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I am writing a coming of age story aimed at middle grade tweens.  My dilemma is, how much sex and how much violence is acceptable for this age group?

The story is set in Detroit, Michigan and main character is a 15 year old high school freshman. The range of ages for all the principle characters is 15 – 21.

I want to stay true to the grit of an urban tale without having the grit being perceived as dirt.

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Sex really has no real place in a story TBH unless it's to show how life is or has actual relevance to the plot, otherwise it's smut. It's like naked women in a car magazine. They shouldn't be there, you don't know how it got there, or what she has to do with that incredibly sexy Mazda that she's blocking my view of.

Also, throw "Acceptable" out the window as usual. teenagers know enough about sex to put their parents to shame (and they probably have a gigabyte of porn on their hard drives and in the guitar case), and the most explicit violence you're capable of writing is really no different from most games and movies.

Just remember this rule I follow, don't do something for the sake of doing it. Everything done in a story should be relevant to either the plot, and character development. For example, one dark fantasy story I wrote involved a girl of extreme divine power falling in love with an incubus, as blasphemous such love is. Smutty? It seemed so until their child was born, who was an anti-hero protagonist of another that I wrote, having natural demonic power exceeding her full-demon father.

I really should find those and rewrite them sometime.
Aries is right about how the majority of teenagers know a lot about sex now a days! But still there is a limit, you can mention sensations what a person is thinking. The way a hand or breath feels against bare skin and all the "fun stuff". For a coming of age story I think that's acceptable, nothing too gritting, because then it'd become an adult book! Right?
I don't have any experience of this market, Aaron. I can share a link with you that may help.

http://www.suite101.com/content/young-adult-novel-guidelines-a20436

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