Fiona Wood on Girls, Sex, and Wildlife

September 17, 2013 2013, 4 star books, australian authors, fiona wood, guest post, Wendy 67

I don’t know about you, but I feel as though a vast majority of YA seems to portray teenagers as hypersmart, sophisticated creatures who are borderline perfect, or “carefully flawed” in exactly the right and tolerable way. As fun as that fiction can be, I always feel a certain amusement for characters like that, because how many of us actually were that spectacular at that age? 

I think part of the appeal of contemporary Aussie YA for me is that it consistently offers teenagers who act like teenagers; whether they’re snarly and vindictive or fumbly and sweet, a lot of them just seem very real. That’s certainly the case with the students in Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Sybilla and Lou are spending one school term doing an outdoor education program, where they find that surviving the wilderness is easy in comparison to surviving deceptive friends, tricky, needy boys, and their own uncharted feelings. 

Things I loved about this book: the funny, good-natured byplay between the characters; smart dialogue that zings; the way Lou’s deep and private pain is slowly unpeeled until she’s laid bare and vulnerable; the complex interplay between all the girls; and the way one first love is portrayed in a deeply earnest, embarrassing way. The author’s writing feels fresh and unstudied, and I was startled into both laughter and tears on more than one occasion. 

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this book, however, is how sexually frank Wildlife manages to be without being laden down with angst and melodrama, nor breathless with rapture over its magical life-changing properties. Consider these quotes, which I love because of how painfully and truthfully this girl’s first sexual experience is portrayed. 

…neither of us mentioned the four-letter word that comes before this three-letter activity in all my schemes and dreams. 

(And later)

Afterwards I feel wobbly and slightly shocked, climbing up from under the rubble to check out the new world…Did we really just do that? I want to hide my face. I want to look into a mirror in private, to check if I’m still me. 

Because there’s been so much discussion (read: hand-wringing) recently about how much sex is too much sex, we’ve invited Fiona Wood to share her thoughts on this issue: do realistic sex scenes in YA fiction have value? 

I think you’ll be interested in hearing what she has to say.

~ Wendy 

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Girls, Sex and Wildlife 

by Fiona Wood 

The old virgin/whore binary still casts its shadow deep into the 20th century: sex was something that bad girls allowed and good girls resisted. Boys desired; girls were objects of desire. It’s so far off the mark in its moral judgments and its assessment of experience and, thankfully, contemporary YA fiction is able to reflect that.

Sibylla’s sexual experience in Wildlife emerges from and is integral to character. Sib (who is cisgendered and heterosexual) equivocates about first-time sex as she does about everything. When she and boyfriend Ben do have sex, it’s something she has thought about a lot, is still undecided about, but then falls into spontaneously. And it’s not until after she’s had sex that she decides, actually, no, this is not where she wants the relationship to be. Often that’s exactly what experience is: a not very logical sequence of decisions and recalibrations. And that’s okay. Sex at sixteen is not about happily ever after, it’s about who am I? There’s also a scene in the book where Sibylla masturbates – she understands her own sexual pleasure; it’s puzzling that such a matter-of-fact aspect of female sexuality is so seldom written about. Why is this space left blank? girls might well wonder. Doesn’t it exist? Doesn’t it matter?

Another thing referenced through Wildlife’s characters is that early sexual experiences are unlikely to be particularly wonderful. After having sex for the first time Sibylla thinks, 

Orgasm – huh – sooo much easier on your own. Who knew? How do people even coordinate it with all that distracting – sex – going on? 

And Lou reflects on her first sexual experiences, 

We were all liquid aching and longing. It was fun being beginners together. You only get that once. It took a little while. We were learning a new language, after all.

So, why go there at all? Why not employ an ellipsis and leave the details of sex off the page? To me there has never been a more important time to present some positive representations of sex and sexuality to teen readers. Unfortunately, casual sexism, objectification and crimes of sexual violence are permanent fixtures on the girl-radar. Misogynistic images and messages are prolific and unavoidable. In the last year we’ve also seen new lows in social media with so-called ‘slut’-shaming incidents and their often-tragic consequences. And we desperately need antidotes to this. Fiction can offer some sane counterbalance here – for me that simply means presenting young women characters as having agency, self-respect, and equal rights to pleasure, to initiating sex, to saying yes or no to sex. Readers will benefit enormously from canvassing these ideas before they are faced with such choices and experiences in real life. Sex and the physical and emotional responsibilities that come with it are areas that warrant serious thought, but teachers and parents are rarely the most welcome of messengers. Fiction, however, provides a safe, private place to investigate and digest these ideas at leisure.

And while I was going there… There were other things I wanted to say about sex, but novels are not vehicles for unmotivated blurting of pet beliefs, so I gave Sibylla’s mother the job of working in public health and sex education policy which then allowed me to have Sib recall some of her mother’s enshrined maxims including things about safe sex, and that ‘drunk means no’, that ‘pornography bears no resemblance to lifeography’ and that LGBTG are normal. I really like being able to share a view of the world that presents sex in a positive, warm, fallible, human way, that empowers girls, that questions heteronormative assumptions, and that supports an inclusive normality. It’s not why I write YA but it is one of the privileges of writing for this readership

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About the Author 

Fiona Wood has been writing television scripts for more than ten years. Her first YA novel Six Impossible Things was shortlisted for the 2011 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers. Wildlife is her second novel, and is available online at Fishpond, which offers free shipping internationally. 

She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two YAs. You can visit her blog and follow her on Twitter to keep up with the latest news on her books. 

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Further Reading:  

Honest Sex Scenes in Books Will Stop Teens from Learning from Porn 
Sex and the Teenage Girl 

Wendy’s review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was kindly provided by PanMacmillan Australia.

What do you think of frank discussions or depictions of sex in YA fiction? Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts!


67 Responses to “Fiona Wood on Girls, Sex, and Wildlife”

  1. Fiona Wood

    Thanks again for inviting me to visit The Midnight Garden, Wendy. Thanks to your readers, too, for such engaged and generous responses!

  2. Fiona Wood

    Thanks again for inviting me to visit The Midnight Garden, Wendy. And thanks to your readers, too, for such an engaged and generous response.

  3. Sarah Johnson

    This post is absolutely brilliant. I don’t think I’ve read a post I’ve found to speak so frankly and truly about a tough subject. Thanks for posting this, Wendy! I really enjoyed reading the authors thoughts and I’m definitely going to give this book a shot!

  4. dreamsofawalrus

    This is probably one of my favorite posts by you guys ever (and that’s high praise). I wrote a response (well, inspired-by) post on my writing blog http://www.valerieglenmullen.com/ya-and-female-masturbation/ and if I had to summarize it the takeaway would be “yes, yes, yes, yes, thank you, yes, keep talking, yes, agree completely”.

    That being said, I love both styles: dreamily inaccurate and painfully genuine. The paragraph about hiding her face, wanting to look in a mirror… WOW. I remember that so clearly from my own experiences. Definitely looking forward to reading this one!

  5. dreamsofawalrus

    This is probably one of my favorite posts by you guys ever (and that’s high praise). I wrote a response (well, inspired-by) post on my writing blog http://www.valerieglenmullen.com/ya-and-female-masturbation/ and if I had to summarize it the takeaway would be “yes, yes, yes, yes, thank you, yes, keep talking, yes, agree completely”.

    That being said, I love both styles: dreamily inaccurate and painfully genuine. The paragraph about hiding her face, wanting to look in a mirror… WOW. I remember that so clearly from my own experiences. Definitely looking forward to reading this one!

    • Wendy Darling

      This is such a late reply, but thanks so much for that, Valerie! High praise indeed.

      The author tells me this book is going to be released in the US down the road, so I hope you get your hands on it. It sounds like something you’d connect with.

  6. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    I was definitely not as spectacular in high school as those things you mentioned that we often find in YA girl characters. lol I really appreciate this author’s view on sex and masturbation in YA. This line right here – “Sex at sixteen is not about happily ever after, it’s about who am I?” – completely agree with. Thanks for sharing!

  7. erin

    This sounds fantastic! I love the idea of the realism and I’m definitely going to have to check this out. Thanks for the great review!

  8. Melliane

    it must be nice to have a realistic book like that, because it’s so easier to relate the characters and understand them, or I think so.

  9. A Canadian Girl

    Wendy, I haven’t read too many books by Aussie authors but the ones that I have read, have all been great. I definitely have to agree with you that the characters in Aussie novels tend to be more realistic.

    I’m fully in support of frank discussions of sex in YA as books are one way that teens can learn about things without embarrassment or judgement in order to form critical opinions.

  10. Lyn Kaye

    I love this term: “carefully flawed”.

    I think that is why I have such a huge bookcrush on Speechless – the main character acted like a teenager. We do have a whole slew of adorable little gals who are just splendidly perfect.

  11. Amanda Duncil

    I was absolutely blown away by her discussion on sex. I really think such a perspective is a healthy thing for fiction; it helps the younger audience relate instead of feeling alienated, and depicts events in a realistic light instead of inflating events to be something more than they really are. I’m seriously contemplating buying this and doing my own analysis.

    • Wendy Darling

      Sorry for responding so late, Amanda–I’m glad you enjoyed Fiona’s guest post! I think we could use more positive depictions of female sexuality in YA as well, it’s a huge part of growing up and sadly under-represented in fiction. I hope you enjoy the book when you get around to it.

  12. Rachel @ Unforgettable Books

    This is definitely a topic that people don’t talk about usually. Probably because its intimate and intimidating. My favorite part of fiction is escaping into another life. Fiona’s discussion on her thoughts of portraying sex realistically with girls actually wanting it in a non-obsessive natural manner and not just being the desired people.

    Fantastic post Fiona!

    Love your beginning Wendy! I have read much Aussie books besides Jaclyn Moriarty so I want to move futrher in their fiction about realistic teens, starting with Wildfire. I live for humorous flowing dialogue.

  13. YA Anonymous

    Fiona. SIGH. So good. I love Six Impossible Things and Wildlife because even though she deals with all these topics/issues, it never feels preachy. I also love that she deals with things like sex and masturbation as they should be — normal and completely acceptable, even, shock me shock me, for a girl! Wildlife is my favorite book so far this year. Great, great interview.

    -Maggie

  14. Kim

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I think it’s a really interesting concept. I’m all for sex in contemporary YAs — in any YAs. It happens. Not talking about it, not being honest about it, isn’t going to change that fact. And it’s true what was said: that it’s not about happy ever after, it’s about figuring out who you are and it’s not a logical act.

    I found this guest post really fascinating. Thank you for sharing it. Now I’m going to have to go find this book :)

  15. Joyous Reads

    FYI, I was spectacular at that age….okay, okay. You don’t have to fall off your chair laughing. Sheesh.

    I haven’t read Wildwood yet but it sounds as real as it gets. You are very brave for writing those scenes which a lot of authors don’t have to gumption to even attempt.

    As a mother, I’m hoping that at sixteen, my daughter would not be trying to find her identity through sex because that would just be…unthinkable for my husband and I. But reality is, that’s exactly what’s happening. I think books like yours would be educational but I’d still have to have a sit down discussion with her about it.

    Great post, ladies.

  16. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    I haven’t read near enough Aussie YA, the only one I have is Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and I LOVED it. I always think about how masterbation is never touched upon in a sexual YA novel too, but then I think back to growing up and it was ALWAYS something that a girl never did. I don’t get that stigma, what’s wrong with a little self pleasure here and there?

    • Wendy Darling

      It does seem surprisingly that masturbation isn’t something you read about too often, considering how far we’ve come in terms of sexual education and awareness. Books like this will hopefully open the door somewhat to thinking about taking that chance.

      Also, Jenni–one of my favorite comments on this post, hah. I want to quote it back at you via Twitter, but I will refrain. :D

  17. Sam (Realm of Fiction)

    I love this post! I haven’t yet read anything by Fiona Woods before, but this book is blurbed by Melina Marchetta? That’s enough of a reason to pick it up! I’m glad to hear that there’s a realistic portrayal of sex here – and masturbation too, which most people seem to shy away from talking about. You know, I always end up rolling my eyes when in YA books we get the build up to the sex scene, but don’t actually end up reading about it. The fade-out effect, as I like to think of it. It’s always refreshing when authors are positive and frank about sexual experiences.

    • Wendy Darling

      This is SUCH a Sam book! And yeah, I understand the fade-to-black sometimes, but other times it does feel like a bit of a cheat. And even if the scenes aren’t explicit, as they aren’t necessarily here in this book, there’s certainly room to explore the intense feelings that come with the aftermath. I actually really liked the humor with which the aftermath was portrayed here–I originally included a reference to it, but it just sidetracked the lead-in to Fiona’s guest post too much.

  18. Melanie

    Oh I love this book so much I remember tweeting Fiona multiple times fangirling over this amazing masterpiece of a novel. Sex, drugs and other topics aren’t commonly addressed in the YA fic world and I do belive that there should be more of them if done properly just like Fiona has.

    Thank you for sharing, Wendy and thank you Fiona for your insightful guest post! <33

    • Wendy Darling

      Hee, were you stalking Fiona?! I can see why, after reading this! I hope she is writing more books.

      It’d be lovely if more authors were tackling subjects like these, especially if these topics were so organically included in the story, as they were in Wildlife.

  19. Tanja - Tanychy

    Wendy I second every word you said about teenagers in YA. They all seem perfect and with just little flaw not to sound like angels. Well it’s hard to believe it. Only Aussie authors know to give a really picture. I haven’t heard of this one but now I need to add it to my list. Great post :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, maybe not only Aussie authors know it, but certainly a vast number of them see to! I like that there’s not such a focus on trying so hard to make us LIKE everybody. The story just is, and the characters just are, wonderful flaws and all.

  20. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    Yeah, a good portion of YA does portray teenagers in that way but unless it’s glaringly obvious (John Green), I actually find that I like YA novels with more mature protagonists than ones that have incredibly believable teen protagonists. We probably weren’t that spectacular, but since YA and children’s lit is written by adults for kids & adults about KIDS, it’s already got that inaccuracy, if that makes sense. It’s an older perspective – the “Hidden adult” as Nodelman would argue – that may not always portray teens as they are now but instead as the adults picture them.

    I haven’t tried enough contemporary Aussie YA lit to know if I can make a claim similar to yours though :D. I think the only Aussie author I’ve read is Melina Marchetta, and her work is just fab all around.

    Sounds like this book would make for a great summertime read. Or curled-by-the-fire read. Your comment on earnest, embarrassing first love reminds me of Eleanor and Park, but the writing style sounds very different.

    It’s true that in most YA being sexually frank = angst angst angst or the drama llama or magic was real, folks, and it was in his eyes o.O. (Or another place). Ehm. ANYWAY.

    True. At that age, no one really speaks of those words without blushing or stammering or etc. And that’s a very honest quote of her feelings afterward.

    YESYESYES they have value! And now here’s the heart of the piece o.O.

    “Sex at sixteen is not about happily ever after, it’s about who am I?” < -- Yes. It's funny; you'd think that given how small the percentage is of HS sweethearts, there'd be more representations of this truth than it's-all-magical. “There’s also a scene in the book where Sibylla masturbates – she understands her own sexual pleasure; it’s puzzling that such a matter-of-fact aspect of female sexuality is so seldom written about. Why is this space left blank?” < --Good question. I know that I wasn't educated about this while I was growing up. But I think that it's something that girls SHOULD know about. If there's one thing I liked about NA novels, it's that some of the women seem active about pursuing their own sexual pleasure, or at least know of masturbation, etc. Vs. it being rarely discussed in YA. “Unfortunately, casual sexism, objectification and crimes of sexual violence are permanent fixtures on the girl-radar.” “In the last year we’ve also seen new lows in social media with so-called ‘slut’-shaming incidents and their often-tragic consequences. And we desperately need antidotes to this.” YES AND YES. AND YES. “for me that simply means presenting young women characters as having agency, self-respect, and equal rights to pleasure, to initiating sex, to saying yes or no to sex.” “so I gave Sibylla’s mother the job of working in public health and sex education policy which then allowed me to have Sib recall some of her mother’s enshrined maxims including things about safe sex, and that ‘drunk means no’, that ‘pornography bears no resemblance to lifeography’ and that LGBTG are normal.” <-- that's nice. I've seen a few authors ask, how do you bring up sex ed - i.e. condoms - without it being awkward? I've also seen books solely dedicated to consent but they often get deemed issue books and are pushed to the side for that reason. It's nice that contemporary can fill that gap all around.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, don’t get my wrong, Christina–by my reading taste, I think it’s pretty obvious that I like a wide range of YA, including a lot of butt-kicking heroines who have absolutely nothing to do with reality. But I do think it’s refreshing when an author is able to pull off a realistic contemporary novel that doesn’t have to resort to making teenagers super clever or super polished. I don’t know whether I should have phrased that opening paragraph differently, because a couple of people on GoodReads objected somewhat to that statement, too. It’s not my intention to decry those other kinds of heroines in general, because I certainly like them when they’re done well–they’re the perfect escapist fanstasy. But these rare kinds, who are do still seem to be young and nervous and emotional and weird? I like them a lot, too.

      I think girls should have some sense of sex outside of clinical descriptions or awkward conversations with parents, too. And there isn’t a better place to explore that, responsibly, than in YA fiction.

  21. Rachel

    I love what I’ve read from Australian writers so far. It’s been running joke with my friends that they must put something in the water that just grooms them to be fabulous writers. I actually have Ms. Wood’s novel Six Impossible Things, I just need to set aside the time to read it. It’s nice to hear that sex is portrayed in a positive and realistic way. Lovely review and post, ladies! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes, that “something in the water” comment is in practically every review of an Aussie book, hah. I haven’t always loved every Aussie book I’ve read, but there’s definitely a high quality ratio there, and a trueness of voice and style that I find appealing. A lot of our YA tends to sound very similar, in addition to the plethora of recycled plots.

    • Wendy Darling

      Didn’t she write a fabulous post? I’m never sure what I’ll be given when I invite an author to do a guest post, and I was just blown away by this when it arrived.

      I’d like to see more YA authors take a chance and put themselves out there as far as writing young female sexuality in a progressive/positive way, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      <3 <3 <3 I saw your lovely review on GoodReads, Danielle! I should compare our books sometime, we have been astonishingly in sync so far this year.

  22. Keertana

    First off, I’m really glad you enjoyed this one, Wendy. I recently acquired its predecessor, Six Impossible Things, and am excited about reading it, especially knowing its sequel is excellent as well.

    I have to say, I really LOVE this post. I’m all about sex-positive YA, especially novels that empower teenage girls. I hate how most novels shy away from so many aspects of teenage life, so I’m thrilled to hear that Wood doesn’t. I think some novels – like My Life Next Door – do a great job of covering topics like safe sex with condom shopping scenes, and this is an area being explored much more with New Adult too, but they fail to touch upon female sexuality. Why is male masturbation not frowned upon in society the way female masturbation is? It’s an unjust double standard that I’m glad is being brought to light. Of course, these issues depend on the book and the context, but I’d love to walk into the YA section and see some truly realistic literature amidst the sexy vampires too. Fantastic post, so thanks for sharing!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so jealous that you have SIT! I waffled on ordering it when it was available on Amazon, and then it was out of stock on Fishpond for the longest time. I think it’s back now, though, so I need to get on that.

      I love that you refer to “sex-positive YA.” I’m really glad to hear that My Life Next Door has a similar attitude, too, that’s not something I recall from reading reviews, so that definitely perks my interest up in that book. (As if there weren’t enough reasons!)

      Agreed also on the double standard re: masturbation, as well as the context of the sexual content.

  23. Savannah Bookswithbite

    This sounds like a great book. I do enjoy realistic books more cause they feel real. And sex is a big issue that people still continue to ignore. Teens are teens ans they are not stupid. It’s best that are well educated rather then told NOT to to something.

    • Wendy Darling

      Sex does seem to be something few authors seem to want to discuss, isn’t it? I get it, on the one hand, but in some ways I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more frank discussions about it. Books like this, and authors like Fiona, will hopefully help that conversation along.

      And agreed. Ignorance doesn’t help, especially in this digital age.

  24. Candace

    I really do love those Aussie authors, so far my experience with books from Australia is that they are amazing. I think they sometimes handle things just differently- maybe they are often more open minded or the publisher is more open minded. I’m not sure.
    I think as a teen these books (blunt and honest sexually) would have been great. When I think back it may have impacted me tremendously, especially since I grew up in a very restrained home where sex wasn’t so much as mentioned-ever.
    As an adult, and a parent, I think maybe it’s a bit hard for me to read sometimes, maybe I’m imagining my own daughter becoming a teenager and it’s terrifying. But I do think these stories are important.
    This book sounds like one I would really enjoy.

    • Wendy Darling

      I would love to hear what you think of this one, Candace. I totally agree that it would have been interesting to have books like this when I was a teenager–I mean, we had a couple of Judy Blume books that touched on sexual development and experimentation, but that was pretty much it. It’s interesting to see how YA has developed over the years as we’ve developed as a society.

  25. Lexxie Lin

    I love this honest talk about sex! I actually recently did a discussion post on sex in YA books, because I’d rather my teens read about it in a healthy way than just talk with friends or *oh horror!* look it up on the internet. Of course, my kids know they can always talk to their parents… but it’s never the most comfortable talks we have – it’s weird for them to talk to us about sex, and they don’t really wanna think about us actually ‘doing it’.

    I’m adding Wildlife to my TBR this is the kind of book I’m happy has been written!

    Thanks for the great review, Wendy, and for your honest take on sex, Ms. Wood.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I’ll have to come find your post about sex in YA, Lexxie! I missed that. And yeah, kids are curious, and they’re going to look for information. It’s great when there’s an opportunity for some of these subjects to be broached to them in an organic, non-threatening way, like through fiction.

      Glad you’re going to read this, Lexxie!

  26. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    This is such a thoughtful, honest post. The more I read, the more I see that so many books treat certain concepts – like sex and main characters – in common ways. It makes the way they’re portrayed feel less and less true, so I appreciate any story that is able to be real about how the life of a teen is written. I agree with you that Aussie books seem to be able to do that amazingly well. I’m not sure why but I think that’s why all of us readers have a love affair with their stories over here in the US. It’s not a huge part of the book, but I remember thinking that the sex scenes in Jellicoe Road were handled beautifully, and differently, though they were such small scenes in the overall story. I can think of several others, but that was where my love affair with Aussie YA books began. Anyway, I’m very curious about this book now and I love that you’re tackling some of these thoughtful questions on your blog.

    • Wendy Darling

      The more I read, the more I see that so many books treat certain concepts – like sex and main characters – in common ways.

      Agreed. I understand the hesitation some authors have in portraying sex in their books, because it is kind of a big responsibility and risk. But I have a great deal of admiration for those who choose to do so.

  27. Carina Olsen

    Aw, thank you for sharing this review. <3 Not heard of this book before, but you made me want to read it. Sounds sweet and shy and awesome :)

  28. Tracey Joseph

    Thanks for your wonderful thoughts, Fiona. This post made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And thanks to Wendy and the other ladies of the Midnight Garden for hosting Fiona. :D

  29. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    I’m glad when YA books present all kinds of options as valid and normal– ready, not ready, having sex, not having it, straight, gay, questioning…

    I love Aussie fiction — I just read the excellent Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee and I will definitely check Wildlife out.

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly. Open-mindedness is something I’m glad we’re seeing more of, regardless of what topics the author chooses to focus on.

      I saw your Midnight Dress review! Definitely want to read that, too.

  30. Amy

    Amazing guest post. I do think that having sex in YA books is okay. I think making sure to write about it responsibly is the key. I recently read a book and it didn’t glorify first sexual experiences. It actually highlighted how awkward and un-sexy the first few times actually are. I respect a writer who can portray sex in YA books the correct way. It is a fine line I think, but there have been a few books that I think have gotten it right. This sounds like one of those. I will have to check this out sometime.

    • Wendy Darling

      I think making sure to write about it responsibly is the key.

      Absolutely agreed. Which book was this that didn’t glorify sex, if you don’t mind my asking? It’s unusual to find sex discussed at all in YA, and even rarer to find one where it’s portrayed frankly and realistically.

  31. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Definitely agree with overabundance of “hypersmart, sophisticated creatures” in YA, especially when we know most of them are awkward, squirrely (I have several of those in my classes), loud, obnoxious and stupid (as in John Green’s Back-to-school “You’re stupid, I’m stupid, we’re all stupid” vlogpost). They experiment with sex. They have bad sex, good sex, messy sex and everything else in between. It’s good to have a book that doesn’t ellipses it out…and isn’t graphic just for the…wait for it…sex.

    • Wendy Darling

      I love what she said about fading into ellipses, too. I know as a teenager I was wildly curious, and certainly books like these can do so much good in terms of introducing different scenarios that kids may not have thought about. No judgment, no hand-wringing, just exploration, which I think is so important.

  32. readingdate

    Ooh I just ordered this book from Fishpond (and maybe a few other Aussie YA books) so I’m happy to see your feature!

    I’m glad to see more YA books dealing with frank sexuality. The author has a great point that it’s a safe way for readers to “investigate and digest.” And as Fiona said, parents/teachers aren’t always the best messengers for this info so I’m glad my daughter can explore through fiction.

    Great feature, ladies! I’m even more eager to read Wildlife now.

    • Wendy Darling

      I can’t wait to hear what you think of it, Lucy! And yes, I think fiction is definitely a place where readers can explore uncharted territories in a way that they might not otherwise. It’s all too easy to be caught up in the heat of a new moment, but if you’d had a chance to think about consequences and emotional connection first, through books? Definitely food for thought.

  33. Liviania

    Great guest blog! I particularly like this line: “ften that’s exactly what experience is: a not very logical sequence of decisions and recalibrations.”

  34. Kristin Lenz

    I loved this frank discussion, thank you. Fiona Wood is a new author to me – I’ll be checking out her books for sure – and saving them for my daughter in a few years.

    • Wendy Darling

      This is the first book I’ve read by this author too, Kristin, but it won’t be my last! Wildlife is actually a companion novel to her first book, Six Impossible Things…which I need to order asap.