On Friday 16th May 2014, an article was published on The Bookseller website about Caitlin Moran talking about her latest novel, How to Build a Girl, which is being published in July. She claims, ‘“...it’s really important which sexy books you read - particularly when you’re a girl,”’. I have no issue with that statement. But a little later on, she goes on to say, ‘“You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires”’.
Well, as an avid reader of YA, it appears to me that Moran has sadly not had the right people recommending YA to her. There are a plethora of YA novels where teenage girls are ‘“having adventures, particularly sex adventures”’ - without the vampires. I’m sure Moran would be happy to hear that if she came into Foyles and spoke to the fantastic Children’s Booksellers, they would be able to fill multiple baskets of such books for her. But I thought I would start her off with some recommendations here.
There’s Trouble by Non Pratt - my review of which will be coming later this year. Fifteen-year-old Hannah is pregnant. She's terrified, unsure, and doesn't want anyone to know who the father is. What she wants is to keep the baby. Aaron is new to Hannah's school, escaping from his past. He wants to keep his head down and go under the radar. But when Hannah needs help, he volunteers to pretend to be her baby's father. Most of the characters in Trouble spend their free time attempting to pull. There is a very blasé attitude from most of the teenagers towards sex, and having casual sex is just the done thing. Every Friday night the aim is the same; to have sex. This is a book where sexuality is celebrated and enjoyed. Hannah isn't exactly who you think she is at the beginning of the book, and Trouble is simply a beautiful and moving portrayal of sexual freedom and teenage pregnancy.
Or maybe The Miseducation of Cameron Post by E. M. Danforth, a fantastic LGBTQ novel of a teenage girl discovering sex and sexuality. On the day Cameron finds herself kissing a girl, her parents die. From that day on, her whole world changes. Living with her grandmother and her very religious aunt, she is brought up with certain ideas about homosexuality; Cam questions what she feels and what she's told, worrying that her parents died as punishment for her "sin". But the various people she meets along the way and the numerous movies she secretly watches tell her a different story. Cam tries to keep her relationships secret, but nothing stays secret forever. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an incredible coming-of-age novel that takes an awesome look at one girl's self-discovery, coming into her own.
Good Girls by Laura Ruby is the fantastic story of Audrey, a good girl. She’s smart, a high achiever, she’s a great daughter and better friend. But then someone takes an incriminating photo of her with Luke DeSalvio, when they thought they were alone, and it gets sent to everyone at school. Who took the photo? Why is she the only one who’s getting grief? And what will happen when her Mum and Dad find out? I absolutely love this story, it was one of the first books I read when starting to read YA, and it’s exactly what’s so good about the category. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening, and just brilliant.
And finally, Screwed by Joanna Kenrick, one of the most incredible novels on teenage sexuality I have every read, one that is sadly out of print – but available on our website. Fifteen-year-old Marsha is wild, rebellious, and has gone off the rails. She goes out clubbing until very late, gets incredibly drunk, and sleeps around. A lot. When her best friend Faith bets her fifty pounds she won’t be able to get Rich, a boy in their year, to sleep with her, she agrees. Boys are all the same, and Marsha knows what they like, why would this one be any different? Except Rich is different; he’d rather a relationship than a one-night stand. What Marsha doesn’t realise is so would she. An incredibly moving and powerful story that is about so much more than casual sex.
But there plenty of others - perhaps Moran (and maybe you) should check out the posts for Sex in Teen Lit Month I held in 2009, and the second edition coming up later this year - but also various YA novels about teenage girls having “adventures” that don’t involve sex, like The Chemical Garden series by Lauren DeStefano, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Adaptation by Malinda Lo, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison, and so many others.
I do hope Moran does pick up a few more YA novels, because she’s definitely been missing out on some amazing books. If anyone wants further recommendations of fantastic YA with female protagonists, you should look up the #caitlinmoranshouldread hashtag on Twitter, started by YA author Keris Stainton – I’m not the only one thinking Moran’s might like to read a few more YA novels.