Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dirty Books

I'm reading THE CHEERLEADER, by Ruth Doan MacDougall. I know of many women who came of age in the 70's who say this book was a favorite, primarily because of the sex in the story (set in the 50's, it was published in 1973 and reissued in 1998). Well, yes, there is some, but as someone who discovered Harold Robbins's novels when she was a teen, let me just say MacDougal was a white glove writer when it came to sex.

I'm teaching an all-day workshop this Saturday on writing YA fiction. Prepping for that and reading THE CHEERLEADER has started me thinking about the appeal of adult fiction to teens and the line between YA and adult fiction (and I'm using "adult" in the broad sense, not X-rated, though of course more than a few passages in any Harold Robbins novel might qualify as X-rated). Many teens move back forth so easily; John Grisham, Mary Higgens Clark, and Stephen King are a few of the old guard adult writers who continue to attract a wide teen audience. But do teens read adult fiction for scintillation (and education) anymore? I suspect...not so much.

What were your favorite dirty books during your teen years?


  1. While I was babysitting, I would dip into my neighbors' bedside reading--which included Fanny Hill. Some scenes are still seared in my brain. Also, Couples by John Updike made me feel smart and sassy. My mom read it after me.

  2. Mary, I wonder if they figured that out and started leaving things just so you'd find them!

  3. I second Norma Klein! In fact I still have a beloved tattered copy of "Love is One of the Choices."

    Then there was an adult romance about a woman who became a sex maniac after a heart transplant. The book was called--I kid you not--"A Change of Heart."

  4. My best friend in 7th would sneak her mother's adult romance novels (and here I do mean "adult" in the x-rated sense) into social studies class. I must say it was much more interesting than American politics.

  5. I was the weird kid who picked up Orson Scott Card's Ships of Earth at 15 and promptly closed it when I reached the first sex scene. I decided that I wasn't ready for that. In exchange I went backward and read all the younger kids books I hadn't read. My guilty pleasure was Nancy Drew. Although, I will admit to a deep love of Dickens and read every one of his books before graduating high school.