According to recent data, nearly half of all 15 to 19 year olds in the United States have had sex. And as a result, 750,000 teen girls get pregnant each year.
Burdened by these statistics, author Laura L. Smith wants her latest novel, Hot (May 2010), to encourage teenagers to remain abstinent.
"After they read Hot, I hope teens will look at sex through a different lens than the one the media bombards them with," she explains. "The truth is, outside of marriage, sex can be scary, harmful, and disruptive. It can lower your self-esteem, ruin your reputation, and confuse the daylights out of anyone. My prayer is that teens can find many reasons in Hot why they should wait. I also pray that it gives people who have regrets the hope that God loves them no matter what."
Both staying pure and God's grace are topics close to Laura's heart.
"The idea for Hot came from inside my greatest nightmares," she says. "As a teenager, I made some poor choices. I've had a very difficult time letting go of some of the things I did. I've struggled with forgiving myself, even though God already has.
"In the midst of a period of deep concern over this issue, I heard a sermon on intimacy. Mixed with the guilt I had been carrying around, this sermon tugged at my heart. If I was suffering with my past, then others had to be affected by theirs, too. I felt if I could help one girl remain pure or help one person who made a mistake find peace with God, then it would be worth it to write Lindsey’s story."
In Hot, Lindsey's tumultuous family situation leaves her craving attention and appreciation, so she turns to her new boyfriend. What does Laura think teens like Lindsey can do to resist the pressures to have sex?
"As Christians, we know in our hearts that God created us to stay pure until marriage. We know He designed marriage as a holy matrimony, but TV shows, magazines, movies, and songs sensationalize steamy hook ups. So, my advice for teens and their parents is to stay as close to Christ as possible. By filling ourselves with His Word, hanging out with other Christians, reading Christian novels, and attending prayer and worship services, God helps us to see Him and His path for us more clearly."
To encourage young adults to think through the important issues raised in Hot, NavPress is offering a free discussion guide available for download.
Laura's other books are also centered on real-life issues teens regularly face: Angry (releasing September 2010) is about a teenager whose parents are divorcing; Skinny deals with body image and eating disorders.