What We’d Like To See In Young Adult Fiction by Actual Young Adults

What We’d Like To See In Young Adult Fiction by Actual Young Adults

Figure 1. Reedus licking his fingers for no good reason.

Figure 1. Reedus licking his fingers for no good reason i.e. every good reason


Adding to this post by Andrew Karre on sex in YA, I’d like to add a list of what students in our class at the Loft Literary Center also wanted to see more of in YA books.

One thing I’d like to note. While I knew some of the students in this class, they were all strangers to Andrew. And yes, from jump they were talking candidly about sex. It could be that this group has a particular interest/comfort in the topic (they did sign up for a class with this title, after all) but my experience with teaching teenagers has been that their candor and comfort with talking about complex topics is always high. They just need to be given the space and time to talk.

This message should knock on the ears of editors and booksellers and librarians, too. What you might not be able to verbalize as a grown adult, teenagers have zero problem with talking about to ANYONE. The world is changing with respect to sexual mores and attitudes. Our books going forward should reflect this.

All right – I give you THE LIST:


  1. Insta-like v. insta-love
  2. Kids with parents who are alive and not terrible
  3. Girls kicking butt without having to be ‘Strong Female Characters’
  4. The recognition of bisexual people existing
  5. Rushed teenaged hook-ups
  6. Homeschoolers who aren’t socially awkward, super religious or delinquents
  7. Different (and complimentary) descriptions for brown eyes
  8. Flirty characters who can exist without being shamed to death for their behavior
  9. Boarding schools where kids actually go to class
  10. “Sensitive” guys who don’t run their fingers through your hair and write you poetry
  11. Minorities being described beyond their race (Black kids, Asians, Mexicans, etc.)
  12. Gay dudes who have straight guy friends
  13. People who LIKE having red hair
  14. Girls who play video games for fun
  15. Crazy main characters with normal best friends
  16. LGBT characters
  17. Teen pregnancy and abortion conflicts
  18. References/memes
  19. Fetishes
  20. Fewer cliches
  21. YA without any romance
  22. Talking about test results
  23. Getting each other off without intercourse
  24. More  masturbation
  25. Female masturbation treated as a matter of fact and without sappy ceremony — like male masturbation
  26. Masturbation being talked about/thought about during partnered sex
  27. More variety and less romance in sex scenes
  28. Injuries that take a plausible amount of time to heal
  29. More communication around and during sex
  30. Getting comfortable with each other’s bodies
  31. Non-sassy-best-friend gay characters
  32. Fight scenes that are sad on both ends
  33. More girls on receiving end of oral sex
  34. Realistic relationship building
  35. Multiracial relationships
  36. Threesomes
  37. More characters questioning their sexuality
  38. Long-lasting, established relationships
  39. Bad dancing at dances
  40. More trans characters
  41. Bad yearbook photos
  42. Awkward sex
  43. Girls’ perspectives on guys’ penis size
  44. Mutual enjoyment
  45. Mutual amazement during sex–“what the hell are we doing?”
  46. Guys being called sluts
  47. Good, accurate non-heterosexual sex scenes
  48. Opinions and doubts about embarking on non-hetero sex
  49. Verbal abuse
  50. Non-cliched seduction
  51. Detailed rape scenes
  52. Sexual fantasies
  53. More thought processes during fighting and sex
  54. More friend conversations about sexual experience
  55. Bisexual, pansexual struggles and confusion
  56. LGBTQ relationships that are not judged
  57. Dumb arguments that seem like a big deal

Looks like you’ve got a job ahead of you, YA writers! Go forth and get some!

(p.s. those who write paranormal/fantasy stories might also enjoy this list: Paranormal Stories We’d Like To See)





  • S on Feb 07, 2015 Reply

    I know this list is kind of old, but could you elaborate some of them? Fx the first one?

    • Carrie Mesrobian on Feb 07, 2015 Reply

      I’m not sure I know EXACTLY what my students meant by this. I think insta-like v. insta-love means that the reader would like to see a progression of affection.

      Immediately LIKING someone is maybe more plausible than immediately LOVING them?

      • S on Feb 07, 2015 Reply

        Oh, I get that. I thought it might be a reference to the social media, instagram, which got me confused!

  • Katie Pierson on Sep 04, 2014 Reply

    I love this list! Especially after having just been taken to task by an agent for having a sex scene in my YA novel that was “too explicit.” Thanks, Carrie.

  • Rachel Gold on Aug 19, 2014 Reply

    I love this list! I shall immediately get to work on including many of these in the next novel.

  • Elizabeth Fama on Aug 18, 2014 Reply

    More of # 28 in movies, too, please. And no more being knocked unconscious and then waking up normal and continuing your adventure. YOU HAVE A CONCUSSION.

  • Pete Hautman on Aug 18, 2014 Reply

    This is a fabulous list, Carrie. Every one of those points is solid enough to hang a chapter on—if not a novel. Next person who asks me where I get my ideas, I’m sending ’em here.

  • Sarah Ahiers on Aug 18, 2014 Reply

    holy shit. I effing love this list. It was super fun to read it and think “ooh, I have that! Or, that’s in my WIP!” And also, yes to almost all of these things because a lot of them are things I really want to see more of as well.

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