New Adult-Unnecessary Genre or Good Marketing Term?

So, with A Little Less than Famous published, I’ve been hearing more and more about this new term or genre that people have being using to describe my novel. This new genre, if you will, is called “new adult”.

I had a general idea of what new adult meant but I decided to go out there and do a little bit of research and find out more about what it meant. This is straight from the wikipedia page:

“New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin’s Press in 2009.[1] St. Martin’s Press editors wanted to address the coming-of-age that also happens in a young person’s twenties. They wanted to consider stories about young adults who were legally adults, but who were still finding their way in building a life and figuring out what it means to be an adult”.

Now, that sounds EXACTLY what my kind of book does. Young Adult literature is often times encouraged for the ages of teenagers, the 13 to 18 year old range. Of course, people of all ages read it and I’ve already discussed why in previous posts. However, the characters are usually of this age group and have the experiences of teens in that age group.

New adult is about writing in the same kind of manner, but having more adult characters. Sure, teens are drinking in young adult literature, and having sex, but a character in a new adult novel is doing the same thing, but is legally able to do that…and yet they are still learning and coming-of-age in the same way that the characters of a new adult novel does.

Because, what I’ve noticed about a lot of general fiction novels about 20-something year olds is that they tend to have mostly everything figured out. Oh, sure they have their conflicts, because it wouldn’t be a story without a conflict. But the conflicts tend to be in already established careers, in finding a home or a husband, in babies and hitting their 30s. What a lot of those novels fail to realize is…20-somehting year olds are still learning about themselves in the same ways that a teenager is. I’m nearly twenty five years old and trust me, I still have NO idea what is going on. I have no career, I’m not married, I still live at home, I’m no where near having a child, I dont’ feel that much different than I did when I was 17.

So I can get the idea of classifying these novels in a different category. They aren’t quite young adult and they aren’t quite general fiction. Its a good marketing tool. Some adults, especially those in the 20-30 age group, are turned off by the term young adult or adolescent literature because it brings to mind the ages of 13-16, a child. But young adult literature is very, very enjoyable and is in a golden age right now so it has its appeal. By packaging a young adult novel as a “new adult” novel, all of your favorite things about a YA book but with some older characters and more adult scenes and problems, you can bring in a whole new batch of readers.

As a writer, I like the idea of it. For the past year and a half that I’ve been writing, editing and publishing A Little Less than Famous, I’ve considered it a young adult novel. However, when people have asked me if its okay for their 13 or 14 year old daughters, nieces, friends, etc. if its appropriate for them to read, I have to hesitate. The fact is, there are more adult themes in this novel. Sex isn’t just hinted at, as it is in a lot of young adult novels; there are actual sex scenes. McKinley has sex. She drinks. She says bad words. But she’s 22/23 years old and she’s a legal adult. She can make the sort of decisions that she does in the novel.

As a writer, the term “new adult” is helpful, especially to those who already understand what it means. It’ll help point out to potential readers that this book holds more mature content than a usual young adult novel does. I would hate for a young teen to pick up this book, not knowing that there are sex scenes, and then suddenly, I have an angry email in my inbox about an upset parent. I can understand this term as a writer, and as a marketing tool.

As a reader, however, I’m just confused. I feel like its unnecessary and confusing. Like, “new adult”? Aren’t there already enough genres in this world to keep me confused already? I have young adult and independent readers and childrens, and literature and general fiction and chick lit and fantasy and science fiction and non fiction and on and on and on. Its very confusing. As a reader, I don’t care if its too adult for young adult literature and not adult enough for general fiction. Maybe you could just call it mature young adult literature. Maybe, if parents are that concerned on what their teens are ready, they should monitor the content. I know that I make it clear in my description of A Little Less than Famous that McKinley is in her 20s and therefore, will have sex, and drink and do adult things.

It also makes me think that its a way to lend legitimacy to some young adult novels. I think young adult literature gets a bad reputation at times because of the growing popularity of it, and the increase in bad young adult literature. YA is very popular but is often viewed as fluffy or “easy” literature. Maybe by creating a new genre and placing themselves in that genre, authors are trying to break away from that negativity and open themselves up to new audiences? I’m not really sure. I do think that if people are worried about that, they shouldn’t be. If their book is good, it’ll stand on its own without worrying about what genre it is. Despite the fact that young adult literature does get a bad rap, you still can hear the praise for John Green and for Libba Bray, Rae Carson and James Dashner. There are still fantastic authors in the young adult literature genre and are doing fine classifying themselves that way.

I guess the more that we grow and the more that we write, the more genres that will appear. Before it was just plain literature. Then we had children’s literature, and science fiction and fantasy. Romance novels came to stand on their own. Graphic novels came about and young adult literature hit the stands. We’re constantly growing in the world of books and I definitely can’t complain about that. The more that people read, the more that there are good books are available. If creating a new genre “new adult” helps to get more authors out there and if it helps me to establish myself as a writer, well, I guess that I’m okay with that.

What do you think of the term “new adult”? Do you like it? Do you think its helpful? Do you think its simply just a marketing term or do you think its completely unnecessary? Let us know, as always, in the comments.

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