When I read YA books, and I do this pretty frequently, I very rarely find the violence or deaths to be over the top for children. Instead, I keep wondering how all of these stories about kids anywhere from 13 to 18 never seem to involve anything more than the occasional cheek peck.
I was raised on Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera, so I’m pretty certain that any excessive exposure to imaginary violence would have already reared its ugly head and forced me into a life of cannibalism and human trafficking if it was going to happen. Moreover, the books I read as a child were almost exclusively within the fantasy genre, so I read about gruesome deaths inflicted on all forms of both the living and undead without growing up to be a skin-wearing serial killer.
And yet, not surprisingly, very rarely did I happen upon books that dealt with the very real likelihood of sexual attraction among the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I was gifted Then Again Maybe I Won’t and it did wonders at answering some few questions I didn’t have the guts to ask. Even so, books specifically aimed at young adults very rarely broached the subject of sexuality by any real measure. Having grown up a young boy, I cannot begin to illustrate how woefully uninformed I was and how the occasional pilfered porno mag or overheard locker room braggart did little to provide real information. Even worse, my attempts at furthering my book-based knowledge with other Judy Blume titles did less to help. I never got my period, so I must have skimmed over something vital.
Harry Potter got a kiss, Whatshername and the sparkling vampire waited until they were married and anyone not terminally romantic had stopped reading before anything progressed beyond the weird watching-her-sleep thing. Despite the excessive use of ‘puss’ as ‘face’ in the Xanth books, nobody ever actually saw one. Maybe if just one character that I grew up with had dared to have a thought about sex, I wouldn’t have considered myself unreasonably preoccupied with it. I’m not suggesting that Wind in the Willows should have culminated in an explicit contrivance between species, but Ron and Hermione could have gotten as far as a little under the shirt, over the bra without turning everyone into perverts.