New adult is a budding and controversial genre covering a range of topics such as substance abuse, sexuality, and moving out of the house/getting married targeted towards audiences between the ages of 18-25; in other words, me.
Going from preteen to adult fantasy has always been a huge step. You go from shallow, cliched plot lines that explore rudimentary ideas to grand landscapes, a huge cast, and questioning the big human questions i.e. good vs. evil, person vs. self, etc.
I feel very strongly that there is a rising generation that feels increasingly lost in the world. We are finding that we have no direction and the world is changing so fast that a lot of us are having a hard time gaining our bearings. Literature has a way of exposing people to situations without them necessarily having to experience it.
We are looking for representation of being lost in the void. YA often covers issues similar to this, being uncertain about the future, but not to the depth that has been experienced. I personally find that myself and a lot of my friends are encountering situations in which we are completely out of our depths. Aging parents, uncertain economic futures, an overabundance of education with a job market that doesn’t quite cater to the idea that we could be whatever we wanted to be if we actually want some sort of financial security in the future. We are swirling, lost and sinking into desperation, feeling isolated from the experiences of those who came before us.
Compared to the YA genre, we are more aware of the world as a whole and are trying to find our place, now that we have become more comfortable with who we are. Finding others going through struggles in a fictional setting can often allow for escapism and the relief of knowing that others experience the same things you do.
And that is what I feel like the New Adult genre has the potential to do. Give us some sort of guidance. I frequent tumblr and I hear the desperate calls out into the blue abyss every time someone tries to find that they’re not alone. I also see the myriads of calls to confirm that all of us are out here and struggling.
The New Adult genre currently caters to a romance focused crowd, judging from a lot of the summaries and book covers I’ve come across when looking for New Adult reads. The lusty looks of hetero couples or the familiar love triangle storyline is alluded to with just a glance (similarly to regular adult romance novels). Most of the summaries cover some of the deeper issues that arise when faced with the freedom of sexual liberation, but there are so many more issues than that. Sexual exploits generally have the self as the focus. Where are the books that have you realizing that you are not the center of the universe? Where the hero must figure out how to juggle priorities beyond oneself.
This sort of ties in with Cheri’s post from yesterday, looking for representation of Queer Asian Ladies. We have seen the angsty coming out stories, we have seen the finding yourself and being okay with yourself stories, but what’s next? What comes after when you’re juggling a job and your sexuality, looking for a future?
I’m always looking for how to deal with the outside situations that you become aware of now that the thrilling and explosive freedom of college has left and the reality of responsibility weighs heavily on your psyche. In college, there’s an exploration of ideas, finding the values that fit you. Past that, there’s a settling process where you finally look forward, planning for the future. With that, comes responsibilities that many, raised in middle class families, did not expect. Homes that were bought readily by the baby boomer generation did not appear, debts that were unexpected, job markets, insurance, different paths in life, a safety net that disappears — all of these situations become very real.
The controversy that a lot of publishers have with this genre appears to be that it could be a marketing scheme. To create a separate genre to give more notice to books that are more or less included in other genres. I think, as it stands, this is a reasonable argument. The romance section is saturated with these types of novels — there is even a whole teen romance section that is, distressingly, larger than the teen fiction section in my local Barnes and Nobles. Creating a new genre in between would take sales away from both fronts, giving exposure to books that pander to a similar audience.
This is a great point, but I think part of the tendency to read YA books over ‘adult’ books has to do with the fact that most of the new adult readers haven’t figured out how to balance life and free time. Easily digestible books read much faster and can fit more easily into a hectic, crazy, uncertain lifestyle. Taking time for myself became out of the question with each job I scrambled to hold onto which put reading aside for me for much too long. Preparation — real preparation — can begin earlier for the mindset that will come if this New Adult genre can address these issues. We can begin to see that we, as new adults, have worth, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
On a less serious note, have a picture that Cheri drew using my tablet for the first time:
Are there any experiences/gaps in current literature that you would like to see filled? Let us know in the comments and thanks as always for reading 🙂