As the author of one of 2011’s most exciting releases, we’ve been lucky enough to take a bit of her time as she addresses an often taboo subject – sex and love in young adult literature. Beth can be found on her website here or on her Twitter – @bethrevis. Also, check out the official website for Across the Universe which features the book’s trailer and a link to the first chapter.
Sex and Love in YA Literature
I never meant to write about sex. I meant to write about murders and mysteries and space and tough decisions and life choices and government and control…but not about sex. However, as I was writing Across the Universe, it came to a point when sex became an inevitable topic, and in order to be honest to my readers and true to the story, I had to write the most difficult scene in the entire book–a scene that made me cry as I wrote it–when my character Amy, a girl from Earth, sees how sex is treated on the spaceship in the future.
I knew that the scene would be touchy, perhaps even controversial, and while I don’t want to ruin the surprise of it for readers who’ve not read yet, I will say that I felt like I had something important to say about sex by the time I wrote about that scene. Sex is a powerful thing, and an important thing, and a wonderful thing, and I don’t think it should be done lightly or casually. When sex becomes nothing more than a physical activity, it loses the emotion–love–that should be behind it, and that is deeply disturbing to me. And that is why I had to write about it.
And, of course, that led me to writing about love. In a society where sex is treated like mating, I wanted Amy to be able to talk frankly about love, too, and how there is a distinction between lust and love. I believe that no matter how far away our society goes from where it is now, love will always be present. But it will also often be difficult. One thing I very much wanted to do was show that love is often not the instant love-at-first-sight that is often portrayed in books and movies. Although Elder falls in love with Amy rather quickly, Amy questions his motives and whether or not his feeling is more of fascination (or obsession) rather than love. I think her refusal of Elder, especially at first, leads him to question how he really feels about her, and that is something I hope my readers do as well. It’s important to ask yourself if you love someone, or just lust after them. That’s a very different thing, even though the feelings may seem the same initially.
In the end, Across the Universe isn’t about love or sex–or, at least, it’s not *just* about love or sex. Love and sex are present because they are a part of the story and a part of the character’s lives. My biggest goal was simply to present them as honestly as I could, and I hope my readers agree!
Across the Universe is available in stores and online now.