Ah those intense feelings of first love and sexual awakening – how heady and confusing and exhilarating! In ye olde school times when I was growing up, any books (or movies or television shows) showing teens in love and having sex always showed the characters facing DIRE consequences – like pregnancy or even death(!) Or they had to be meant for each other and soul mates.
That was until our good friend and loving older sister Judy Blume came on the scene in the 1970s with Forever , about just that – two teens who fall in love quickly, have beautiful consensual sex, and no one dies or gets pregnant. They also don’t end up together as soul mates, but instead its refreshingly accurate about breakups and moving on with life. Luckily today we have so many more options of teen books focusing on the importance of consent (and female pleasure) in sexual interactions. Plus, those consensual sex scenes are super-hot!
If you like romantic young adult books, then chances are good that you’ve already read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, both of which feature some lovely examples of some very sexy consent. Well, here's some deeper-cut sexy consent titles for you to check out:
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Suzette returns home to Los Angeles from boarding school and while grappling with her bisexual identity, she and her brother Lionel fall in love with the same girl, pushing Lionel's bipolar disorder to spin out of control and forcing Suzette to confront her own demons...
When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel's wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints, hanging in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls—four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel's skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they're willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways, but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah's to tell; the later years are Jude's. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they'll have a chance to remake their world. This radiant, award-winning novel will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
The Handsome Girl and Her Pretty Boy by BT Gottfred
Everyone assumes that Zee is a lesbian. Her classmates, her gym buddies, even her so-called best friend. So many people think that Zee likes girls, even Zee is starting to wonder. Could they be onto something? Everyone assumes that Art is gay. They take one look at his nice clothes and his pretty face and think: well, obviously. But there's more to Zee and Art than anyone realizes. When Art first meets Zee, he knows he's found someone special—someone magical. Zee may not be able to see that magic in herself, but Art is bound and determined to show it to her. What develops is a powerful connection between two people who are beautiful in all the ways they've been told are strange. As they explore their own complexities in gender, sexuality, and identity, they fall for the complexities they find in each other.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Classic movie buff Bailey "Mink" Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by the name of "Alex." Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush. Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter. And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex… Approximately.
Kissing Ted Callahan by Amy Spalding
After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook. While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever. His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly, cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex. No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too. Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try. So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older and far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing. But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa… and before the car accident that changed everything. Enter: Geoff, Quinn’s best friend, who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—okay, a hot guy—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually end happily—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.
If you are a parent or a teacher looking for information about how to talk to tweens or teens about consent, here are some resources that might be helpful:
Harvard Graduate School of Education's “Consent at Every Age”
Strategies for educators on how to talk to your students about respecting one another’s boundaries — from preschool to high school
Let’s Talk About Consent Booklist
Books and resources to aid parents, caregivers, and educators discuss the topic of consent and personal boundaries with teens in grades 7th - 12th.
Did I miss your favorite YA Romance title with very sexy consensual scenes? Let me know in the comments!