Power Surge’s road to publication has been long and bumpy, but as it gets closer and closer to publication date, I want to take a minute to discuss the age category, trigger warnings, and mature content.
I’ve rarely thought of Power Surge as anything other than Young Adult (YA). However, you may notice it listed on Amazon as New Adult (NA), and on my publisher’s website, it is tagged as both YA and NA.
My publisher has reasons for labeling it so, but to me, this book is YA. The main character is a 17-year-old high school senior who is still trying to figure out who they are and dealing with very teenage issues.
However, my editor feels the themes were more suitable for a NA audience. While I agree this might be too mature for many 12 or 13-year-olds I think a 16-year-old would be fine. Depending on their life situation, it might be the kind of book that helps them get through a dark time or even empowers them.
If you are a parent, educator, or anyone thinking of recommending this book to teens and want to know more about content warnings and why the book is tagged as both NA and YA, here are some explanations. But be warned, they do contain spoilers.
These are the warnings listed in the book: Depictions of violence, discussion of off-page abuse, death of a parent, mentions of off-page sexual assault, brief on-page depictions of attempted sexual assault, self-harm, suicide ideation, and bullying.
What follows is an explanation of why they are there and how they relate to the age category.
Content Warnings + Rational:
Violence: This is a book about demon hunters, so as you might expect, the main character, Erin, violently fights and banishes demons. There are four violent fight scenes in the book. There are two sparring matches.
Erin thinks violent thoughts about people, but they rarely act on those feelings. For example, Erin knows their love interest, José, is abused by his father. When Erin sees José’s father, they think about specific ways they want to hurt him.
There are many YA books with much larger amounts of violence, and perhaps some middle grade books that are on par with it. Erin may rage and think about hurting people all the time, but most of their physical fights are not against other humans. In fact, Erin is often aware of how wrong some of their violent thoughts are. The book sends a clear message that it is not okay to hurt other people.
Discussion of off-page abuse: As I mentioned above, José’s father is physically and verbally abusive. The physical abuse is not shown on the page, but the bruises it yields are.
As much as Erin hates José’s dad for being an abuser, Erin is terrified that they are going to be abusive to José. More about that in the next section.
Mentions of off-page sexual assault: This is one of warnings that makes me hesitate to give this book to a 12 or 13 year-old. Some junior high students would be okay reading this, but others would not.
Through internal thought and dialogue, readers learn that when Erin was 16, their boyfriend tried (and ultimately failed) to rape them. Erin retailed by trying to murder him.
More specifically, Erin tells José about the following event:
Erin and their now ex-boyfriend Ricky were kissing on a beach. He wanted to touch them places they said he couldn’t touch. He touched them anyway. Erin punched him in the face. He forcefully removed some of Erin’s clothing. They fought physically. Erin nearly beat him to death.
The above scene isn’t shown on page, rather relayed through dialogue and some internal monologue.
It does haunt Erin through out the book. It makes it harder for Erin to trust people. It’s one of the reasons Erin thinks of themself as a monster. Yes, Ricky did something bad and tried to do something horrendous, but Erin feels that while subduing him, even leaving him unconscious was justifiable, murder would not have been.
When José and Erin make out, Erin thinks of the incident with Ricky. Anxiety and rage mix. Erin says no physically (i.e. shoving José across a room) instead of just telling him to stop, and they hate themself for it. Hence what I said above about Erin thinking they are an abuser.
Brief on page depictions of attempted sexual assault: A demon that feeds off of human energy, sometimes by sex or touch, tries to grope Erin. Later, that same demon pins another character to a wall with the implied intent of sexual assault, but Erin stops it.
There is a scene where José appears to be trying to pressure Erin to have sex with him, but later, it is revealed to have been an act they both agreed to in order to make their enemy think Erin was alone, angry, and vulnerable. Erin was using themself as bait to lure a demon into a trap.
Self-harm: Erin has some mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety. Like me, Erin’s anxiety often turns into rage. When Erin can’t contain it and is afraid they will harm someone else, they harm themselves. Erin views it as an addiction they need to quite. They know it’s a bad coping mechanism, but they’re human (somewhat human, anyway) and make mistakes. The self-harm happens several times in the book, but it is clearly portrayed as a problem that they haven’t yet found a solution to.
Suicide ideation: There are a few instances where Erin thinks about a past suicide attempt and/or that they would be better off dead. These thoughts are fleeting.
Bullying: Jenny Dunn, José’s ex, is on a jealousy-motivated mission to make Erin miserable whether it is by using inaccurate slurs, dumping food on Erin’s head, or ganging up on them in a locker room.
Death of a parent: José’s father dies.
Despite these warnings, I believe that Power Surge is YA.
There are plenty of other books labeled YA that are as mature, if not more mature, than Power Surge. For example, Mindy McGinnis’s Female of the Species is YA and it explores rape culture and violence. Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series is YA, but it is exponentially more violent and has more sexual content.
As far as mature content goes, Power Surge is probably close to Holly Black’s The Curse Workers and The Folk of Air series.
More importantly, I think this book is appropriate because some of the issues that make it dark are also things that make real life dark. There are teens get angry, and violent, just like there are teens who get depressed, bullied, and sexually assaulted.
Sexual Assault is all over the media these days with accounts of victims coming forward after years of staying silent and with people resisting the rape culture that kept them silent.
Power Surge is relevant, perhaps more so now than it was over a decade ago when I started writing it.
If I haven’t ruined the book for you, pre-order Power Surge on
NineStar Press.com: https://ninestarpress.com/product/power-surge/