Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About... New Adult

Here it is, y'all. My inevitable new adult discussion. Who's excited?

I'm still not sure of the necessity of new adult as a "genre". In general, I've liked most of the books that I've read that are labelled as new adult, though I've not been able to discern much of a difference from YA in them. But I have read a couple that a distinctly more adult than what I consider to be young adult. Had I not known they were classified as new adult, I might have been a little shocked at the content.

Reading YA has always felt like a safe kind of place for me. When I read adult books, many of them throw sex into a story at random, and it does not advance or benefit the story in the least. That's always been something that gets on my nerves, and I've always enjoyed not seeing that in YA. When there is sex, it's spare, to the point, completely not gratuitous, and it generally adds to the story.

I think the problem with new adult is that we haven't seen enough people really work with the new bounds. I can think of a couple of exceptions, but it seems like many books just have sex scenes added in to exploit the new trend. It would perfectly natural for the book not to contain that content. Were I to begin to see books that actively engage their new boundaries in thoughtful ways that made the books better, I'd be all for it.

New adult is meant to be a genre that explores the time between high school and adulthood, the college years, basically. Sure the characters in most of the books are college-aged, but most I've read don't seem to be dealing with issues of college-aged kids. Sex is absolutely not the only thing going on in college, or in the time following high school, if you're not attending college. For most of us, graduating high school means the end of our time as a child and the beginning of the rest of our lives. That is absolutely terrifying, and figuring out how you want to spend the rest of your life is just as a formidable task. That's what I loved about reading Losing It by Cora Carmack. Sure Bliss is trying to lose her virginity, but her virginity represents more. She is about to graduate college and try to pursue a life in theatre, which a scary career to pursue. She doesn't feel prepared or old enough for that, so losing her virginity becomes a symbol of her childhood in many ways. Yes, sex is in the forefront, but there's so much more going on, and it makes for a great book--one that deals with subjects most sixteen year olds just aren't dealing with yet.

I am completely fine with some sort of delineation to let me know that a book is going to be more graphic than your traditional YA fare, so I think the idea behind new adult could be a good one. Such a label would help readers and parents know when a teenager of a certain age should or should not be reading a book. I don't think a rating system like they have for movies is necessary in the least, but at least movies give some kind of notice of their content ahead of time. Some books are obvious, but others are not.

I guess I hope that new adult as a genre will gain some kind of specifics and lives up the reasoning for its creation. Those of us out of high school love to read about characters our own age (at least I do, don't you?), but we also want quality books.

What do you think? Do you like new adult books? What have been your favorite/least favorite? Do you see a point in the separation from young adult?

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