Lately, as I have been working with my editor to get my first book for young adults ready for publication, I have been thinking a lot about what is ok and isn’t ok to put in young adult literature. My new YA book is a poetry collection, and while it certainly isn’t riddled with sexual stuff or bad language, there is one poem where I use the word “damn” and one where I use the word “sperm”.
Now, I want to state up front I am not really a bad girl. I have never been one to turn to bad language, especially since I am around kids all the time and believe in setting a good example. In the poem where I used the word “damn”, I just felt that any lesser of an expression would look weak and stupid. The mood of that particular poem is serious and heartfelt, with the person speaking coming from a place of desperation. Saying “darn” just wouldn’t be honest to the depth of the feelings represented.
As for the use of the word “sperm”, it isn’t even really used in a sexual way, but more in a technical way. As in, the thing that eventually becomes a human baby is a sperm. Surely, no one could balk at that, right? But a part of me wonders. I know some parents and teachers can be so conservative and protective of their kids that they run from any sign of impropriety. Plus, many kids that aren’t even in the young adult age bracket still read young adult books. I know 10 and 11 year olds that have read “The Hunger Games”, which I’m sure is geared for an older audience.
I know this quandary of mine might seem ridiculous. After all, in a world where many young adult books are laced with the “f-bomb”, gruesome violence and descriptive sex scenes, why in the world would I worry about something like “damn” or “sperm”? I guess it’s just because I always tend to worry about what parents and teachers think. Maybe too much. Of course, it could be that I am just nervous because this is my first foray into the young adult literature world.
So what do you guys think? How much is too much in young adult literature? And how young is too young to read young adult literature?