The other day, whilst browsing, I came across a new line of YA books by Noble Romance Publishing. I was quite surprised by this because they mostly do erotic romances, although the YA market is growing exponentially and that is probably the reason why they have jumped on the bandwagon. However looking closer at their imprint, I was quite surprised by what was on offer and in some cases, kind of uncomfortable because it felt like it was more aimed at adults than Young Adults.
However, I did check them out and read In the Bad Boy’s Bed, and it confirmed my suspicions. I will be reviewing this title at a later date via Book Lovers Inc. Now I knew it was going to be a sexy read, just by that title alone, and I was curious and intrigued by it which was the reason why I picked it up. But I never actually thought it would be that explicit, and it was. I rarely feel shocked at sex scenes but in this case I was because of the target audience. I actually felt that Noble Romance Publishing was capitalizing on the the growth of the YA genre, and looking at the rest of their books in their imprint, it didn’t really feel there was a lot of thought into the marketing or packaging to YA readers. In fact I felt like this was a cheap way to cash in and with some of the titles on offer, sex is being used as a basis.
Whilst reading this book, I do have to say that I wouldn’t really consider this book a YA, in fact I think this was aimed at adults, although it has characters who are in their late teens. I really felt that the sex scenes especially, and there were quite a few of them, throughout the novella went into graphic territory. The opening especially was uncomfortable to read because the heroine experiences an attempted rape, and goes on to sleep with the hero (who she hardly knows but has lusted after for a long time) on the same night and that transition didn’t work for me. When I read a YA, I do expect darker issues to be explored but not to the extent where I was feeling uncomfortable because I wasn’t pre-warned on how explicit it would be. I have expectations when I read a genre, and breaking them without warning is where it can get problematic.
The graphic nature of the sex scenes made this especially awkward and dare I say it icky for me to read and I am actually disappointed with Noble for not laying out that this is a sexualised book for YAs. I don’t think they are even aware of or care that the YA genre is primarily aimed at younger teens. And yes, although adults do read the books, that is not the primary aim or audience of YA books and I think this is where they have gotten wrong with their editorial decisions and with their marketing.
With the recent melee over the WSJ article over YA, and how YA books are getting too dark and serious for teens, I felt awkward writing this post because I am complaining about a YA that does deal with serious issues. But in this case I feel it highlighted the issues very lightly, and can be used by detractors and critics of YA books who feel they are dealing with subjects that kids shouldn’t read. However, I honestly feel that serious issues like sex should be explored in this genre as it’s realistic and honest. But how it is dealt with is my concern because this is aimed at a YA audience which has to be relatable and connects to the reader. The book I read didn’t have this element, and I have read LOTS of YA books. It really felt this was written in a voice of an adult, and was aimed for adults. I didn’t get the sense it was aimed for a YA audience even in the first pages, and that it’s all about the smex.
This Noble line is supposedly targeted at a teen audience, and what I read makes me wary and quite uncomfortable. Yes, there are teens who read adult books too, just like adults who also read YAs. But there’s a huge distinction between books aimed at adults and at teens, especially younger teens. And I am definitely not saying that YA shouldn’t deal with adult issues. Some of my favourite YA authors do explore sex/violence and other darker issues and its important to highlight. Definitely check out authors such as Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely books or Forever by Judy Blume which covers first-time sex or Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, which focuses realistically on the growing pains of a girl who has to hide her gender in a male dominated world.
For me, YA has to explore realistic issues that teens go through, but when a publisher releases books that seems to concentrates on one aspect like sex, I don’t know what to make of it. Noble primarily publishes erotic romances, and I believe they have cynically carried this theme onto their YA, and is underplaying how explicit the books are, if this book is an example. I think it becomes a disservice to the genre and its readers. When I read a book that’s in a specific genre, I have expectations, and this is most especially true for YA books, and when sex is used as a way to sell books in a profitable genre, I think its a cynical ploy to cash in. If an erotic book has warnings there is an orgy/menage or back-door action, then a publisher like Noble has to warn their readers if they are going to push and crack open the envelope for YA to do the same.
I really had a difficult time writing this post because I don’t want to sensationalise or go all ‘clutches at pearls’ mode because this harks on censorship, AND I AM FIRMLY against this. But when I see books that push the genre’s boundaries and its expectations especially for a YA audience, I do have to question the motives of the publisher on whether they really understand the ramifications. The ironic thing, I would be open to a story that concentrated on the sexual awakening of a heroine, even if it is a YA romance, but I would like to expect there is a clear emphasis that it would be targeted at older YA readers and with a clear warning. For instance Noble’s warning for In the Bad Boy’s Bed is a tad misleading.
Here I quote is what the page warning says:
- Sexual situations
- mild violence
The fact that this book has a warning for sexual situations is disingenuous, because that warning doesn’t convey how very explicit they were. For example:
‘His mouth taking care of my breasts, his hands moved to my skirt. With barely a flick of his thumb, it was unbuttoned and sliding down my legs. He slipped his hand inside my panties and slid a finger along my wet seam. I was so ready for him, for his touch, that he was able to easily slide one, long finger inside me. At the rush of it, I grabbed hold of him inside his underwear.
The feeling of him beating in my hands, of his fingers inside me melted the bones in my body, but I managed to raise one leg and wrap it around him, giving him all the room he needed. As his finger slid in and out of me, and his knuckle rubbed my button into a frenzy of white-hot desire, his mouth consumed mine. We would burn up if we didn’t find a way to extinguish this inferno soon.’
This excerpt shows its a very sexualised book, and there’s actually nothing wrong with that, but for a YA, I really think its pushing past the boundaries and expectations of some readers who are not expecting this. And especially since the sex feels like the main basis of the book and romance, although the emotional arc was explored much later and even then that felt light. I also have issues with other aspects of the book such as the characterisation, and plot, but my real gripe is the fact this book is not really for young teens, and Noble should at least post an age range guide on their site to guide readers/parents.
Maybe the real issue is that YA books tend to focus on the earlier age end of the teenage spectrum and that’s the focus most major publishers are targeting at their audiences. The fact is that most YAs concentrate on characters from ages of 12-17, and rarely on late teens or early 20s. And from what I can gather, this is the audience Noble is targeting.
If there is a publisher out there who is going to enter the YA market, then clearly market and aim the book to your target audience. Using explicit sex as the basis of a story and disguising it as a YA is a dangerous thing to do, because its not so much about the content, it’s about who you are targeting the book for and how you are conveying those scenes to the reader. Right now YA is a huge genre, and there is a lot of cross-over in readership with adults, but there is a reason why there’s a distinction between these two audiences. I actually welcome more darker or sexy elements in YA stories if done well. But if there is a book that focuses on edgier aspects of life, I hope publishers and authors will take a serious approach to warning their prospective readers and to tackle those issues with care and thought.
Update: I found their submissions guidelines for Noble Romance YA – and that was the only info on the target audience for this line was ages between 16 – 21. This isn’t posted in their main site or in the book warnings, or vendors such as Amazon etc… YA books encompass ages that are earlier and I find that this is misleading.