This is a series blogpost. Fair warning.
Just a little theme music...
This is a subject I’ve been wanting to discuss for quite some time and something that’s recently come up in regard to the Grab Your Pole series and its genre. Herein lies a problem though; one that needs to be addressed before we can even broach the subject of sex within the GYP series and its genre, and that problem is:
What, exactly, is that genre?
I’ve been over that question myriad times with a slew of people including my agent, and we’ve all come to the same conclusion. We don’t know.
How can that be? You’re the author for goodness sake, don’t you know what genre your own books fall into, you ask?
Well, not necessarily because as it turns out, genre is rather subjective when it comes to the broader category of young adult. A reader of the GYP series mentioned that in her writing class it is believed that actual sex between the main characters doesn’t occur in YA books, but that authors have been seen breaking that “rule” lately. That’s probably because there is no hard and fast rule as it pertains to pigeonholing a book into the YA genre. Everyone from authors and readers to literary agents and publishing houses seem to have their own criteria for deciding what a title should be listed as. Additionally, the burgeoning genre of new adult appears to have made for even more smudging of already blurry lines. Not only that, but depending on the presentation, the criteria isn’t so black and white as one might think either, all making it tricky to list certain titles. Titles like mine that fall squarely in the gray.
Here, take a look at some of the criteria many use in determining genre nowadays (Yes, I said nowadays. Shut up, I’m old.) and maybe you’ll understand what I mean about the gray.
Characters 18 or younger — YA or NA?
Characters 18 and up — YA or NA?
Characters in high school — YA or NA?
Characters in college — YA or NA?
Characters having sex — YA or NA?
Strong or adult language — YA or NA?
The use of drugs and/or alcohol — YA or NA?
Adult and/or mature life issues dealt with — YA or NA?
Now for those of you who have read my work, look at that list and how you would categorize the determining qualifications, and then based on your determined criteria, where does the Grab Your Pole series fall? By my math the GYP series falls into NA. BUT, some of those criteria aren’t exactly black and white so depending on how they’re presented and written in a story, an argument could be made that with the way I’ve chosen to write the GYP series thus far that it’s more YA than it is NA. However, for some people the age of the characters weighs heavier than the other qualifications listed, so it could also be said that it’s a tie as according to that list.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
There is no possible way to stick this particular series of books into a hard and fast genre that everyone will agree on across the board based on subjective criteria. I’ve had readers claim the series is very YA. I’ve had readers say the exact opposite. My agent has said that she would maybe call it NA, but like others I’ve spoken to, she’s not firm in her position at the moment either. Personally, I feel like it starts off relatively YA, moves into mature young adult as the series progresses, and then sort of straddles the fence but maybe hasn’t quite put both feet across the thin line into NA yet. Maybe. Because book 3...? Well, it might be seriously teetering and that’s where maybe comes more heavily into play. Here again, though, it’s subjective and this is coming from a woman with friends who wouldn’t let their children watch certain Disney movies like Hercules because it was on the dark and scary side, but who raised her own child on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A child, mind you, who wholeheartedly wanted to dress as Buffy for Halloween when she was 3 fucking years old. Let’s just say I tend to lean towards being less conservative in my opinion on certain subject matter than others are. Shocker, right?
I’m sure there will be people reading this who *gasp* haven’t read the 3 published books that make up the Grab Your Pole series thus far, so how about we break it down and see if we can’t figure this shit out together, okay? We’ll call it teamwork. And yeah, I’m usually one of those type Z personalities; you know, a lazy kind of person who can’t seem to manage to do things for herself and would love for others to step in and take over until her brain explodes because she just watched someone put a bowl in the top rack of the dishwasher when everyone should know that bowls always go on the bottom rack, goddamnit, but I’m not opposed to doing a little teamwork in this case.
The GYP gang is made up primarily of 16 to 18 year olds in high school with varying levels of life experience, but Jillian, who you absolutely cannot leave out of the equation here, starts off being 12 in junior high, but turns 13 and goes into high school. She’s obviously by far the youngest of the gang, but she’s also probably the most aware and mature of them as well. That in itself poses a conundrum, doesn’t it?
Are the characters drinking and partaking of the occasional recreational drug? You betcha. Are they talking like most teenagers in high school, vulgarity and sexual innuendo included? Fuck yes. Have they come up against certain situations and obstacles in their lives that people usually associate happening in the lives of adults? Absolutely. Life doesn’t look at a person’s age and say, “Eh...I don’t know. That one is a little young to have to deal with XYZ. I think I’ll give him or her another couple of years to learn some more coping skills.” Yeah, bullshit. It’s more like, “Hey kid! Here comes a tidal wave! Hope you know how to swim, ‘cuz if you don’t, you’re fucked.”
Are some of the GYP gang members having sex? Duh. Of course they are. Whether parents and other adults want to admit it, an assload of teens are having sex in high school. Some of them started when they were in junior high school, and there are even a few whom, shockingly and sadly, have their first, full-fledged sexual experience in elementary school. Does that mean that every teenager banged someone before they could vote or legally buy booze? No, of course not. I’m just saying, let’s not kid ourselves. Premarital sex amongst teens isn’t a new trend by any means. Fact.
And then for kicks, let’s throw in this little bit of trivia: 3 out of the 8 main characters in the GYP series are 18 by the end of book 3, Shark Out of Water. They’re still in high school, true, but according to the U.S. Government, they’re old enough to be contracted and paid to commit murder in the name of freedom and in the protection of our country and all it holds dear. With that being the unobjectionable truth, I still can’t fathom why the legal drinking age in most states is 21. I mean if you’re old enough to legally kill someone while doing your duty for the good ol’ USofA, you should sure as shit be able to legally buy yourself a goddamned beer afterwards.
Alright so we have a mix of underage and adult-age high school students, who are partying it up and misspending their youth like many teens have done for centuries and will continue to do, while at the same time, they’re being confronted with having to make life choices and being forced to deal with some things even adults wish they didn’t have to face. They’re making decisions, they’re making mistakes, they’re learning who they are, what they want out of life and how to get it. They’re growing up; something that doesn’t happen over the course of a single birthday, and something that not all “adults” have done yet themselves.
So, you tell me, are the characters in the Grab Your Pole series part of a young adult story or a new adult story? I know, right? Feel free to talk amongst yourselves and get back to me with your answer, then join me in the continuation of Sex in YA later this week with parts 2 and 3.