I will never forget the Christmas break when I was in college and my younger sister handed me a popular young adult book, emphatically declaring it to be amazing and insisting that I read it. So I did, that night actually, and I wasn't two chapters in before I, a worldly college student, was beet red, blushing and horrified.
My fourteen-year-old sister had just handed me a best-selling young adult book, intended for teens, that had two felonies in the first thirty pages! Needless to say, I told her she was way too young to read such a book and she pleaded with me not to tell on her. Now, several years later, I can't say for sure if she's scarred for life, but sometimes I wonder. (Just kidding, don't disown me!)
Sure, she didn't become a menace to society, and if she had, there would have likely been other mitigating factors, but it wasn't great that she was reading things the average adult would consider to be in poor taste. Not to mention, the story didn't call for the felonies. Had they not been included, the story would not have been any less engaging.
When we consider YA books for the Four Anchors shelf, we ask ourselves if it passes the blush test.
This test is two-fold:
First, would an adult blush at its provocative nature? If yes, this book is a no.
Second, would a teenager blush in excitement for the main character? If yes, the book is a yes. Our books are clean, not boring!
The best clean young adult stories are engaging and addictive, but without the need for sex, cursing, and violence to make them so.