I've always obeyed the rules. As a child I told my parents when I did something I wasn't supposed to do. But crossing the line—or several lines—is different. I've always been a boundary pusher. (Please note: The views shared in this article are entirely those of the author.)
Many of the boundaries in the Young Adult genre are there for a reason. Young Adults are, by definition, not yet adults. Experience and wisdom earned by years of life give adults a different perspective on what happens to them, while to young adults, most of the growing up and coming of age trials are present and raw.
When I was a junior in high school, I "really liked" my chemistry lab assistant, a cute senior guy whose best friend lived three houses from mine. I spent too much time walking my dog back and forth in from of my neighbor's house when my lab assistant's car was parked in front—just to get a glimpsed of him when he was leaving.
Was I ready for a sex scene in a book? Not a chance. Was I ready for reading about longing for a boyfriend? Absolutely. But society—and books—are different now.
Not that YA books are intended to replace family support and values, but for those young people looking for additional possible ideas of how to get through situations or make decisions or deal with the aftermath of a hasty action, sometimes, as an author, you have to make the decision to cross a line drawn by society, an agent, a publisher, or yourself.
Most of the old taboo subjects in YA are no longer out-of-bounds, they're simply treated with the same consideration and thoughtfulness you'd give if you were talking to a young adult of that age. Shock value or detailed how to's don't usually serve a purpose in this genre.
Violence has its own set of lines to be crossed. Gratuitous violence, just like gratuitous sex, is rarely a hallmark of good writing. In YA horror, suspense and violence are part of the genre, though many authors tone down the gore for YA audiences.
Should you cross one of the lines? If it makes sense to your story, to your characters and their character arcs, go for it. If you've crossed a hard line, your agent or editor will let you know. If you don't have an agent or editor yet, ask a trusted critique partner or you can pitch or query your story to an agent or editor. You'll receive feedback that will be valuable.
Most important, read in the genre you write. If you are writing YA Romance, read YA romance. Read a lot of YA romance by different authors. Follow your favorite authors to keep up with the trends.
Good luck to you as you navigate through these tricky waters. Remember, it always helps to have a friend in your boat!
Is there a rule you've broken? What happened?
Is there a rule you're considering breaking? Why?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules. P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.