Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teen Roundtable: Sex, Cheaters, and "Poop"ular Devices

It’s time again for our monthly Teen Roundtable with our Teen Spies! Since it’s February, we decided to focus on YA romance, but with a er, …not-so-clean flair. We chatted sex preferences (as in how much they can withstand in a novel), infidelity, those boys we love, and those we love to hate. Our discussion led to some new wordage. Some memorable quotes. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a roundtable if we didn’t go all tangential on SOMETHING. Here’s how things started out…

On the Midnight Premiere…

Alison: So, anyone else ready for March 23?

Lennon: ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE MY TICKETS!!! We are making my friend read it. And making him go as Cinna to the midnight showing.

Laura: I'm doing the same. It was my best friend’s birthday two days ago and I told her straight up, "I don't care what you want. I love you and therefore I'm buying The Hunger Games for you."

Lissa: I was so happy when I saw one of my non-reader friends reading it; apparently her mom is a writer and forced her to read it.

Erica: I am probably the only person who wasn't nuts about those books. The Hunger Games itself was almost a did not finish, tho I did love Catching Fire.

Lennon: Is anyone else dressing up?

Laura: YES! Totally dressing as Katniss and embarrassing anyone who is brave enough to go with me.

Alison: Will you wear a flaming cape?

Laura: ...might pass on that one.

Lennon: Haha awesome. I'm still deciding between Katniss, Clove, or a chick from the Capitol.

Alison: CLOVE?!?!!

Lennon: Its the only other tribute I can pull off. Well the only one with a NAME that I can pull off.

Alison: My daughter and all her friends are going with me. They're designing Team Peeta shirts.

Lennon: Team Peeta or Team Gale?

(cue many PEETAs - Agent A: Yessss!)

Lissa: PEETA!!! But I went back and forth between them until Mockingjay

Laura: I want a shirt that says something like, "Peeta Mellark: Bake my buns".

Lennon: No one likes Gale. I kinda feel bad for him. But then I think of Peeta's face I forget why.

Alison: I NEVER felt bad for Gale

Erica: Gale was meh

Lissa: I liked him for the first bit but he always had this weird feel to him I think

Lennon: I didnt HATE him until the last book

Karen: Awww, bunch of Gale haters up in here. *cowers in corner* I like Gale *ducks* but I like Peeta too

Laura: Gale. Blech! Why couldn't one of his snares backfire on him?!

Alison: awww...okay, now I'm starting to feel a little bad for Gale. But only a little.

After a little more Gale bashing (sorry, Special K!), we got on the topic for the night. Romance. Clean vs. Not Clean. We started out clarifying exactly what that meant to us.

Lennon: Sex vs No Sex

Cambria: Clean = no over-the-top sex on the page, not-so-clean = VARIES. Like: Over the shirt vs. Under the shirt...but on the page

Karen: I would guess it means how when romance scenes get to the "brown chicken brown cow" part (that's my G-rated porn music) then the scene fades to black in "clean" romance. No clean means you get all the details

Lennon: Personally, I don't care as long as the writing is classy and I don't end up reading a written version of porn.

Laura: I always thought it was like a peck on the cheek compared to some major tongue hockey.

Lissa: I think it depends on the book. If it's a love story with a happier tone then sweet and simple goes for me. But when the book has a gritty atmosphere and if the characters are the kind that would go with the whole "under the shirt concept" then that works too. But I prefer passionate scenes more than kisses on the cheek or pecks.

Cambria: I think Lissa hit it -- It totally depends on what's authentic for the characters in the book.

Would our teens dismiss a book if there’s sex in it?

Erica: I don't care about the content of books really, I more just read books if it sounds good

Laura: Can I just say that I thought Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen perfectly handled sex scenes. It was detailed without being too much.

Lissa: if sex works in the book, then I don't care. Like, Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick is a good example of where sex works, because it fits the tone of the book

Cambria: I always wonder if authors self-censor sometimes...because if you plan on selling, publishing standards (incl. how likely school libraries will buy it, etc.) are always whispering in the background at least a little

Lennon: It happens in high school and sometimes in middle school too, we can't pretend it doesn't in books if the characters are in high school

Cambria: I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't put blinders on teens just because you think it could be challenged. Teens will read what they want and skip what they don't want...besides, there's plenty of visual sex simulation on TV anyway

Lissa: Some of my older friends who are writers seem to actually struggle with how much detail to include with their sex scenes. I've seen them argue with one another over how far is too far, but a lot of the time, it seems that it's because they're uncomfortable with writing sex scenes themselves

How do they feel about INFIDELITY in YA books?

Lissa: Cheating is bad. Don't do it.

Laura: I say: don't cheat. Don't date. Don't get married. Live with your "Peeta Mellark: Bake my buns" tee and live happily ever after.

Cambria: Laura -- COMMENT OF THE NIGHT

Lissa: Has anyone read Playing Hurt (by Holly Schindler)? About a girl who has a boyfriend who she's "in love with" but still cheats on him with this guy she meets a summer camp. And basically the whole book is about their relationship. I think it tackles cheating from the "cheaters" POV.

Cambria: Did you like the main girl character?

Lissa: I wouldn't say I liked her because I couldn’t agree with what she did. But I kind of understood what she was going through. I just think that, even though she loved this new guy, it was really wrong to cheat. It's not justified even if your feelings are.

Cambria: Do you feel more "sympathy" for cheaters who are girls or cheaters who are boys? Or does it not make any difference?

Lissa: Not really in my opinion

Laura: A cheater is a cheater, no matter their gender. Relationships are messy, but people shouldn't purposefully mess them up.

Lennon: Personally, I can relate to girls better than guys in any situation. However in cheating, I know that there are two sides to all stories since one of my friends "cheated" on her boyfriend.

Erica: I think it depends on the situation, but most of the time, I think that works, because it's something most people can relate to/know someone who that's happened to

Alison: What about characters falling for someone with a bf or gf? I just think of Anna and Etienne (Anna and the French Kiss) and think how much I wanted them together. And then the flip side—Jacob pursuing Bella

Lissa: Anna and Etienne's relationship was awesome, but I think Etienne was really wrong. If I were Anna, I honestly wouldn't be able to forgive him for that, even if it wasn't me he's cheating on. If a cheater cheats once, who says they won't do it again when someone better comes along. So don't date cheaters

Cambria: But most people rooted for Anna and Etienne to get together...so I wonder if it was the circumstance (and us following Anna's narration) or if it was the light-hearted writing. or what?

Lissa: But we saw Etienne's relationship falling apart, right?

Cambria: Right. So that's what I'm wondering...does that make it "ok" if the cheater's in a wretched relationship?

Lissa: Still no because if they're in a relationship...then they're in the relationship

Cambria: Or does the "once a cheater, always a cheater" adage still work? (On a personal note, I loved Anna & the French Kiss, but had a hard time rooting for Etienne after I realized he was still dating his gf)

Lissa: I think we rooted for them because we saw it from Anna's POV and because Etienne's gf wasn't in the picture a lot.

Cambria: It'd be interesting to read Anna & the French Kiss from the perspective of the gf that was cheated on...

Alison: Idk, Cam - I thought she was such a bee - I don't want to read anything about her

Cambria: Alison -- But you thought she was a bitch because we read from Anna's POV...

Alison: Right. Which permanently clouded my judgment

Lissa: The readers thinking she's a bitch is another reason why we rooted for Anna + Etienne. Which if you think about it is sort of biased. Because we wanted Etienne to be happy, right, but we never did see his relationship with Ellie

Cambria: Lissa -- precisely my point...always two sides to a coin

Alison: but I think Anna would have seen her as a bitch regardless

Cambria: Lissa/Alison -- exactly, exactly -- it's totally possibly Anna only saw the bitch part of the situation

Lissa: What I noticed in Lola and the Boy Next Door is that Lola’s boyfriend became "evil" as the book went along. I think authors might, unintentionally, make the person stuck on the bad end of the love triangle a bad person, even though they aren't originally. By like that I mean that, in demonizing the character, the "new guy" looks better. I saw that in Lola but then realized with that David/Dan guy in Anna that the "demonizing" was done too

Alison: but I think the author almost has to do that, Lissa - Idk if it is unintentional - if we are to forgive something like Etienne did

Lissa: Yeah, but the character starts out perfectly fine in the beginning, and as the new relationship takes place, that person is demonized more. Like with that Dave guy, he was rude in the beginning, but then became disgusting when Anna went out with him, just to prove how Etienne is perfect. We shouldn't need that to happen to prove that the "new guy" is better than the other one. The characters, as they are, should stand as they are on their own. I just think there's some character fraud going on, is all

Cambria: Lissa -- but maybe the demonized character isn't really changing...but the main character's perception of him/her is

Lissa: But with Lola, her boyfriend just became grosser and grosser as the book went along, even though he was sweet in the beginning. Like I guess it makes sense that now they have something else to compare to, but it still is pretty fishy for me. I feel like those other characters are there just to make the romantic lead more special-seeming

Rebecca: I get what Lissa is saying. Dave was nice at the beginning but then once Anna started liking Etienne, his character well, not very nice. The author, slowly, slowly made the reader not like him.

Alison: I completely get what you're saying, and I will tell you it is a device. One that works on many people. We do the same thing in the theatre. Use contrast to highlight something you want, er…highlighted

Lissa: It's a poopular device and I'm seeing it a lot now that I've realized it. I think it destroys my perception of the characters and their relationships, but that could be just me

Lissa: *popular, not POOPular

Alison: haha - I don't know if the "poopular" was intentional, but it made me lol

Cambria: *playing Devil's advocate here* Has no one ever dated a douchebag boy before? Because I totally have but if I'd known how douchey he was, I wouldn't have dated him in the first place. yanno?

Karen: I'm a very experienced douche dater.

Alison: I have dated my share of douches and I color them amazing when I first start dating them

Rebecca: Yes, and you’re like why was I colouring them amazing!?!

Cambria: EXACTLY LADIES! (My Devil's advocacy deed is done.) So...it might be a device, but it can also be authentic when we're writing about character dynamics and feelings

Rebecca: Haha, where have all the guys disappered to? *looks around*

Lissa: Would you date someone who's cheated on somebody else?

Cambria: Lissa -- if I knew about it? No.

Laura: I'm just going to repeat myself: DON'T DATE.

Alison: I think that's a situation that depends on well, the situation

Rebecca: That's a tough one. I suppose only if they had changed since they had last cheated.

Lennon: I think I have actually. I pretty sure my last boyfriend cheated on his ex and me.

Laura: Woah! Also, the timing has never been more perfect - DON'T DATE.

Rebecca: When I think of Laura now, two words will pop into my head: DON'T DATE

Cambria: So...if no one dates anymore, does that mean the world will fill up with a bunch of horny teens? Because if so, I need to bunker down!

Lissa: Speaking of horny teens! I saw something on Facebook the other day about this friends with benefits thing: everybody's doing it

Laura: No way, we've got those not-so clean books. Haha!

Lissa: So the horniness should be tamed as long as people can still sleep with their pals

Cambria: Lissa -- so really? Is friends with benefits a norm in high school?

Karen: I was so born in the wrong era. I love romance

Lissa: From what I've seen, it seems so. I think it's believed that the complications disappear, but I disagree

Cambria: Do girls get labeled sluts/etc. if they engage in casual sex in high school? Or not so much anymore?

Lissa: Yes, oh my gosh yes, Cambria. My school, from what I've picked up in the last 6 months, is that it's a very...less sexual school than the norm. From what I can tell. So the girls who are engaged in anything sexual are automatically labelled sluts, even from people who don't know them

Lennon: I'm labled as a "slut" at my school, even though I've never engaged in sexual activies.

Cambria: Really?!?! Tell them Cutta Mutha's got your back!

Laura: Every second girl I know has been called a slut, even if they DON'T DATE. I know I have, which confuses me.

Karen: people use the word slut to casually. But then again I think people have sex too casually these days. I still believe it should be an act of love

Cambria: I wish people saw the word 'slut' as offensively as other words (which I will not say) that society deems offensive. So many words are totally damaging. and slut is definitely one of those words.

Laura: Really? I never say slut much. I prefer "ninny".

Karen: Ninny! I'm so using that from now on

Laura: Someone sleeps around and they are so totally a freaking nincompoop.

Cambria: nincompoopular

Laura: Ugh, what a nincompooular ninny. I'm so using that!

So, there you have it. Our teens on that not so clean romance, infidelity and those devices that ignite passionate points of view. See what fun we have! *sigh* I love our spies.

What's YOUR take on infidelity in YA romance? On character bias? Or words that hurt? And do YOU have your Hunger Games tickets yet?


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