What young adult books taught us about sex

Updated 10:41 AM ET, Wed January 15, 2014
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V.C. Andrews' "Flowers in the Attic" introduced many young readers to the darker side of sexuality through the trials of the Dollanganger children, whose idyllic life takes a sinister turn when their father dies. With the cult novel's TV adaptation set to air on Lifetime on January 18, we're looking back at other young adult books that broached taboo topics. Tell us in the comments which titles you would add to our list. from Open Library
Bette Greene's "Morning is a Long Time Coming" picks up where "Summer of My German Soldier" left off. Teen protagonist Patty Bergen is traveling to Europe to find the family of the German soldier she harbored until he was caught and executed. En route, she stops in Paris and meets Roger, who makes her rethink her plan for a variety of reasons including, for the first time, some matters of the flesh. from Open Library
You can probably guess what was going on up in Seth's room. This tale of a 19-year-old high school dropout trying to coax his 15-year-old virgin girlfriend into having sex with him titillated teens when it came out in 1980. Though it was frank and candid for the era in which it was released, most modern-day feminists would probably be horrified by the "boys will be boys" attitude of the characters. from Open Library
Women are kept as vehicles for breeding in the theocratic state of Margaret Atwood's novel, "The Handmaid's Tale." The life of protagonist Offred -- who is named after the "Commander" to whom she has been assigned to bear children for -- offers a bleak view into a world where women were to fit men's needs, planting seeds of feminism for some young readers. from Open Library
Among other heartbreaking themes such as racism and poverty in Toni Morrison's debut novel, "The Bluest Eye," perhaps the most astonishing is the rape of 11-year-old Pecola by her ne'er-do-well father, Cholly. To add injustice to injury, Pecola's mother does not believe her story and further punishes the girl. Having been impregnated by her father, Pecola's bleak future is sealed, and she descends into madness. The book's unflinching depictions of sexuality and violence have left it banned from school libraries many times over since its release in 1970. from Open Library
Frank depictions and discussion of teenage sexuality made Judy Blume's "Forever" a frequent target of censorship. Not only does the main character, Katherine Danziger, have sex for the first time with her boyfriend, but another friend questions whether he is gay. from Open Library
The sequel to Meg Cabot's "All-American Girl" held readers in suspense as they wondered whether Samantha Madison was ready (or not) for a variety of things: sex with the president's son, being the popular girl, an after-school job or "life drawing" in art class. from Open Library
Battling odds and challenging gender norms -- often at the same time -- are recurring themes in young adult lit, regardless of time, location or epoch. In "Mother Earth Father Sky," Amerindian woman Chagak struggles to survive after her people are slaughtered by a neighboring tribe. She learns to hunt and defend herself with the help of a recluse who offers her shelter. Then, one of the men who killed her family demands to marry her. from Open Library
Many readers might have a hard time relating to the plight of the teen daughter of a drug lord who bounces from home to home after her father is busted. But though her travails, Winter Santiaga experiences drama most of us can relate to, from troubled parents, jealousy among friends and mean girls to shoplifting, teen sex and pregnancy. from Open Library
Laurie Halse Anderson's 1999 book, "Speak," details a high school student's recovery after an older classmate rapes her. Melinda Sordino is ostracized by her peers and refuses to discuss what happened, even to admit to herself that she was raped. It's not an easy read but sheds light on how sexual abuse can affect many parts of young people's lives and communities. from Open Library
Richard Peck's "Are You In the House Alone?" also deals with the guilt and shame associated with rape. After 16-year-old Gail is stalked and attacked by a popular boy, her attempts to report the incident are stymied because the boy's father is a judge. Victim-blaming and harassment ensues, leading to a conclusion that brings to mind recent controversies around sexual assault allegations in Steubenville, Ohio, and Maryville, Missouri. from Open Library
Against the backdrop of a wealthy California suburb, blonde-haired, blue-eyed identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield lead a charmed life of pool parties, dances and shopping -- or at least it seems so on the surface. The Sweet Valley High series explored themes of love and lust, drug use, sexual assault, terminal illness and infidelity after its 1983 debut.
from Open Library