Profanity in Young Adult Novels

I am having a dilemma with the book I am currently writing. The main character is 15 years old. The target audience for the book would be 14-18 year olds. When I was 15, I said a bad word from time to time, sometimes more often. All the other people I was in high school with did too. Saying bad words was in a way important for many, like a little rebellion. Maybe they are not drinking, shoplifting and having sex, but they will say dammit if they want to.

So I can say with certainty that teenagers curse.

But in YA novels it seems like portraying the teenagers accurately is a big no-no.  In the world of YA, people don’t say bad words.  They always don’t do anything more than kiss.  But I guess that is another subject all together.

Yesterday I was writing and my main character thought “My jaw is a little strong, my forehead is a little high, and maybe my nose is a bit too small. I have some acne, but who doesn’t?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know, I just look like a person.  A normal fucking person.”

I had to clutch my pearls.  I went and changed it to “freaking.”  Then I changed it right back.  No, she would not think “freaking” here.  She is upset, she is hurt, she is confused.  This is the right time to say a strong word.  To change it would change the character; it would give her more respect for authority than she has; it would make her more timid than she is.  She is not a shrinking violet or a damsel in distress.   For me, fiction is most believable when the characters act like real people.  Real teenagers say “fuck.’ True fact.

As a self-publishing author I can, of course, do whatever I want.  There is no editor to tell me to tone down her language.  So this choice is up to me.  But what if writing a teenager as a real person makes people not want to read my book?  Am I writing to the audience or to the story?  To the genre or for my own enjoyment?    Writing is my job, so selling the books is a concern, but if I start censoring my character this early on, who is she going to be by the end of the story?   I want a real, believable girl, not a cardboard cut out of one.