Agency Lessons: Let's talk about sex

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today, I'm tackling a question from the mail bag, and it's a doozy so let's jump right in.
Hey, Sarah! I was wondering, if there are characters in your book that have sex (not graphically, but it still happens in the PG-13 version), does that automatically take it to NA or can it still be YA? OR (cause I like options ;) ) What are the differences between YA and NA?

Here's the dealieo; YA is not what it used to be. Back in the days when  I was actually a teen reading the few books for teens that were available, they were as clean as they come. No cursing, no drinking and absolutely no sex.

But times they are a changing. Today's YA is much more reflective of the plethora of challenges that teens face. That means they deal with tough situations like poverty and sexual violence. They also include behavior that, while not exactly encouraged, is certainly present in a lot of teens lives. So sex in a YA isn't the taboo that it used to be.

The general rule for YA is that once the clothes start coming off, the door is closed and we fade to black. That isn't a hard and fast rule and authors are constantly pushing that line. However, I would say any descriptions that involve detailed body parts are probably better left for the older kids.

So, sex is definitely okay for YA. But make sure it's there to advance the story and not just turn your character into a book boyfriend.

As far as NA goes, that's a different story. NA toes the line between YA and Adult, but definitely leans heavier on the adult side and that is where it would be shelved in a book store. NA is really about the audience. These are books for readers who are in college or just graduated. They are on their own in the big world, unlike YA, but they aren't ready for the big commitments of Adult novels. 

When it comes to NA, since it leans heavier on the Adult side of things, sex is much more prevalent and...descriptive. And that's okay, because the characters are all over the age of 18 and it's all good.

Just keep in mind that the difference between YA and NA isn't just the sex content. It's also the audience and the very different issues that those two groups face. There's a big difference between a 16-yr-old and a 21-yr-old. 

This is a topic that could be discussed ad nauseam. If you're interested in more info on sex in YA, I was recently part of a great discussion with Blaze Publishing where several authors and bloggers talked about the dirty deed and its place in YA. 

Also, remember, if you have questions you'd like to see me answer as part of Agency Lessons, you can leave them in the comments or send them anonymously via this easy peasy form.