In recent months, a new offshoot of Young Adult has been catching traction on the publishing scene. The term, “New Adult Fiction” or “Post Adolescent Literature”, is a term that refers to Young Adult books that feature older teen characters, and appeal to the 18-25 year-old readers who are still figuring out what it means to be an adult.These titles, reverse adult crossover, in that they are Young Adult books that appeal to an older or adult audience, and it’s protagonists have a greater insight into life than traditional YA.
The term was first coined in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press editor Dan Weiss, and his editorial assistant S. Jae-Jones (our very own JJ), who wanted to publish books that cater to that transitioning age group who are not quite “young adults” anymore, but who are not fully adults either. The protagonists in these books are emerging adults who have a broader life experience than younger teens, but not enough experience to be living full adult lives. As JJ states in a 2010 Writer’s Digest article, “New Adult is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you).”
One recent YA novel which meets the “New Adult” criteria is Gayle Forman’s Just One Day.
The protagonist, Allyson, is entering college in the fall to study pre-med, and impulsively decides to ditch her tour group in England to go see an underground theatre performance of Twelfth Night. There she meets Willem- a laid back Dutch actor, with whom she feels an instant spark. In a move very much unlike her, she follows him to Paris where they spend a magical, whirlwind day. The next morning, she wakes up to find him gone. Devastated, she returns home, but she can’t get him out of her mind. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to re-examine the narrow confines of her life, to find her true love, and to break free of her constraints.
This novel, (first in a duology)perfectly exemplifies the genre. Allyson is an emerging adult, who is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants. Her entire life, she’s followed the path expected for her, Until she meets Willem and does something completely uncharacteristic, she never even thinks to question whether or not what she’s doing is what she wants. Her night with Willem is a life-altering moment, and pushes her to re-evaluate her choices and take her first tentative steps into adulthood.
Brilliantly written, complex and completely engaging, this is a book that will appeal not only to younger teens looking ahead to college, but to anyone (including adults) who are still asking themselves what they want out of life!
As with any new genre, New Adult is being met with some degree of scepticism, leaving booksellers scratching their heads as to what to do with them. Do they shelve it in adult fiction and hope that the books get noticed? Do they shelve it in Young Adult, where they more naturally fit? Or- should bookstores be bold and create a “New Adult” section specifically for these books? Some think that it’s simply a gimmick- an attempt on the part of self-published authors to create a niche market for teen erotica. (Which certainly is not the case with some of the recommendations on the New Adult Alley blog. http://naalley.blogspot.ca) Others, and perhaps the less jaded among us (myself included) see the logic in the original concept. (Not the current opinion that they are all about the sex) That 18-25 demographic is a powerful one, and it makes perfect sense to me that there could and should be a dedicated brand of books aimed expressly at them. When I was in that age group, I was completely uninterested in stories about women my mother’s age, nor was I interested in “chick lit”, which did feature younger characters, but was generally a bit too fluffy for my taste. Stories like Gayle Forman’s wonderful book would have appealed to me then, and still appeals to me now!
What are your thoughts on New Adult Fiction? Do you believe that it’s a legitimate genre, or is it simply a passing trend?
Rachel Seigel is the K-12 buyer at wholesaler S&B Books, a division of Whitehots, in Mississauga, Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.