I got some GREAT comments on the post yesterday. In particular, Lola Sharp gave a very good (and very useful!) in-depth view of what's out there in YA and how kids are reacting. How does she know? Because she's got a 14 year old daughter.
Look, I'm not going to pull the whole "when I was your age we had to walk uphill two miles in the snow with bare feet" adult thing, but holy crap do these kids know everything. In high school, I knew kids who had not only been into drugs, but had already gotten out of them by the time freshman year rolled around. Sex was very commonplace, R-rated movies were no big deal, and I thought I knew everything.
BUT. I wasn't doing those things. I knew about them, they weren't taboo topics, but I wasn't doing them. So that whole high school experience is inauthentic to me. I walk a confusing line between wanting to be authentic to modern teenagers (now I do sound old, blah) and wanting to be authentic to the kids who I know are like me, and my own past.
Like drugs, for instance. I wasn't into drugs, I didn't hang out with people who were. I knew people, sure, but that wasn't my thing. And to be completely honest, I don't want to write about people who are into that kind of life. Those aren't really characters I want to explore. No judgement, but it's like writing about a marine biologist: how many of you really find them interesting? Yeah, that's how I feel about people who do drugs. Not my scene, not what I'm interested in learning about.
But do I nerd myself out of the market by not including it? That's hard to say. I'd guess some would say yes, some would say no. I also get on a weird church lady moral streak sometimes and don't want to promote that kind of life. I don't want kids to feel like they have to live that life to be "real." I'm not out to moralize the world (I cut people off on the highway way too much for that), but I do want to create MCs that I can admire.
Thanks, everyone, for the great comments yesterday. After going back through more of my WIP, I decided to stick mostly to damns, hells, and the occasional bitch. Siiiiiigh, I'm so saintly.