So I have no intention of sheltering them from things in books, and we're already pretty open as far as movies go. (I have a no rated R rule with regard to the kids...it's more like a guideline since I know it's been broken...by my husband.) And I like books that portray teen life with a degree of realism (no matter how unreal they might be). That means dating, and sexuality, and cheating, and driving too fast, and drinking, and drugs, and all sorts of things. And I'm totally okay with all of that...as long as it serves a purpose.
I read a young adult novel by a friend recently (great book overall, I hope it gets picked up) that had the main character and the love interest having sex. In general, sex in YA doesn't bother me, but in this instance (much like the problem I had with Shiver, the sex didn't seem important to the characters or the plot. In both instances, I missed it initially when reading and had to go back to make sure they'd actually had sex. Glossing over the details is okay, but making it so unimportant that it can be easily missed or misinterpreted? In those cases, why is it there? People can fall in love without having sex, so it isn't by definition needed for the romantic plot/sub-plot. So why is it there if it doesn't have some effect on another point in the plot or on the characters involved? (Okay, the Gossip Girl ad may be a bad example. I'm not sure since I don't watch the show, but I thought it was hilarious that they're using quotes like that in their ads.)
An even worse offender for me is adding drugs and alcohol...just because. Yes, teens drink. Yes, some do drugs. No, I don't think having drinking and drugs in books will encourage teens who wouldn't otherwise imbibe to give it a try. However, if it does nothing for the characters and nothing for the plot...why add it? I'm reading an ARC of an upcoming dystopian. Not a bad book so far, but it's very hit-or-miss on this. There are (for lack of a better term) rave scenes. The scenes serve the purpose of connecting the main character with others she wouldn't meet or be able to talk to in her day-to-day life. Drinking and drugs make sense at a rave. No problem there. But later, there's a public fair (again, lack of a better word), and the adult beverages are flowing like water. *blink* Why? Everything that happened in that scene could have happened with the teens sober.
I see the same thing on TV for teens.
Vampire Diaries. Those people simply cannot have a get-together without drinking--and usually someone getting wasted to the point of stupidity. I'm okay with it most of the time--teen parties, blah blah blah. But all the time? That bumps it from realistic straight to you've-got-to-be-kidding-me. I'm sorry, but someone's parents in that town are not going to let their kids celebrate with drunken debauchery.
Look, I don't want every book and TV show out there to be squeaky clean. I just have this thing about balance. Most teens are not drunk all the time. Most teens (at least the ones I know) don't hop in bed with their boyfriend (or worse, their maybe-he-might-be-my-boyfriend-if-he-was-human-or-not-lying-to-me-all-the-time) as soon as the opportunity arises. Yes, some do. But unless that's part of their anti-hero persona, I really want it to be important to the plot. I want it to be necessary and (forgive me for this) mean something.
I don't know about you, but I chose my high school drinking times very carefully. And I made choices about if or when to sleep with a boy over the course of a long time. I didn't kiss him once and then strip, and neither did anyone else I knew (okay, except the school slut, but..hello...school slut). I remember losing my virginity. I remember my bad, drunken decisions. (And no, the two don't fall into the same category for me.) Is it too much to ask that fictional characters do the same?