The Yuk Factor

By Celia J Anderson

Let me explain. The Yuk Factor is a term we use in my Year Five and Six reading groups for any sort of writing that oversteps their soppiness mark. The kissy bits. The luuuuurve angle. The parts that make them shudder. 

To tie in with our February theme of passion, I’ve been thinking about how the pre-teen age group feel when they’re reading a great story and it suddenly goes all mushy on them. The books that sparked this train of thought were Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, which completely dominated my Christmas holiday reading. While everyone else in the house was chain-eating chocolates and seeing how much stilton they could fit on a small oatcake, I was curled up in front of the fire devouring the books one after the other – thank goodness for Kindles and the instant gratification of Amazon. 

One of the elements that kept me hooked was the tense, passionate but strangely innocent relationships that developed between the heroine Katniss and her two male best friends Peeta and Gale. Would Gale’s smouldering sensuality and dare devil character win through or would she pick steady, loving Peeta? 

Here’s a taster, as Katniss (with Peeta at the time) battles with her feelings for Peeta and Gale in the first of the trilogy, The Hunger Games: 

‘I want to tell him that he’s not being fair. That we were strangers. That I can’t explain how things are with me and Gale because I don’t know myself. That it’s no good loving me because I’m never going to get married anyway and he’d just end up hating me later rather than sooner. That if I do have feelings for him it doesn’t matter because I’ll never be able to afford the kind of love that leads to a family, to children. And how can he? How can he after what we’ve just been through?’ 

I swayed from one choice to the other as the story hurtled on – the author cleverly makes the reader wait right until the end to see which way the wind blows; no spoilers here though! 

Another book that’s been on my reading list lately is Girl with a White Dog by Anne Booth - it doesn’t come out until March 1st (I got hold of the first proof copy in the bidding for Authors for the Phillipines) but it shows a different, gentler side of young relationships. (Find out more here

‘I hadn’t realised his eyes were so green and smiley, or how his hair flopped forward. I could feel myself getting redder and I was glad we had just been jumping about so it might not be obvious I was blushing.’ 

Anne Booth
The tentative friendship between Jessie and Ben is only a small part of the story but it’s beautifully woven into the themes of wartime atrocities, the pain of getting old and confused, of fear and family issues and the growing understanding of a worried young girl. 

Even Harry Potter falls prey to The Yuk factor sometimes – I remember reading the books as they were published and wondering what his fans were thinking as he fell in love for the first time and eventually ended up with the girl I wanted for him. At what age do children appreciate the realities of boy/girl antics, for want of a better word? 

With this in mind, I talked to our lovely Year Six class about The Yuk factor. Here are some of their feelings about times when the action begins to get kissy. They even drew me a couple of pictures. 

Sophia: I don’t like in when they describe the characters being in love in too much detail, it makes me uncomfortable. It’s like when you’ve got something on your shoe that you can’t get off. 

Saoirshe: I just get lost if there’s too much of that sort of detail. 

Luke: If it’s right at the beginning I won’t read any more but if it’s half way through I’m fine with that if I like the book. 

Ben: It’s a bit like if you ask somebody a question and they give you too much information. Like somebody telling you why they’re going to the toilet. (more detail was given here but I’ve spared you that, as you might be eating...) 

Ella: The Hunger Games was sometimes a bit too kissy but because I wanted to know who she’d choose I kept going and anyway it wasn’t like that all the way through. 

Klara: And it was good enough to keep you reading. 

Harrison: Sometimes you feel like ‘Aaah, that’s nice’ if it’s a strong story and if the romance is in the ending then it doesn’t feel ‘yuk’. 

Joe: It might put you off if the rest of the book isn’t good. I just skip to the next page. 

So what’s your opinion? How did you feel about the mushy stuff when you were eleven? Have you got children with strong views on the subject? Answers on a postcard. Or failing that, in the space below. 

When she’s not marking children’s work, or writing stories involving pants, Celia spends far too much time on Facebook and does a lot of walking to counteract the cooking, eating and drinking which form another of her hobbies. She's a Romaniac  and you can also find her on her own website. Usually sea-starved in the depths of the Midlands, she can often be found wandering happily around Brighton visiting her two daughters pretending to collect ideas for her next book.


  1. Hi - I really enjoyed the article and then got a lovely surprise that it was an article with 'Girl with a White Dog' in. Thanks! I feel v honoured. I have never had a book in an article before!
    Thanks very much for the link to my website but it doesn't work with Anne Booth at the beginning. My website is

    1. Congratulations Anne! Looks like a good story.

    2. Celia J Anderson7 February 2014 at 14:41

      Thanks Anne, sorry I didn't let you know the article was out - didn't realise it was going to be so soon! Thanks for the website tip too x

  2. I agree with year six! Romance at end good, middle ok.

    I like to experience the developing relationship with the characters rather than feeling a bit gooseberry if the main characters are in a romantic relationship from the start. In the middle is ok but worrying because if it's a good story something's bound to go wrong!
    My inner child is eleven, when I was actually eleven I was reading Enid Blyton and I think, Just William. One of my all time favourite books is Anne of Green Gables (but might have been a little older with that) and I loved the slow slow burn between Anne and Gilbert.
    Thank you Celia and year six!

    1. And thanks for letting us have our say again, Jan! :)


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