The Compulsive Reader: Reading Rants: What is New Adult?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading Rants: What is New Adult?

I've been wanting to write about this "new adult" trend that seems to be pretty big right now, but I've been at a loss as to what to say. To be honest, I still don't know what "new adult" is. One of the great things about YA books is that they have defied stereotypes and resisted pigeon-holing for so long. I don't want to define new adult in a few words, or even sentences, but I do find is very interesting that this genre has evolved around the same time that 50 Shades of Grey became so inexplicably popular.

I've been a fan of YA books that go beyond high school for some time now (you can see my post about some of my favorite YA college books here), and I have always wanted to see more of those types of books. Not because they dealt with "adult" themes (on another note, what is an adult theme?), but because you have this character that is still young, inexperienced, and questioning the world and all of the sudden they're expected to act like an adult, make important decisions, and hold jobs or attend college, and figure out what they believe in, usually removed away from their parents. It sounds...an awful lot like YA books we already read and love. Only, beyond high school. Because let's be honest here, most YA bloggers and readers started out reading YA in high school, and now we're adults. We've grown up, and in a way, so has YA.

It is a dangerous assumption to make that "new adult" = YA + sex. And I am not exactly saying that it is, because sexy YA books existed even before anyone thought up of the term new adult. But it does discourage me that I scroll through the internet and find so many books labelled new adult, along with the warnings that such books contain mature sex. Since when does the amount of sex in a book determine what sort of book it is? Shouldn't a book be about more than sex?

As a bookseller, I know how incredibly hard it is to classify a book, and perhaps how dangerous that whole process is. It's very easy to misrepresent a book, or limit it in some way just because of a one word description or the shelf it happens to sit on. I am just curious, what do you think of when you see the term "new adult"? Do you think of characters that are out of high school, or in some way dealing with more mature themes? Does the amount of sex in the book play any role in its designation? And, do you think that new adult books are separate from YA books, or adult books?

I want to know your thoughts! Comments below or email me!


BookChic said...

I just see it as books set with characters in college or that general age range. That's about it.

Amanda said...

I only see it as slightly older characters that are no longer in high school, or high school age. I feel like more sex in the books might be a side effect of the characters being older, if that makes sense. I am more likely to encounter a sex scene in an adult book than young adult because the characters are older, have more experience, and are more likely to be in an established relationship. So there might be more sex in New Adult books, but that isn't what makes them New Adult.

Laura said...

New Adult is a made-up genre to grab people's attention. It's a trendy, ambiguous term that no one can figure out without looking through the types of books that earn the New Adult label. Then if people are curious enough, they'll buy and read some of those books. Maybe they'll get hooked, maybe not. But the point is, their money was spent somehow to get those books because of this term. New Adult = Marketing Strategy.

Also, if a lot of explicit sex is involved in the stories, calling it "New Adult" saves people the embarrassment of reading something that could easily be called erotica. Fifty Shades of Grey wasn't breakthrough writing at all. Besides it being a Twilight fanfic with changed names, anyone can go to the romance section at Walmart or Meijer and buy a book that's just as sexually explicit. (By the way, "romance" is a euphemism for erotica, too).

That's my opinion.

Melanie said...

I guess I don't know enough about new adult books, but aren't they basically self published stuff that gets popular and publishers buy it, like Easy by Tamara Webber? And this stuff?


Anonymous said...

You know, I don't get the whole new adult thing either. Like you, I have seen YA including people who are in college or just getting out of it. For me the range of ages of YA books has always been from early teens to early twenties.

I don't like this New Adult label because I don't see much different with the more mature YA that has always been there if you look hard enough.