*Warning* Rant ahead. Watch out for hyperbole and melodrama.
Before I get started, I want to make sure it's clear that I don't have a problem with most swearing in YA books. Even though I would never personally drop the big F, etc., I don't mind books that have it or other kinds of language I don't use. I get the arguments for authenticity to character and "how teens speak." I am not calling for a blanket censorship of all YA literature.
I just have a few pet peeves, and I'm in the mood to rant about them.
In some of my reading, I've come across a few seriously cuss-laden books. I mean, like, the f-bomb on every page kind of thing. And while that word kind of makes my blood curdle, that's not the major gripe I have with constant swearing. No, my problem is much, much more nerdy.
The REPETITION! For the love of copyediting—the word repetition KILLS me.
We as writers spend ridiculous amounts of time removing excessive that, was, just, even, like, has, and other verbal ticks like adverbs and favorite adjectives and quantifiers from our writing. We know that when people read, those kind of repetitious words and phrases stick out and mess with the flow of a reading experience.
Why does cussing sometimes get such an obvious free pass?
To me, swearing is like caviar or a really good bleu cheese—a little goes a long way. You don't need it on every page to establish your book's tone. It just gets old, honestly. And then when a writer uses it when it should have had weight, it doesn't. It's just filler. "Edgy" filler.
Which brings me to another annoying aspect of constant cussing. It feels like the writer was like "Oh, I need to make my book edgier, because it's fairly clean and fun and I want to be cool and dark and edgy. I got it! I'll just throw the f-word in there."
Bam. Insta-edgy. Or really transparent and unnecessary, depending on how you look at it.
People talk all the time about how we as YA writers shouldn't exactly mimic "teen speak," right? You'd get reamed for littering your manuscript with a never-ending string of "like, totally epic, omg." Yes, there should be a flavor of accessible, youthful speech, but it just can't be 100% accurate. It would be painful to read. Shouldn't the same thing apply to cussing?
Again, I'm not saying there should be no cussing in YA, I just hope those who do use it with thought and not just because "that's how teens speak" or "I want to make my book edgy." A good example to me? Lisa McMann's WAKE series. While there is definitely strong language, it feels as if she put thought into placement, and it's not constantly smacking you across the face every page. It works. It feels right for the characters. And yet it's not overdone. Bravo, Lisa.
I'm just saying, like with all writing, moderation is important. Really thinking about your words and why you're using them is key.