7 Steamy YA Novels to Bridge the Content Gap

A young smiling cheerful woman is reading a book lying on a blue sofa in a room.

Teens have sex, and if they're not having sex, it's certainly not a crime for them to learn about sex through literature.

Sex in Teen Lit

Author Jack Harbon argues that "the lack of sex-positive YA does more damage than good because teens are vulnerable to negative portrayals of how and what sex is supposed to be. Moreover, queer teens are completely ignored. They aren’t shown healthy sexual relationships, nor the realities of situations and their impacts. Pretending the holes in your boat aren’t there doesn’t make them go away."

Sure, young adults can read sex-positive books like the Fifty Shades trilogy, but books like these cater to audiences that crave the down-and-dirty romps of full-blown erotica.

Thankfully, more YA authors are incorporating sex-positivity in their works. This list explores seven YA novels to make your teen feel seen and satisfy their curiosity without subjecting them to the more controversial side of fictional love.

Content warning: While many of the books on this list hint, imply, or briefly describe sex between consenting teenagers or young adults, some books on this list do veer off into erotica-level graphics.

Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy)
$3.99

by Harley Laroux

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02/18/2024 10:42 am GMT

Her Soul to Take by Harley Laroux

The first in a trilogy, Her Soul to Take follows Raelynn Lawson as she travels back to her childhood home to attend a university rife with mystery, demons disguised as campus police, and some very explicit BDSM-heavy romps.

Each book focuses on a different central couple as they try to survive the eldritch horror plaguing the small fictional town of Abelaum. In Her Soul to Take, Laroux expertly alternates between Rae's and future love interest Leon's points of view, making this a delightful read.

Get a more in-depth look at all three novels in the series, as well as their content warnings.

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, and paperback

Shatter the Sky
$10.73

by Rebecca Kim Wells

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02/18/2024 09:52 am GMT

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

While you won't be hard-pressed to find steamy YA novels that feature heterosexual couples, novels centering on homosexual couples are few and far between.

Luckily, Rebecca Kim Wells' Shatter the Sky duology gives YA readers a fantasy romance involving dragons, corruption, a brewing rebellion, and a dangerous prophecy. Readers follow Maren as she does all she can to save her girlfriend, Kaia — even becoming the emperor's dragon trainer's apprentice.

Notably, this duology features a bisexual protagonist, meaning these books contain hot and heavy scenes with both men and women. There are even some public sex and erotic dreams thrown into the mix.

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, paperback, hardcover, and audio CD

Loveboat, Taipei
$20.95

by Abigail Hing Wen


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02/19/2024 08:32 am GMT

Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Described by Morris Award Finalist author of Conviction Kelly Loy Gilbert as "Crazy Rich Asians meets a Jane Austen comedy of manners," Loveboat Taipei tells the story of Ever, a young American woman sent to a cultural immersion program in Taipei.

Though she expects the program, called Chien Tan, to be by the books, its infamous nickname "Loveboat" means it's anything but. Ever's parents unknowingly send their daughter abroad to a program where sneaking out at night, clubbing, and steamy, short-lived love affairs are the status quo.

On June 28, 2023, Paramount+ announced the release of a film adaptation, Love in Taipei, set for August 10th.

Content warning: A brief mention of suicide, racist microaggressive comments, child abuse, and slut-shaming.

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, paperback, hardcover, and audio CD

Vampire Academy
$10.79

by Richelle Mead

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02/19/2024 09:11 am GMT

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Richelle Mead's twice-adapted fantasy series Vampire Academy features rich, supernatural lore and the occasional, yet not overtly explicit, sex scene.

The titular first novel establishes the sisterly bond between Dhampir Rose and Moroi princess Lissa as they try (and fail) to escape a school that reinforces a supernatural caste system.

If Twilight merged with Harry Potter and had a sprinkle of sex scenes, you'd get the Vampire Academy series. This internationally-bestselling six-part set blends the fantasy of the supernatural with the mundanity of everyday teen life, raising the stakes (pun intended) in a good way.

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, and paperback (although you might find some hardcover copies floating around)

Full Disclosure
$21.99

by Camryn Garret

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02/19/2024 08:41 am GMT

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garret

A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year, Garrett's Full Disclosure tells the story of Black, bisexual, HIV-positive teen Simone as she navigates a new relationship with Miles while trying to keep her diagnosis under wraps. Written when Garrett was in her teens, this novel presents an unflinchingly real look at the unseen challenges of teenage life and love.

Full Disclosure deals with many difficult topics like HIV, racism, sexual health, and more.

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, paperback, and library binding

If This Gets Out
$9.99

by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich

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02/18/2024 10:37 am GMT

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich

If you've ever wanted a love story between boys in the band, pick up If This Gets Out. Tackling mental health and how the industry commodifies and abuses child stars, this novel will tug at your heartstrings.

Fall in love with Ruben and Zach as they navigate their feelings for one another, all while trying to keep their heads above water during a whirlwind European tour. While less sex-focused than other books on this list, If This Gets Out unfolds as an edgy yet adorable tale of romance between two boys struggling to hide their identities while striving to make it big in the music world.

Content warning: Substance use and misuse, racism, forced closeting, queerphobia (internalized/external), emotional abuse (parental and employer), and disordered eating

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
$10.99

by Malinda Lo

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02/18/2024 10:12 am GMT

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Set in Chinatown in 1954, Last Night at the Telegraph Club sees 17-year-old Lily Hu struggle with her budding feelings for Kathleen Miller after they both end up at a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

As Lily begins to own her truth by embracing the San Francisco lesbian scene, her relationship with Kath threatens her friendships and her father's citizenship status. This queer historical drama is perfect for YA readers wanting a little more reality behind their fiction.

A romance that will leave you in tears as you make it through the pages, Telegraph Club is a unique take on a queer coming-of-age love story for the ages.

Content warning: Parental abuse, sexism, misogyny, racism, racial slurs, deportation, death of a loved one, homophobia, internalized homophobia, and miscarriage

Available formats: Kindle, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover

The Final Chapter

When you think of a YA novel, Twilight or The Hunger Games series are likely the first books that come to mind. Thankfully, novels aimed at teens and college students come in many forms, appealing to everyone in this diverse group of readers.

With spicy romance stories, LGBTQ+ love, and growing pains galore, there's a YA novel out there for everyone!

For more lists of the hottest books for all ages, subscribe to Cupid's Light.

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