My latest Locus column, "Teen Sex," explains why I think young adult literature should have sex -- and other "mature" topics -- in it.
There's really only one question: "Why have your characters done something that is likely to upset their parents, and why don't you punish them for doing this?"
Now, the answer.
First, because teenagers have sex and drink beer, and most of the time the worst thing that results from this is a few days of social awkwardness and a hangover, respectively. When I was a teenager, I drank sometimes. I had sex sometimes. I disobeyed authority figures sometimes.
Mostly, it was OK. Sometimes it was bad. Sometimes it was wonderful. Once or twice, it was terrible. And it was thus for everyone I knew. Teenagers take risks, even stupid risks, at times. But the chance on any given night that sneaking a beer will destroy your life is damned slim. Art isn't exactly like life, and science fiction asks the reader to accept the impossible, but unless your book is about a universe in which disapproving parents have cooked the physics so that every act of disobedience leads swiftly to destruction, it won't be very credible. The pathos that parents would like to see here become bathos: mawkish and
trivial, heavy-handed, and preachy.
Cory Doctorow: Teen Sex
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