Too Adult? When Your Protagonists Are Teens


I received another great review for  Roman (Saints and Sinners) for which I am always grateful. However, as a mom, the reviewer did raise an interesting flag—she was concerned about the story having a sex scene.

“I would have given this book a much higher rating if it weren’t for the unnecessary teenage sex. YA keeps getting pushed further into Adult, and as a parent of a young teen, I’d like to see more literature which doesn’t try to rush kids into adult things.”

And this…

“Her dreams are even riddled with the essence of him. That part is borderline too adult for a YA book…”

For this reason, the reviewer gave the book 3*.

wingI will admit that many assume this story is directed at “older teens” and adults since the protagonists are indeed teens despite the genre being listed as dark urban fantasy/occult & supernatural.

This seems to be a huge stumbling block that many YA authors face in determining if and how much sex is appropriate for a particular story. And should the author determine a scene of affection (SoA) serves the plot or character development, the additional onus of deciding how explicit that scene can be is an ongoing concern. I don’t have any answers since my only true YA is a squeaky clean contemporary fantasy (Dragon Academy) with zero SoAs.

However, what does one do when the main characters are teenagers? Do readers automatically assume it’s YA because of the protagonists’ ages? Can you circumvent that assumption by careful wording in the blurb? Should the writer specify that it’s “not YA” in the product description? It’s a conundrum.

The last thing I, as a writer, want to do is mislead a potential reader. This is why choosing the right categories and tags can be critical when you skirt expectations in certain genres.

For those of you curious about how explicit that single “scene of affection” was, here’s the lead-in…

374467_431682120232554_441320380_n“As he turned to face her, she stood and walked toward the magnificent creature, aware that both heaven and hell had her in thrall and she cared little for whichever won out. The only thing that mattered was that she belonged to him.

She wasn’t going to be so foolish as to imagine a forever after. The best she’d ever managed was good enough for now. Regrets were for those who never tried. She’d rather go to her grave a wanton harlot than a dried up virginal prune with virtue her constant companion.

Right now I’d rather be a sinner than a saint.

As the myth slowly morphed into the teenage boy, the blackness misting into translucent dust motes dancing about his lean build, she removed her tee-shirt and shimmed out of her jeans, watching his eyes grow dangerous with lust and understanding.

They both knew he had done more than simply remove her from whatever danger he thought stalked her. He had set himself up to betray the rigid, impossible code threatening to tear him apart. That he wanted her was not the issue, rather the question was … did he want her enough?

He answered her question before she had a chance to ask it, his lips hot and angry and primal, driving her back to the edge of the cot, forcing her down as he covered her with silk and sin.”


Flesh stimulated to the point of meltdown, TJ purred as the tips stroked her leg from sole to inner thigh, sending sharp spasms along nerve endings sparking like roman candles.

She giggled at that image … roman … candles.

The man, the apparition of sin and the devil and heaven and bliss, stood leering over her, his eyes lit with an inner fire as he teased her senses mercilessly. The pale yellow light from the lantern flickered and wavered against the rough walls of the cabin, shadows grown long as night fell, blanketing them in solitude.

He’d taken the discomfort and cast it aside despite her protests. She’d wanted to own the experience completely but he’d ignored her pleas, pleasuring her to the point of a pain for which she had no words.

Lifting her as if she weighed nothing, he settled her on his hips, easing her down as she wrapped her long legs about his waist, his wings encasing her in total blackness. Completely at his mercy, she surrendered to his possession, arching her back as he ravaged her flesh with a hunger that never sated.

Reaching up, she blindly sought the bony edges of the wings to fondle the gnarled ridges, reveling in the groan of pleasure each caress coaxed from Roman’s throat as he thrust his hips in time to her furious strokes until he sank to his knees, his body quivering uncontrollably.

She released her hold so he could spread his wings, allowing a wash of cool air to waft over their fevered skin. Beads of sweat clung to his upper lip and brow, his chest heaving from the effort. She brushed thick strands of matted hair off his face, mesmerized by his exotic beauty, his dusky features still flushed with passion.

He whispered, “Don’t move,” as blunt fingers sought out her swollen flesh while his cock once more thickened and engorged.

Feathers teased her cheeks and lips, as light as air, then her entire body vibrated under the onslaught until she cried out, riding the spasms spiraling out of control, curling her toes in ecstasy and sending Roman into another round of tremors that left his wingtips fluttering.

Roman grunted, “Damn it, Angel, I think you’ve killed me.”

She sputtered, “M-me? What about you?” Shaking her head and doing a quick review of sex education for dummies, she gave him a weak smile and asked, “Aren’t guys supposed to, uh, need a break?”

There was a long pause, long enough that TJ worried she’d said something wrong, because she knew that look—the one that shut everything and everyone out.

When he spoke, there was hesitation tinged with apology in his voice. “Angel, I’m not a guy.”

Find out more about ROMAN (Saints and Sinners) HERE.

Young man with cracked skin

About Nya Rawlyns

Crossing boundaries, taking no prisoners. Write what’s in your soul. It’s the bass beat, the heartbeat, the lyrics rude and true. Nya Rawlyns is the pseudonym of a writer who cut her teeth on sports-themed romantic comedy and historical romances before finding her true calling in the wilderness areas she has visited but calls “home” in that place that counts the most: the heart. She has lived in the country and on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, earned more than 1000 miles in competitive trail and endurance racing, taught Political Science to unwilling freshmen, and found an avocation in materials science. When she isn’t tending to her garden or the horses, the cats, or two pervert parakeets, she can be found day dreaming and listening to the voices in her head.
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged A Mom has a say, how much sex is too much and who decides, line between YA and adult, , tagging quandry, teens as protagonists, young adult. Bookmark the permalink.

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