I have been reading a mix of YA fantasy this week – the Morganville Vampire Series by Rachel Caine and the House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast – and I am amazed by the differences between them despite both being meant for Young Adults. The difference in language and sex in particular. There are no spoilers in this, just vague unspecific references.
In the House of Night Series, P.C. and Kristin write the way teenagers talk, not the way teenagers get talked to. For a fantasy series, it is painfully realistic – there were many instances where the books seemed more explicit than adult fantasy. There is a lot more swearing, drinking and sex – although the main characters usually aren’t involved. It’s like reading old-school HP fanfiction, where the writer delineates everything we usually just assume is going on in the background.
Even though there isn’t a single character in the series I identify with, I remember the swooning over guys… the parties where every one is trashed… the rumours of lewd sexual activities people were up to… and it is almost painful to remind myself of it all. Even though I was reading – and probably saying – a lot worse than that at 16… if I were a parent I wouldn’t buy these books for my teenage daughter.
The Morganville Vampire Series, on the other hand, is almost a different genre. While it deals with issues a lot, er, older than the House of Night Series – the main characters live without parental supervision, and have mature sexual relationships, and there is swearing all over the place – it is a series I would actually give to a teenager. There is a lot of emphasis on the importance of maturity. Basically, if you want to act like an adult – no matter your age – you should think like one too.
Also, Caine brings up what I consider an extremely important issue for YAs: having sex with minors even if you don’t consider yourself a “major”. Without getting into too many spoilers, Caine’s characters are quick to remember that even a one year age difference (i.e. 17-year old and an 18-year-old) is enough to constitute statutory rape. Admittedly, the likelihood of it being an issue is slim in real life, but I appreciate her bringing it up. I have met the extreme of the issue (13-year-olds dating 19-year-olds) and no matter what you say about maturity, it is so very illegal.
Anyhow, going from one series to the other really made me ponder.