It's the final day for a lot of things. It's the final day of September. It's the final Sunday of the month. It's the final day before the NaNo site rolls over (hopefully).
It's the final day to get Evolution Volume 2 for 50% off (Coupon code CK67H. I'd hate for you to miss out on that awesome price. And if you read it really quickly and posted a review to Amazon, that would be really awesome, too.).
It's also my final weekend lacking the privilege to legally get liquored up. That's what we're really talking about, here. Not my birthday, no (Although I will be accepting, as I do most years, Kaluha and chocolate, if you're so inclined. Rum too.). We're talking about liquor in YA fiction.
it can be a touchy subject, especially for the younger crowd. I've touched on it lightly in a previous post, but never in depth. If you're not old enough to look back on high school, then this is kind of how it's going to go. If you are, let's take a journey.
You're hanging out with some friends. These aren't your bad crowd friends that Mommy says to stay away from, these are your close friends, the ones that you trust and your parents may or may not consider to be part of the family.
It gets a little darker, and somebody pulls out a bottle of beer, or a bottle of bitch beer, or, if your experience was like mine, a bottle of butterscotch schnapps (Yum.). Okay, maybe you were a good little boy or girl in high school and you didn't drink. Kudos. Not even sarcastically--I commend you. I suppose that's an option in other towns. But, for the most part, everyone in my high school drank socially. It's what we did.
But that first time can set the tone, and it's the same way with your characters. Unless you're writing in a setting where underage drinking isn't illegal (Which is completely possible. I'm not using that as a low probability thing.), or the family accepts it, there's something special to that first drink, and that first night of drinking. If you're under the legal age, there's a sense of risk and excitement, and you're just not sure what to do. This is a new experience. Why is the ground shaking? Where's my drink? No, that's your drink. No, I don't want your drink. Fine, give it to me.
(Let's make it clear. I'm not promoting underage drinking. But it's a reality.)
Now, twenty-one is still in the acceptable range for a young adult main character. Especially if they're turning twenty-one. That's another rite of passage, an exciting thing. You don't have to sneak around, paying your older sister to buy liquor for you or sneaking your dad's gin out of his bedroom (I didn't actually do either of those, but my friends did.). You can walk into the liquor store, grab a bottle, and say 'Hey, screw off, I'm twenty-one. Hahahahaha!' Okay, maybe you shouldn't do that. The clerk might not like it.
So, just as a thought: maybe that liquor is worth drinking. Think about it this way: when a mixologist puts together a cocktail, the rule is balance. To make the most money through the night, they have to keep the sweet, tart, and alcohol flavors in balance. Too alcoholic, the customer gets too drunk and doesn't buy more. Too tart and they sit there nursing the same drink all night, since it doesn't taste very good. Too sweet and it's too heavy, and they don't get more.
I'm not saying you have to include drinking in your YA, or any fiction. But it's not a bad idea, sometimes. It can get some real emotional content into the book. If your hero or heroine isn't opening up enough, try slipping a little tequila in his coffee or something. Couldn't hurt.