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Sex and intimacy in YA historicals

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Are the expectations different than for contemporary YA? Off the top of my head I can't think of any mainstream YA historicals that portray the mc in a scene of sexual intimacy. Is it related at all to historicals appealing to the school market? Maybe I'm on the wrong track, just wondering...

ETA: I mean an actual sex scene, not just an allusion or reference to intimacy.
#1 - August 04, 2009, 03:56 PM
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 04:08 PM by Lenzi »

it's not graphic at all, but there are these elements
in my sequel. i'll let you know. haha!
#2 - August 04, 2009, 04:41 PM
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

 :moose Will it be historical fantasy? I wonder if there are different expectations for non-fantasy historicals.
#3 - August 04, 2009, 05:00 PM

it's not straight historical, no. but if you
read it, you'd think of ancient china instantly.
harems concubines -- etc etc. =)

fantasy was notorious for not having ANY sex--
even in adult market. it's changing now. since
it's YA, there tends to be more allusion within the
market -- think graceling.

mine had quite a lot of "sex" warnings in reviews.
and i don't think i'm pushing the boundaries or anything.
#4 - August 04, 2009, 05:18 PM
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

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Good question, Christy--I wonder if it's setting specific?  For example, if a story is set in a time and among a social class where indulging in anything much more than heavy waltzing meant that a girl's reputation was ruined...?
#5 - August 04, 2009, 05:55 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

That's really interesting about fantasy.


mine had quite a lot of "sex" warnings in reviews.
and i don't think i'm pushing the boundaries or anything.


Really? I didn't realize that--how were the warnings worded, and what audience were the warnings intended to assist (teachers, parents or kids..?)

I'm doing a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in a definite historical time/place. Juliet was 13 in the Shakespeare version when she and Romeo had sex. I'm making my mc 16 when that happens. But I just can't recall any YA historicals that have sex scenes, so I'm thinking there may be a good reason for that... Or maybe I am having a memory lapse. Can anyone point to an historical that does?

Marissa, I just read your post. That's a good point. That probably has a lot to do with it, actually. Hmm. ("Heavy waltzing"-- hehe.)
#6 - August 04, 2009, 06:01 PM

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I recently read The King's Rose by Alisa Libby. It wasn't downright racy, but I would say it had more sexual content than most historical YA I've read. A middle school librarian I know who liked the book was hesitant about purchasing it for her school because of the sex scenes. I wonder if this might be a "lower YA/upper YA" issue as well as a genre issue.
#7 - August 04, 2009, 06:24 PM
www.annastan.com
Tween novel and picture book author

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I wonder if this might be a "lower YA/upper YA" issue as well as a genre issue.

I suspect so, since I've had an editor tell me basically that they assume that if it's historical, middle-graders are reading it (perhaps more than 12 and ups).
#8 - August 04, 2009, 11:14 PM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

www.jonisensel.com

I suspect so, since I've had an editor tell me basically that they assume that if it's historical, middle-graders are reading it (perhaps more than 12 and ups).

Wow. I wish I'd known this earlier. Hmm. I know we should just write the book we want to write, but it it seems reasonable to also consider these things. It's difficult to know what to do sometimes.
#9 - August 05, 2009, 09:54 AM

lenzi, these are industry reviews in booklist and voya, etc.
my book is intended for 14 and older, and they speak about
the sexual elements.

of course, there's something like LUXE which is supposed
to be historical but the author has the people sleep around.
which did NOT happen so freely back then among the set
she wrote about.

honestly? write what you feel the book should be like.
something like that can be easily edited down. i can't see
it deterring the sale of a novel.
#10 - August 05, 2009, 10:04 AM
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

I like the idea of writing what I feel the book should be, and I agree that sometimes books can be edited down. I've recently re-written a YA historical fantasy as a MG per an editor's request and I ended up making the relationship platonic. I think it was the right choice for that book (I'll have to wait and see what happens with it...) But this new book I feel so strongly about the tone of it as upper YA and the relationship as very earthy and sensual, that I can't imagine changing that aspect of the story. Maybe I need to force myself to be more open to that possibility... I don't know.  :crazy

It's enough to make me go mad. Because I'm not so sure it wouldn't deter the sale of the novel. If the readers for historicals are mainly MGers, then a book like the one I want to write may not be good sense to purchase, right?
#11 - August 05, 2009, 10:50 AM

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Hmm...then there are books like Tender Morsels --not really historical fiction, but a historical feel...and certainly not intended for a MG audience.  And my books are listed by my publisher as "14 and up".  So I just don't know.
#12 - August 05, 2009, 11:02 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

Thanks, Marissa, that reminder makes me feel better! I like to think there's a solid market for upper YA hf.
#13 - August 05, 2009, 11:08 AM

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Thanks, Marissa, that reminder makes me feel better! I like to think there's a solid market for upper YA hf.

I didn't mean to scare you. I think a lot of these things, like where the boundary of one age category ends and the next starts, are not only a function of the house's philosophy but also individual to a book based on its unique combination of style, maturity of content, etc etc.

I totally think you should write the book that wants to be written and worry about stuff like this later, during the marketing phase (and only then if you get feedback from mulitple editors that the scenes need to be toned down, or that because the reason for a rejection or something.)
#14 - August 06, 2009, 12:21 PM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

www.jonisensel.com


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I can't think of any on-screen sex scenes in any YAs at the moment, but it's definitely an issue in THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER and A NORTHERN LIGHT.  I know MINISTER'S is technically historical fantasy, but the fantasy elements are so grounded in the history that in this case I think the adjective trumps the noun.

You might also have a look at Kim Taylor's BOWERY GIRL, which is about a teenage prostitute in Victorian NYC (I haven't read it, so I don't know how graphic it is).
#16 - August 07, 2009, 02:37 PM

Those are good examples--how could I have forgotten them. Thanks!
#17 - August 08, 2009, 03:49 PM

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Interesting discussion.  I read THE KING'S ROSE, and I thought it was definitely upper YA (although not graphic, per se, the sex is definitely not just alluded to).  Same with THE LUXE and its sequels...and I have to say, I'd love to read your other version (I'm assuming you're talking about the one I got to read, Christy) where the relationship isn't platonic ;)  But then, I'm a YA girl, haha!
#18 - August 09, 2009, 08:15 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

Would you recommend THE KING"S ROSE as a good read, Robin? I might take a look at it.

Well, the other version of the book really did have a disconnect with the subject and tone. I think the storyline and characters appeal to MG readers and so making those changes helps it feel much stronger. But I'll send the other version to you, for fun. :moose

The book I'm working on now has a definite YA tone to it, so I'm going to go with that. I appreciate all the encouragement here to just do it--Thanks!
#19 - August 09, 2009, 04:27 PM

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I thought THE KING'S ROSE was very interesting (since it's about one of Henry's wives, you kind of know going in what happened to her) -- I bet you'd find it interesting :)

Yay, I'd love to see the other version 'for fun'!
#20 - August 09, 2009, 04:49 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

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