No, Your 12 Year Old Should Not Read Spicy Adult Romance

Someone on my social medias recently asked for recommendations for their 12 year old who wanted to read what their mother read, starting with Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. The answers were generally along the lines of, ‘let the kid read whatever they want’.

I’m not going into what spice level rating Fourth Wing is because it doesn’t matter: there is on page, graphic sex scenes designed to titillate, and that’s fine for adults, but not appropriate for a 12-year-old.

I don’t believe in gatekeeping reading, but I do believe in recommended age levels for children. If children can read above their recommended age level, then go for it: however I do not believe that children as young as 12, who haven’t finished (or even had!) sex education, who haven’t gone through puberty, should be reading about very adult situations. A 12-year-old doesn’t understand the nuanced, complicated relationships adults have that are depicted in these spicy romances. A 12-year-old should not be reading books where a woman solves all of the world’s problems with the magic of her vagina.

I am not saying these are bad books. I enjoy these books. But they are not appropriate for 12-year-olds who are not even halfway through their mental development.

In Fourth Wing, the two leads decide to have (unprotected by our world standards) sex without complicating it by including feelings. Is that something you want your 12-year-old to emulate?

I feel the need to say: I’m not shitting on casual sex if that’s your thing. I’m not shaming adults for being sexually active. But it IS bad when a 12 year old thinks that casual sex is cool. It can allow them to be used and manipulated by bad actors. It can lead to unwanted pregnancies, spread diseases, and all kind of other consequences just because a 12 year old is a child who literally does not understand the situation they may find themselves in.

These spicy romance books are 70% smut and 30% plot. They are SPICY. And most of the ones I’ve read don’t even touch on romance because both (or all) lead characters are too busy thinking with their private parts to even begin to comprehend romance. The love is often insta-love, even when it’s allegedly slow burn, because in Book 2 the hero says, “I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you.”

Swooning for adults. Dangerous for children.

These books are fantasy and escapism for grown-ups. They are written with grown ups in mind. It’s fine for adults to read about 35 year old Mafia men who kidnap 18 year old women and force them into marriage, or a 100 year old vampire holding a knife to someone’s throat as foreplay, because as adults we know the difference between reality and fiction. We enjoy the fantasy and the fact that all of these red flags in reality are tropes we love in fiction. It’s not something we seek or desire (most of the time! Not kink shaming anyone), but a child can easily be influenced by what they read.

And I’m not being a pearl clutcher. If your Middle-Grade aged child really wants romance, there’s plenty of Young Adult romances out there. One of the reasons I love YA so much is because a lot of it doesn’t involve sex and when it does, it’s realistic (Adorkable, All the Bright Places) or off-page.

I also want to note that many women authors automatically get their adult books lumped into the YA section, strictly because marketers, bookshops, and the general public think it’s ‘just fluffy romance’. There is a bias towards female authors to write YA, and if they write outside of YA, it’s often sold as YA regardless. This happened with Sarah J Maas whose first fantasy series (Throne of Glass) was YA and not spicy. The second series, A Court of Thorns and Roses (or ACOTAR), was written for adults, not children, but it’s still often found in the YA section because of Throne of Glass, and because it’s romance. I also found VE Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRou in the YA section and it is NOT YA. I actually get a bit mad when I see spicy books in the YA section. It’s not the bookseller’s fault, it’s the marketer’s fault, it’s the publisher’s fault, it’s the general public’s fault. Readers are even asking for ‘YA but spicy’ (it’s called ‘new adult’, by the way).

There is also entire section of romance with closed door, or ‘clean romance’, available for younger people to read. Your 12 year old does not need to and should not be reading the same thing that you get off to. Does anyone else but me think that it’s just wrong?


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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2 thoughts on “No, Your 12 Year Old Should Not Read Spicy Adult Romance

  1. Taya

    Hi my name is Taya and I have a eleven year old child who knows how the reproductive system works completely. ME and her father have started her off very strong! Her older sister does not live with us so when she goes and visits her she has a habit of reading her books. And I’ve found that one of them Icebreaker by Hannah Grace she has read. Its spicy and I’m not happy. I want to encourage her to read but find books appropriate for her age! Can I have recommendations please?

    1. Nemo

      Sure Taya, basically anything in the YA section of a bookstores or library should be lacking in spicy content, however some bookstores do tend to lump ‘new adult’ spicy books with YA, especially if the author is female as has written YA before, for reasons.
      Here are some non-spicy YA authors I’ve enjoyed:
      Sara Barnard
      Ashley Poston’s YA (also writes adult romance so please do your research).
      Suzanne Young
      Maria Snyder (there are adult themes and the characters have consensual sex but it’s mostly closed door/very brief, not spicy).
      Amy Tintera
      Tobias Madden has teens doing sexual situations but it’s plot-driven, not for titillation.
      Lynette Noni
      Lauren Destefano’s teen stuff.
      Richelle Mead (also writes adult so please research).
      Rin Chupeco
      Jodi Meadows
      Tricia Levenseller

      Happy reading!

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