bad words and YA lit.

First off I have to say, I’m a fan of George Carlin and as I write this I can hear him saying, “There are no bad words…”  and I agree, they are simply words, and all of them have a place.  I had been told that YA publishers don’t cotton to cuss words in YA literature.  Which hasn’t been a problem for me, much.

I am writing a YA novel and yes, one character would like to swear, but I’ve been sidestepping it with phrases such as a friend overhearing, “a string of colorful words, meaning her mom must not be home.”

I recently read a YA book, something contemporary, which has won an award, and it has a healthy dose of swear words, including the globally recognized “F” word.  Obviously these words are allowed and I got incorrect information.  That’s fine, then I started to wonder, what are some of the feelings about these words used in this genre?

I started asking around for opinions on this and have read some interesting thoughts.  I agreed with some, disagreed with others and then it occurred to me that none of these folks are teenagers.  Not knowing any current teens, I queried some who have been teenagers very recently, and the response to being asked how they felt when reading swear words in YA books was; “normal”.

I’m not one to shy away from reading any particular words, and while I don’t  want to be barraged by obscenities, I can accept it if it fits the character and the story is good.  Now, I may just let my character get a few of those sorts of words in.

I still want to ask, have you ever put a book down because there were swear words?  Do you have a limit to how many you’ll tolerate?  Or does it depend on what sorts of words are used; damn and ass for example, but not anything stronger?


2 thoughts on “bad words and YA lit.

  1. Andrew


    I feel that words should be used that reflect the reality of the situation, and used in a manner that keeps the writing flowing. So alas I feel often a word should be used, rather than side-stepped, unless the person reading the material shouldn’t be exposed to the word.

    I think it is great you are giving thought to the situation, and best of luck with your book.

    Best Regards

    Twitter @andrewemmett


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