Friday, September 21, 2012

SHADE named a hot, smart read by the Atlantic!

It's Happy Friday here at the Smith-Ready homestead! Progress on my Sekrit 2014 YA novel is going well, with the deluge of breakthroughs that always comes in the second draft.

("Wait, what if the dude who holds the forbidden after-prom party is the same guy the main character used to *****-***** ******* with??" and "What if the **** ****** was a WOMAN instead of a man?? It would explain SO MUCH.")

And then...excitement happened!! The Atlantic named the SHADE trilogy as one of their "Teen Reads Better than Fifty Shades."

I've only read bits and pieces of Fifty Shades of Grey, so I can't say whether Shade is better or worse, but that's not really the point. The article's point was that sex in YA books is not only okay, but can be a good thing when it's done in a nuanced way organic to the story:
To think that this whole major portion of life could be ignored by those who write for teens is silly and small-minded; part of the benefit and power of Y.A. fiction after all, along with sheer entertainment value, is to give teens the opportunity to consider and confront things happening in their own lives in the best way they can, and sexuality is one of those things.


I wish I'd had books like Jennifer Echols' and Francesca Lia Block's when I was 14. Instead I learned about relationships from horror novels and soap operas. (SO not healthy.) It's why I try to handle sex as realistically, responsibly, and engagingly as possible in my own books.

I respect authors who choose to keep their books "clean" (though I despise that term, because it reinforces the idea that sex is dirty), but my approach springs from my own experience and philosophy. I write my books the way I do because that's the way they need to be written. Period.

I certainly don't do it for the money. Sex may sell in adult books, but in YA it's just the opposite. Books that are designated ages 14 and up, often for sexual content or profanity (but never for violence), have an automatically smaller audience. We lose younger readers as well as many school and even public libraries. Theoretically we might make up the difference by drawing in older readers, but adults have the option of reading, you know, adult books.

So I'm pretty tickled that a major news media outlet is discussing sex in YA books in a positive, non-sensationalistic manner. More, please--and thank you!

(Special thanks to the awesome Kate Milford from NYC bookstore McNally Jackson for bringing SHADE to the Atlantic's attention. She writes amazing books, too!)

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Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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