Zack Jackson — Too Racy for YA?

Writing for Young Adults is tricky. On one hand, I know that a lot of the stuff I was hearing from my peers at the age of 12 was FAR more racy than what I’ve written. On the other hand, I know a lot of parents still don’t want their kids exposed to it. Here’s an excerpt of the only thing I think people might find objectionable in Zack Jackson & the Cult of Athos (I apologize for the formatting, it’s really hard to get things to look like they would on the printed page on this website):

“Back so soon?” Mungus seemed surprised when Zack entered the cabin. He and Ix were no longer playing the game; the valtraxian looked like it might be sleeping.

“Yeah, it’s safer here.”

“Aw, Twinkie, afraid of all the big, bad aliens.” Mungus grinned at him, displaying his canine teeth.

“One of the devoran girls was acting strangly. Her brother said she didn’t realize I was a cub.” Zack plopped back into his seat and fastened his safety belts. He pulled out his C7 and started looking through the functions.

Mungus guffawed. Jenny glared at him. “Shut up, Mungus. There haven’t been a lot of devorans visiting Earth yet. He probably doesn’t know. Why would he?”

Mungus kept laughing, holding his belly. Ix started poking him.

Zack looked over to Jenny. “Know what?”

“Yeah,” Mungus was having a hard time talking while laughing. “Tell him, Jen-Jen.”

“Stop calling me that!” Jenny kicked at Mungus, but her legs weren’t quite long enough to reach, causing Mungus to laugh even harder. Turning to Zack, Jenny ignored Mungus. “Devorans are very open and do I put it? Accepting? They’re friendly with anyone and everyone, if you know what I mean.”

He shook his head. Zack had no idea what she was talking about. So, they were friendly? So what? That was a good thing. He didn’t understand why Mungus was finding it so funny. Jenny tapped his C7.

“Look it up.”

” I don’t think he is old enough to access that information. Doesn’t Earth still use information locks to protect their children against learning something too soon? “

Ix was right. Zack’s hypernet search turned up a bunch of blocked pages. He tried entering a few passwords he knew his parents used in the past, but apparently, they were on to him now.

“Nuts. You’re right.”

Ix leaned forward, looking around the cabin as if to check if any adults were listening. ” A devoran motto is ‘intimacy breeds understanding’.”

Zack shrugged. “I don’t get it.” He looked over at Jenny. She was blushing.

“He’s talking about sex, Twinkie. You know, stuff adults do when they think the kids are asleep.”

Eyes widening, Zack felt himself blush again. He learned about stuff like that in school. How babies were made, stuff like that. They didn’t talk about devorans in class. “You mean they…”

“Yeah, anyone. Well, if you’re old enough and willing. Like Jen-Jen said, ‘friendly.'” Mungus looked to be having a grand time laughing at Zack’s and Jenny’s discomfort.

“But, they can’t, I mean, humans and devorans can’t umm…”

Many sapient species are anatomically compatible. But, not biologically compatible. Also, one must be wary of allergic reactions. “

“My father knew a guy who died after he spent a night with devoran. He was allergic to her spit and had a severe reaction.” Jenny had a disgusted look on her face and kept shooting withering glances at Mungus. The ersidian was still chuckling to himself.

“Eww, she spit on him?”

“Kissing, dummy.” Mungus pulled out his hand-held game system again and started playing something. He didn’t offer to share with anyone else.

Zack shuddered. He knew kissing was something adults seemed to enjoy, but he wasn’t sure how a person could kiss one of those alien lizard people. Zhora had pretty colors and all, but she was just so different, and they couldn’t even tell adults from kids. He loaded up a game on his C7 and tried not to think of Zhora.

What do you think? Too racy for a YA audience? At what age do you think it does become appropriate? Or, should these things be left to the parents’ discretion. (The red text is what I’m thinking of excising based on comments).

Categories: Writing, Zack Jackson | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Zack Jackson — Too Racy for YA?

  1. Hans i think it is great if you stop about 3/4 of the way down I would stop right after Zack says you mean they…. Have Mungus sense just how little Zack knows then have him or jenny defuse the situation by making a comment about seeing why Human parents restrict that information. I think that actually allows Zack to keep some of his young adult qualities. If you are dead set on keeping something about the kissing part have Zack say something about not even wanting to kiss the devoran girl then tell the story about the guy that got killed doing it. Just my thoughts

    • So, if I remove the text in red (and do a better job of rearranging things, of course), then that basically keeps the tone of the scene and eliminates most of the problem?

      • mikhailovitch

        Speaking as someone whose work for many years has included selecting library books for kids from 8 to 17, I think it would be absolutely fine for young adults (say 12 and up) with the red bits still in. Only the most socially isolated kids don’t know enough about this to understand it, and for those few it would go over their heads anyway.
        A small number of their parents, however, might well object. And some of them would continue to object even if their children were 17!

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