I recently read a post that talked about sex in YA. And it really got me thinking about what it was like for me growing up.
I am the oldest daughter of my family, but I have two older brothers. There are three years between me and my younger sister, and five between me and my youngest sister. My middle sister was never much of a reader, but when it came to the "nitty gritty details" (like sex, kissing, boys, periods, etc) I was the one she came to. Somehow it's easier to go to your older sister than your mom, according to my sister.
That isn't to say my mom wasn't always there to talk to. She was very open about things such as periods and kissing, but when it came to other things she wasn't quite as forthcoming. I remember when I was in sixth grade, my middle school made us go through sex ed. When I got home, my mom and I sat down and talked about vaginas and penises and how babies are made. I don't remember much of the details of it, but I do know my sisters never went through similar situations (though I'm not entirely sure why).
My youngest sister is nearly as big a reader as me, but since I am five years older than her, my books tended to be more mature in content. (Read: they had kissing and killing.) I distinctly remember my mom asking me the content of my books not because she was concerned that I was reading them, but she was concerned about my youngest sister reading them. She didn't want her to read graphic details about kissing, killing, and sex. My books were never explicit--I was into books like The Hunger Games or Meg Cabot novels.
As my sisters grew up, I made sure to remind them periodically that if they ever had any questions about boys, they could feel free to come to me. (Like my sister said, it's somehow easier to go to your sister than your mom. Maybe because sisters won't ground you?) I've made sure to tell my sisters certain things so that when they start to date, they go in prepared. So they won't have to worry about some boy telling them that if he has a boner and doesn't follow it with sex, bad things can happen to said boy's penis.
But I'm rambling. Back to the point of this post. It's not a bad thing to have sex, kissing, and killing in YA fiction. I actually think it's a really smart thing to talk about. Kids are growing up faster and faster in our world. My youngest sister knew a girl in fifth grade who got caught having sex behind the gym. In my opinion, it's better for kids to learn as much as they can so they go into situations well-prepared, rather than hearing false information. (This isn't me saying fifth graders should be having sex. Far from it! I may want my youngest sister to be well-informed, but every time she tells me she told a boy who wanted to make out with her to fuck off and leave her alone, I applaud. She's fifteen. Plenty of time for making out to come without doing it with horny freshmen boys.)
That's why I have sex, and killing, and kissing in my books. The world is a dark, scary place at times. You can't really go a single day without hearing about some recent shootings or attacks or threats from one country to another. We learn about war all throughout school and death tallies are often facts we need to memorize for tests. I'm not saying people should write about killing for the fun of it, but for the impact it can have.
In my book, there is a war. And during war, people will die. One thing my agent loves about the manuscript is that I make it clear that in war, no one is safe, least of all the people we love. There is also a lot of kissing, because teenagers and kissing go hand-in-hand. Plus, I like romance in my books. There is also sex. It's more or less a fade-to-black scene, but I make it clear that yes, these two characters have just done the dirty. But it's safe and consensual and done in a tasteful way so that teenagers can know not all sex is scary, especially when it's with someone you love.
I am quite certain that if my book is published, I will be getting emails like the one talked about in the article I mentioned at the beginning of the post. And I appreciate parents wanting to protect their children. My mom did the same thing, and I love her for it, but I will confess that sometimes I let my youngest sister read books with kissing.
But I'm proud of my book and the topics it covers. The nitty gritty details should not be glossed over, because that makes it out to seem like they are something to be ashamed of. So long as what you're doing is safe and consensual, if it makes you happy, you should feel free to go ahead and do it.