but I don’t believe in sugar-coating realism in order for it to appeal to a puritanical society that believes your characters have to be perfect role models. Fuck that shit.

So there you have it. My books are scary, funny, sexy and ultimately real. And when faced with the supernatural, with surreal situations, I think having an extremely realistic basis with realistic (imperfect, badass) characters is something that’s important and – sadly – sorely missed. I know I’m not perfect (I type this while swilling whiskey). Why should my characters be?

PS the rock n’ roll part comes in because Perry and Dex have some kick ass taste in music. Also, how many books do you know are named after songs (Red Fox, Lying Season and book#5 On Demon Wings are all songs by some pretty cool bands)? Music makes the world go round.

Bang on.

m / 🙂 m /

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