Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Young Adult Language

There are a few things that distinguish "Young Adult" (YA) books from other books. First, the MC is a teenager. The rule here is that kids read up, so 12-year-olds will read about a 16-year-old MC more often than the reverse.

The other distinctions are sex and language. Usually, there's no sex in YA books. If there is, it's not described (e.g., book 4 of Twilight). I've also noticed one other exception to this: if sex in the book is THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF THE MC'S LIFE. The best example probably is in Cast & Cast's MARKED.

So, there's a not-too-subtle message in the YA lit about sex.

As for language, the line's a little more blurred. Most YA books avoid the hard-core profanity, which for the sake of my readers' delicate sensibilities, I will refer to as the F-word, the S-word, and the C-word. Oh, and the A-hole word.

If you do not know which words I mean, please do NOT email and ask. I'm a lady, and I dare not even type them so far from my fainting couch.

I'm in a grey area in my book MINDER with "God" references in both spoken and internal dialogue. Is it OK for a character to say "Oh my God" when something shocking happens? Is this blasphemy? Will it get my book banned in certain parts of Mississippi? Is that a bad thing?

Interestingly, there's no line on violence. Characters can be decapitated, eviscerated, ex-sanguinated, or otherwise killed and/or mangled in horrible ways in YA fiction, even in books with middle-grade appeal, like Harry Potter.

So, having your MC's BFF sucked dry by a vampire in lurid detail is cool. But don't you DARE let her light up a cigarette.

UNLESS that's the reason the vampire decides to kill her. What can I say? Smoking's a dangerous habit.


Disgruntled Bear said...

I so rarely get a chance to use the word "eviscerated" in my daily life.

That's almost certainly a good sign.

glacierlilies said...


and I have to say, I LOATHE the cultural priorities that say that evisceration is cool but God forbid you show any sex or drop any questionable words.

Hey. I just read something yesterday that argued that the reason we're all into this blood and gore hannibal lector stuff is that we've moved away from having it in our daily life butchering farm animals for dinner. I'm not entirely sure I buy it, but it's an interesting proposition.

Disgruntled Bear said...

I'll have to think more on the idea that butchering farm animals filled some psychological need.

Personally, I see a connection between modern 'action' violence and the coliseum of ancient Rome.

Which made the movie GLADIATOR redundant in some ways, I guess.

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