What is “adult content” in a novel? #amwriting #writing

So, I’ve gotten really good reviews so far for Warlock. But one review, even though it was a four out of five star rating, said it would have been a five star rating if the book was more firmly in either the “Young Adult” or the “Adult” fantasy genres instead of bridging the gap between YA and Adult.

This puzzles me. It puzzles me for many reasons.

First, how does what genre people want to pigeonhole a book into factor into the quality of the actual writing?

Second, the reason it was “bridging genres” according to the review is because there were maybe half a dozen references in the book to the main character (19 years old) and his main love interest (20 years old) having actual sex. The review even points out that the actual sexual activity is never described, there is no erotica in the book, there is just an openness about the main characters engaging in sexual activity a few times in the course of a four hundred page book.

I suppose that there could be some argument that a fifteen year old reading the book might blush a little at the frankness of that area of the relationship. But I don’t see how that can possibly be the case in a culture where we give middle school kids access to birth control, and a fifteen year old girl can have an abortion without notifying her parents. I think it’s pretty clear that “young adults” see more sex in your average Carl’s Junior commercial than exists in my entire book.

But that’s not really what puzzles me. What puzzles me is that the book has some seriously bloody and evil scenes in it. I mean scenes where hundreds, or thousands of men are killed in horrible ways. Lirak, the main character, suffers horrible wounds. There are literal rivers of blood.

But half a dozen references to actual sex makes the book “too adult”.

Is it just me? Or is this just weird?


About seandgolden

Husband, father, author
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11 Responses to What is “adult content” in a novel? #amwriting #writing

  1. Bill says:

    Honestly, I think the YA question was a bigger issue in the first book (bloody scabbed thighs and bites, as we discussed in my review) with the post village assault descriptions than this book. In this book, there is nothing so graphic. The sexual content is just two young folks in love and realistic the temptation by the “other” women in the book. One is a goddess so I’m not sure that even really counts. In addition, based on the culture described, I would marriage would come young, so at 19 it’s even less and issue.

    On the violence, this is not a scientific observation but just one I’ve come to see over time. Scale matters…. if you say 1,000,000 people died in a massive explosion it feels less personal, 1 person’s death, in detail, strikes closer to reality/home, is more intimate for most folks.


  2. seandgolden says:

    I actually agree with you that Warrior probably skirted the edge of YA more than Warlock, Bill, although I still think your fixation on the accusation of “rape trope” is an unfair representation of my book. Rape happened in those situations in cultures like I describe, to have avoided it would have been less authentic than to present it, as you and I have discussed before. I do hope you feel like I’ve addressed Mayrie’s “healing” in a reasonably plausible way, and that her inner strength has nothing to do with her brutal experience.

    Yeah, as Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic…” But still, I’ve got some pretty graphic descriptions of individual deaths and injury too. Thanks for hanging around, by the way, I know you didn’t care for “Warrior” but you have been willing to talk, and listen, which I find to be rare these days. I hope you liked Warlock, at least a little bit. There’s more to come!


  3. Bill says:

    Sean, I purposely avoided the “rape trope” conversation….. mostly out of respect for Huey…. he was a passionate supporter of your work and it seems inappropriate to continue the “trope” argument now. I hope it came through in my post that I was defending Warlock, it’s not overly sexualized, loving, and you did address Mayrie’s healing. i believe I even changed the review to minimize “rape trope” aspect and focus on the description of Mayrie’s post rape condition, the details- do they really fit into YA content? My option, no but you know what they say about opinions. I just don’t think you gain as much as you loose by the specificity of those descriptions, they take the mind where it doesn’t need to go to understand the brutality of the situation….does she need to “clean up”, why would she not be pregnant, exactly how many men does it take to produce bloody, oozing scabs between her legs, what else did they do to her? Sometimes you can provide too much detail, but hey, that’s just my opinion.

    Candidly, I DID care for Warrior, the premise and larger story being told, otherwise I would not have commented. I have also read and enjoyed Warlock. I like that you protagonist is faced with temptation, guilt, some confusion. I wasn’t a big fan of Maryie’s defense of “brother” after witnessing his behavior or his claim to her being his, adding more guilt, it felt out of place for the circumstances but I’m sure that will get resolved. I think you’ve done fine work and look forward to the next book.

    No, thank you… you’ve written a really good story, and proven a true gentleman, even when we disagreed.


  4. seandgolden says:

    Bill, thanks again. I don’t pretend to be right all the time. It is quite possible that I erred too much on the graphic nature of the invasion and its aftermath. I thought it was important to bring the reader viscerally into the horror of the event so that Lirak’s single-minded desire for vengeance and his actions at the end of Warrior could be understood, which sets up much of the internal conflict of Warlock, and will continue to drive Lirak’s internal struggles for the rest of the story. But I may have pushed it too far. It’s possible.

    But I’m not gonna go back and change it now, and the reality of the situation is that no matter how many people might agree with you, of the sixty or so reviews I’ve had across multiple sites, yours is the only review that’s mentioned that as a problem. So I think even if I did err, it’s not a major problem with the book.

    Thanks again for engaging. Feel free to comment on future posts. I like to hear people who disagree with me. It may not always change my mind, but sometimes it does. 🙂


  5. seandgolden says:

    On the Mayrie and Jerok thing… I should have done a better job about describing what hurt Mayrie and caused her pain. It was more about Jerok’s accusation that Lirak didn’t need anyone at all that drove Mayrie’s behavior. I have been accused of being too subtle. Perhaps I was there too.


  6. Bill says:


    Heck, I’m not sure anyone agrees with me, if so no one else has mentioned the issue. Reading is such an individual endeavor, each reader taking something different out of situations, it’s water under the bridge now. Wasn’t so much to change your mind, as to share my reaction…and the potential of others.

    Regrding Mayrie and Jerok, no, I think her hurt/concern at Jerok’s words about Lirak not needing her came through pretty clear. My thoughts were really that Mayrie isn’t the little village girl Jerok could claim like an object anymore (if she eve was). I can’t see this changed Mayrie appreciating his claim to her as if she’s something , some object, that should belong to him. I don’t remember her ever sharing Jerok’s feelings, so his continued claim to her would seem like it would rankle her at some point. Heck, a Mayrie with agency wouldn’t need Lirak to make that point to Jerok, she would do it herself. So when I mentioned the circumstances, I can see her confronting Lirak about needing her, but that would be without defending Jerok. With all that’s going on, I can’t see her in a place to defend Jerok as he treats her as an object to possess, something to “win” as part of his competition with Lirak.

    BTW, love talking about the details of book, I’m cursed with remembering them all.


  7. seandgolden says:

    You make an excellent point Bill. I think it would have been better the way you suggest. Mayrie does need more agency, especially since I have major plans for her in Warlord. Dang. I don’t wanna go back and make a change now, but maybe I will… I made some changes to Warrior in the first month or so after publishing it.


  8. Bill says:


    Yea’ it would seem that at some point over two books Mayrie would have/should have put an end to Jerok’s attentions (unless she felt the same at some level). If not for the integrity of her relationship with Lirak, because she has a say in the matter and Jerok acts as if her feelings don’t matter. Perhaps she enjoy’s his attention?


    Have a good one.


  9. Bill says:

    Because it might not have been clear, was kidding about her enjoying the attention.


  10. seandgolden says:

    I could point to three of four scenes in the books where I would argue that Mayrie DID try to end Jerok’s attentions, starting with the scene where she rejects the pearl Jerok tried to give her. But if those scenes aren’t coming through clearly, that’s on me as the author. I appreciate the feedback Bill, your insights are always welcome. I just may not agree with them all the time. 🙂


  11. Bill says:


    I don’t disagree… especially with the Pearl. And I don’t think you failed, it’s more the Mayrie of today would likely be less passive in her rejections. Saying no thank you to the pearl is not the same as saying, no I don’t belong to you, don’t love you, ect..

    But thinking it through, it also really depends on what you have planned with Jerok when/if they see him again. If that storyline is part of your plan, perhaps her passive response is needed, if not, perhaps a less passive response is what he needed.

    Not knowing your plans, it’s impossible to know.


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