I have read a lot of Young Adult novels over the years. And one thing I have always hated is the way sex is represented in a lot of them. Most of the time you have a young female protagonist, who is virginal and innocent and no clue about sex but then she falls in love with 'the one' and sometimes they have sex and live happily ever after.
Which to me is super inaccurate. I don't know about you, but me and my friends have been discussing sex since we figured out what it was. And THEN we had sex and talked about it even more. I think the sentiment of having sex with only one person can be nice, saving it until marriage is good for some people. But for a lot of young women these days that is not how it happens.
So I have decided to write up a Top 5 list of what I think are some really great YA novels that all talk about sex in different ways, but all remain positive. It has been a while since I read these books, so I may miss some things, but I will try my best. Also possible spoilers ahead.
First up we have Shut Out by Kody Keplinger.
I bought this book because it sounded like a fun easy read, I just wanted a sweet romance and the boys vs girls aspect made me want it.
It ended up being a really great book about female friendship and women having an open dialogue about sex and not being shamed for it. This book managed to represent all different kind of sexual girls. From the girl who liked sex and wanted to have it a lot, to the girl who only did it because she thought she had to, to the girls who sort of wanted to but didn't want to be slut shamed to the girls who just weren't ready but didn't know how to tell their boyfriends.
This book ended up feeling very real to me and I appreciated it. Because I have met all of these girls in real life and I have had the same discussions with my friends!
This book is a sweet, fun read. The romance is really nice but the female characters are what had me flipping the pages fast. Spoliery: Also i'm pretty sure the main character doesn't have sex in this book, but does show that there are other ways to get hot and heavy without going all the way.
Next up we have V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram.
This is the first book in a duology, the second book is called A is for Abstinence.
Now don't let the name scare you off, this book was really great. Again I picked this up because the blurb promised be a virgin and the bad boy romance, and gosh i'm a sucker for cliches.
When I started reading I was worried this was going to get preachy as the main character claimed she was determined to wait until marriage to have sex. Not a concept I have a problem with, you do you, but sometimes people think it is the only option.
But again this book was all about the choice of having sex. And how there is so much pressure on young people to have sex earlier and earlier.
Val ends up being a national sensation. But her idea is promote sex as a choice, which I loved. She personally does not want to have sex until she is married. But she think more people should be open and accepted if they choose this, also for people who have already had sex but decided they did it too soon and now wish to remain abstinent until they are ready to have sex again. I liked that idea a lot, just because you had sex once doesn't mean the flood gates are now open and you have to have sex with every person you date. It should still be a personal choice and this book and Val especially embraces that. Spoilery: Read the second book!!!! Because Val and Badboy Kyle come back and IT IS GREAT! and also so so cheesy.
Number 3 on the list is 10 Things We Did and Probably Shouldn't Have by Sarah Mlynowski.
I have a full review of this up on my blog too, it is very rambly and excitable but go read it!
The concept of the book is kind of ridiculous, but it is fun to read, just take everything with a pinch of salt.
But again, you know whats great? The way they handle sex!
Both female characters start as virgins, but they don't finish that way. Vi just wants to get it over with, but with someone she trusts. April is waiting for the perfect time to do it with her boyfriend. Neither judges the other and well everything isn't fine and dandy because then there would be no book.
We see the girls actually discuss and go get the pill. YAY SAFE SEX! Spoilery: STDs are also dealt with, because condoms my friend. And it was so great because YES THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS. And you are not dirty because of it, just make sure you deal with it asap.
Number 4 on our list is the Stephanie Perkins Trilogy, consisting of; Anna and The French Kiss, Lola and The Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After.
Again I have a full review of all three books, where I basically gush about how great the sex representation is in these books. So let me talk about it again, BECAUSE ITS GREAT!
All three girls in all three books are so very different, and so is their take on sex. I don't consider the following discussion as spoilers, because it all comes out at the start of the novels, but look away now if you are super sensitive to spoilers I guess.
So first we have Anna, who is a virgin. I was super worried, she was going to be another precious snowflake who had never thought about anything sexual above kissing. But damn this girl was FULL OF LUST. She had a crush and she wanted to rip his clothes off, but knew that she probably shouldn't, and she wanted to wait until she was ready. Which good for her. But also HELLA REAL! Girls get urges too, we fantasise too.
Lola has had sex a few times before the books starts, losing her virginity to her older boyfriend. She talks about how it wasn't great at first but the more she does it the better it gets. Again, YES GIRL! No one seems to tell girls that the first time you do it you probably won't see stars. Don't get me wrong, you should not be in pain or bleeding, that's all bullshit. But it's probably a little uncomfortable, and it's going to take a couple of practices before you get it right. Talk to each other, figure out what you like. Lola is my girl! This was my favourite book in case that was not obvious.
And Isla, oh Isla. Everyone expected you to be the sweet innocent one. BUT NOPE. Isla was not a virgin before the book began, already having had a boyfriend she had sex with. Isla was open about liking sex and wanting to do it with her current boyfriend. And again, HOW GREAT! She likes sex, she's found someone she trusts who she wants to have sex with. You go girl.
Last up we have The V Club by Kate Brian.
This is one of my all time favourites, I have read this book about 50 times over the years. Although probably a more controversial one on the list.
You have four friends competing for a scholarship, but one of the requirements is proving you're 'purity'. Obviously the school doesn't know how to deal with this. But one of the girls decide to start the Virginity Club, for people who are waiting for the right time to have sex.
Spoilery: Again all the girls have different views on sex. Eva wants to wait until marriage. Debbie likes to fool around, but hasn't gone all the way, but still she is branded as the school slut. Kai is still new, but the boy she had sex with last summer is back in her life, but she doesnt want anyone to know. And Mandy is waiting for the right time to do it with her boyfriend, which she is hoping is soon.
Some people think this book is too preachy, that its saying you have to wait to have sex or bad things will happen. But the way I read it was that everyone has different ideas of the 'right time' is and that you don't have to go straight from kissing to sex, there is an in between where you can fool around if you want to.
So there is my Top 5 recommendations for books that I believe show sex in a much more positive and real way than the majority of books out there. Whether you have sex with one person or twenty, as long as you do what's right for you, you can't go wrong.
Sidenote: Also yes all of these books are super hetero-normative, but I currently haven't read any YA LGBTQ+ novels where they deal with sex, or at least in a way I thought was positive enough to include here.
Let me know any other book recommendations you have, or what you think of any of the books on the list. I would love to know your thoughts.
Published by Rebecca McCandless