Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Adult: The Genre for Twenty-Somethings

I was skimming the interwebs the other night when I stumbled upon this article about a self-published novel that hit it big, and the article kind of mentioned that, oh yeah, this novel was about a 22-year old, and they were calling the genre New Adult.

New Adult.

New Adult!

The genre for twenty-somethings that I've been waiting for! The transitional bridge of happiness, rainbows, and joy!

Yes. I am excited. Here's one of the reasons why:
"Ms. Carmack’s novel was in an emerging area of the market that publisher’s think is under exploited: New Adult fiction – books for readers in their college years and early 20s."
Did you catch that? Publishers think it's under-exploited. They've been saying that about crossovers, too, and I think it's finally dawning on everyone is not that we necessarily need crossovers--because crossovers are just a bridge. What we actually need is a genre to fill that gap.

On her blog, Ms. Carmack wrote of the difference between new- and young-adult:
"Young Adult books are about surviving adolescence and coming of age. New Adult is about how to live your life after that. New Adult is the “I’m officially an adult, now what?” phase."

She's coming at it from a much more contemporary standpoint, and I'm seeing it more as a genre thing, but still. I think what excites me most about this is the potential for a genre that's somewhat more mature than YA, written for adults, really, but with that same crazy imaginative quality that YA has. And the thing about adult fiction was that it got boring fast. Books people would be raving out in reviews often turned out to be much of the same old same old.

Eventually as I grew as a writer and I began following trends on Goodreads, I got more connected with the YA world, and I loved it. It was an awesome surprise to find that so many adults and twenty-somethings read and loved YA the way I did. The funny thing was, YA didn't feel immature to me. Sure, there were those books. There was the uber dramas and the overused cliches. But having read a lot of adult fiction growing up, what I liked best about YA was the way it bent rules and played with just about anything. Adult fiction was so stiff. As Anne of Green Gables would put it, YA had "scope for imagination."

The one thing that always bothered me about YA, though, was the bizarre age cutoff. Your characters could be getting ready to go to college, or perhaps slipping into their first year of college, and that was okay. But college-aged characters no longer qualified for the YA section, even if the theme and feel of the book, the scope for imagination, sang of YA all the way.

Logically this made sense. YA is for teens. 20 is no longer a teen number. Thus the cutoff.

But as a reader, I wondered. There is an absolutely huge section of YA readership comprised entirely of college-aged writers, book bloggers, new mothers who read and review, agents, etc. It seemed to me that this group of people (in which I include myself) gravitated toward YA because of the imagination of the genre, not necessarily because it was about teenagers. There just isn't a genre about twenty-somethings that has the same scope for imagination. Which, personally, I thought was pretty stupid. Also I secretly began to wonder if that might not change. Crossovers have been big news. Plus I've noticed more adult titles (I cite Warm Bodies here) that were written as adult but often get marketed as YA because it simply has that YA feel.

(Gosh, I know there's more and better examples of books written for one audience that hit it big with another,
but all I can think of at the moment is Harry Potter. Someone help me out?)

And as I found myself, ahem, growing older, sometimes I would realize my characters were in college or were thinking about getting married, and it wasn't an old person thing like I'd always thought when I was younger; it was just a transitional thing, it was totally normal, it hadn't changed things at all. Except now my story was too old for YA and too playful for adult. And unless it somehow had the huge market appeal for crossover, it wasn't going to fly in either genre.

Where was my twenty-something genre when I needed it?

Well--(this is where I suppress a squeal of glee)--it might finally be here in the form of New Adult. True, it might be a little early to tell with this one. I have literally heard the term once and got so excited that I squeed and ran to blog about it. But if we're lucky, perhaps its a term we'll be hearing more and more about in the future.

So what do you guys think about New Adult as a genre? Thumbs up? Down? Does it have enough staying power? I know I'm definitely rooting for it.

Truly and always,
-Creative A

1 comment:

Joyce C said...

Yay for New Adult fiction! This reminds me of Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, which accompanied me through my university years. Looking forward to more books for twenty-somethings :)

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