Wednesday, June 29, 2011

YA Intimacy: Is it Realistic?

kisses... More importantly, do we want it to be?

While I have my opinions on the matter, what I really want is yours.  It didn't occur to me until I read the very realistic "first time" sex scene in Desires of the Dead that the physical scenes in other novels sometimes seem a little too fluid (and NO that is not a bodily functions joke!) by comparison.

As a teenager, you have no idea what you're doing.  Everything is brand new.  It would be nice if everyone's firsts could be magical and perfectly choreographed, but aren't they usually more... awkward?

For example, take this kissing scene from Nightshade by the amazing Andrea Cremer:

I lifted my chin and his lips were on mine.  The light touch speared my body and exploded deep within me.  I shuddered and took his lower lip between my teeth, biting gently.

As hot as this kiss is, when I read it, I couldn't help but think, Really?  It's her very first kiss and she's already going for the lip bite?

Now, compare to the first kiss scene in Kiersten White's Paranormalcy:

I closed my eyes, melting in.  His lips - oh bleep, his lips - just when I thought  his skin was the softest thing ever.  And warm like you wouldn't believe.... After a few seconds I wondered if I was supposed to be doing anything else.  I'd never done this before.  [He] must have been wondering the same thing, because he slowly moved his lips.  I answered with mine, and we stood there in his room, figuring out how to kiss.

I like that Evie has to figure out what to do, as opposed to Calla busting out the moves of a seasoned kisser her first time out of the gate.  If the moment is too perfect, it isn't necessarily realistic.

Like in Breaking Dawn, when Bella and Edward finally do the deed.  She says they "fit like two puzzle pieces," and after that, she's pretty much insatiable.  But I kept thinking, Wouldn't it be like getting it on with a freezing cold slab of stone?  And how can either of them get lost in the moment when Bella could wind up seriously injured at any given second?  What if he accidentally splits her in half?

It made me think about some of the novels I've read where sex is just taken into stride: The Secret Year, Beastly, The Eternal Ones, Shiver.  There's minimal trepidation (none in the Secret Year, though Colt is no virgin), lots of lust, and very little awkwardness.

Sure the characters know it's right, but it is really that easy?  Are kisses like Calla's idealized?  Or can a first time really be a perfect 10? 

Confession time: I don't remember my first kiss.  I know who it was with, I know how old I was.  But don't ask me where I was when it happened, or even what I thought of it.  I have no idea.  Guess it didn't spear my body and explode deep within me, or the impression might have been a bit more lasting.

But I'd love to know- was your first kiss more Calla, or more Evie?  Which do you prefer to read?  To write?


  1. I think the Evie first kiss is much more believable. My first 'real' kiss I was in the seventh grade. He was in the eighth. It was a 7 minutes in heaven type thing. I remember as far as first kisses wasn't so bad.

  2. Hmmm...maybe we're getting to the root of why I love YA so much. My first kiss and my other first youknowwhatImean were both pretty incredible - not fumbly or awkward or anything. So, I guess that's why I love reading about body-spearing explosions (eek!) But I can see how Evie is much more realistic. :)

  3. I've been reading Forever by Judy Blume and thinking how realistically she captured the awkwardness of those first experiences. I don't know if I could bring myself to put sex in one of my YA just seems like a no-no, even though I know it isn't anymore.

  4. No matter who you are, the first kiss is going to make you feel like you don't know what you're doing, going to be awkward...
    Even your first kiss with someone you don't know. I MUCH prefer to write the scary awkwardness.

  5. New follower here! I think when it comes to kissing, your first kiss shouldn't count (I was seven). It's the first kiss with someone new that counts. And I do think teenagers know more than they should; I did. I met my husband when I was 14. We first kissed at 16, and his kisses haven't changed much since then. They're still great!

  6. Evie, all the way. It was adorable and authentic, and I care about that as much as steaminess. But, it also depends on the book--> what stage of life the MFC is in. What happened with Calla was okay to me because of the whole animal thing they had going on. It really just depends on the amount of "realness" the author is trying to convey.

  7. Evie's first kiss sounds a lot like how I remember mine to be. I was 15 (a late bloomer amongst my Spin-the-Bottle-trained friends). I distinctly remember thinking "I'm just going to mimic what he does becuase I have no idea what the hell I'm doing." It was lovely. :)

    And I didn't pull off a lip bite for quite some time after that. ;)

  8. this so awesome. i just finished nighshade--which i loved--but i can't help but agree with you about that first kiss. even shay was having a hard time believing it was calla's first. hehe :D

    then there's evie's kiss. i loved that one, and even though it's not nearly as perfect, it felt much more real.

    it's actually got me thinking--my books need more awkwardness too! not that there isn't plenty, but now that i think about it, first times are nearly never perfect.

    love this post :)

  9. Definitely more like Evie and way more gross.

    I think it depends on the characters--if one of them is experienced, that helps--and whose POV it's in. But definitely first kisses tend to be a little more experimental and fumbling than what a lot of YA books depict.

  10. Great question--mine was somewhere between the two, I think. He knew what he was doing far more than I did...but I had good instincts (though I didn't lip bite right away lol) :) Carolina has a great point about it depending on the characters: age, experience of the other person, confidence would all make a "first" scene go really differently!

  11. Haha! Its so funny that I stumble across this post... I was just thinking the other day: why the heck can't MY real life kisses "explode into bursts of fire" or "melt my inndards like molten lava." I mean, not to say I haven't had any steamy hot make-out sessions, or that kissing isn't all good and fun, cause--lets be honest--IT IS! But earth altering? Hmmm....

    I'm kind of jealous of every YA author out... I mean, are they writing from experience? And if so, whats the secret?

    Clearly... I'm doing something wrong ( :

    Okay, so maybe we are all just fantasizing of how it COULD be... you know... in a fictional world. Haha!

    P.s. New follower alert!

  12. I'm commenting a little late on this one...oh, well.

    I thought the exact same thing about that kiss in Nightshade. The lip biting totally pulled me out. I get that it is supposed to be animalistic, but it was a little much for me. Although I did enjoy the novel.

    Kisses are hard. I always struggle with them. This is a good post to make me think more about how much experience my characters have with regards to such things.

    My first kiss was more Evie. I was in 8th grade--just about the perfect time for a first kiss, and I was standing outside the local rec center with Jerry Tyler. We'd been "going out" for a week, but you know how that is in middle school. Come to think of it, my writer friend who I always talk about--Marie--she was standing behind us. I don't remember it being overly awkward, but she might have a different opinion.