If you’re intending to write for the young adult audience then you’d best believe you must write a squeaky clean manuscript because no teenager has ever heard a curse word, had sex, had alcohol, done drugs, or been exposed to violence. Young adults are innocent, angelic creatures, and our society absolutely cannot allow them to be tainted and influenced by such horrors in their literature. Therefore, if you plan to write for this age, your manuscript must not contain any of these elements. So. Basically, it can’t have any conflict.
I’m amazed by how often I see questions from aspiring writers wondering if it’s okay for their YA WIP to have a cuss word or a heated make out scene or some kind of violent battle. What’s even more surprising, is the amount of people who advise them to avoid these elements.
Books shouldn’t glamorize these elements and encourage young adults to go do drugs or fight, but it’s ridiculous to think teens aren’t exposed to these kinds of things daily. As long as your love scene or battle is important to the plot, there is no plausible reason for why it shouldn’t be allowed in your manuscript.
There are no guidelines saying that if you use the F-word or have a certain amount of blood spilled or too many characters make out that your novel can no longer be qualified as YA.
Use your best judgment.
Is this element absolutely necessary to your story? Does it further explore character, plot, or backstory?
If yes, keep it. If not, decide if you want it for shock factor, to be gratuitous, or because you believe it furthers your story.
Young adult novels can have violence in them. They can contain bad language. There can be sexual content, drugs, alcohol. As long as there’s a reason they’re in your book.
Just because it’s targeted toward a younger audience, doesn’t mean you have to scoop the realism and truth from your words and stuff the void with lies. Kids aren’t stupid. And you’d be naïve to think they won’t be exposed to such content even if they don’t read it in a book.
What are your thoughts on the content in Young Adult novels? Where do you draw the line?