I’m not sure if it was the 2002 release of Gossip Girl that started the trend of turning young adult novels trashy.
It might have been. Then again, maybe not.
I never read those books regardless. And I wasn’t technically a young adult anymore at the time. But I still remember reading the genre and browsing those aisles. So I do have a recollection of so many young adult fiction front covers suddenly looking a lot more scandalous around then.
Since I never read Gossip Girl, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t misrepresenting it here. So I went onto Amazon to look it up. There, you’ll find this first line of the official book description right after it finishes touting the hit TV series and Blake Lively:
Welcome to New York City's Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep--sometimes with each other.
That right there is a decent enough indication of the content, but I figured I’d give it another shot and went to the reviews section next.
The five-star section was replete with uninspiring one-liners such as “This is the best book i ever read” – capitalization and punctuation (or lack thereof) copied and pasted exactly as-is.
And the four-stars weren’t much better. This was one of the more intelligent ones I found: “This book was really good. Even though there are not teens in this world like them, its cool to have an image of them partying and living their life.”
Okay then. What a stirring description.
Move on down to the two-star section, and you get into much longer descriptions with headers like “Content too mature for target age group” and “This is not for young adults!” and “Trashy Harlequin Novels for Teens.”
So I’m guessing I’m accurate in my assumptions about the book and the series. (Whether I'm right about the exact beginning of young adult novels' trashy trend, however, is still up in the air.)
I don’t have to do any guessing for other young adult books, however, such as Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers.
Especially Grave Mercy. Oy vey.
There are plenty of other trashy young adult novels out there like them though. And there have been for at least a decade now, if not going on two. This trend begs the question of what adult ever thought it was fun to write about 16-year-olds getting it on all hot and heavy?
It’s a little sick when you really think about it. Right? As such…
Don’t be a bad influence.
Teenagers have so many bad influences out there these days that push them into really unhealthy areas of life. It’s not hard to see how Hollywood and the music industry make free sex, drugs and drinking look oh-so much fun. So why wouldn’t teens be tempted to follow along?
There’s no reason that young adult fiction needs to tempt them further. Throw in all the romantic puppy-love angles you want, but keep them age-appropriate in the process. They’re just not emotionally ready for hard-core romance.
For the record, this is not an impossible Writing Challenge. Very doable, actually. Check out the romance-ridden Entwined by Heather Dixon, for example. Or the runaway Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, starting with The Lightning Thief.
Or Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, which was phenomenal, making its trashy sequels downright heartbreaking.
Or Harry Potter. Or The Hunger Games. I know that people might object to other kinds of material in those last two, but they were nonetheless intensely popular and profitable young adult novels that involved not a single ounce of sex.
It’s actually very, very easy to save the adult stuff for the adults – and no real reason to make young adult novels trashy. Unless, of course, you’re a little sick.