Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Adult: Is it really necessary?

I was going to post a review today, and in fact I had one all written out and ready to go. But you'll have to wait for my next post for that. I have spent the past hour or so reading about a, shall we say, literary phenomenon you have probably all heard of by now: "New Adult." There have been many, many articles, blog posts, and comments written about this particular subject, and yes, I'm going to add to the collection. For your reference, here are two posts by other librarians I respect in my specialty, which is teen services: Kelly at Stacked has a few links in her most recent Links of Note post, and Liz Burns wrote the first of a series of articles about it as well. Both of those have a bunch of links worth reading, both for and against the idea of New Adult fiction.

Personally, I am not convinced this should be called an age grouping in the same sense as young adult/teen, children's, and adult literature. I understand that a "new adult" or "emerging adult" has a different sense of the world around them, a different life experience, and in fact I would call myself someone in that range as a 25-year-old woman. But just because you want books that reflect your experience, which is completely valid, does that mean an entirely new age category be created because of it?

People have been saying that you're either an adult, a teen, or a child, and new adults are technically adults. I would have to agree. Just because you don't feel like and adult doesn't mean you're not one. Maybe new adult fiction is a legitimate genre, like fantasy or mysteries or romance, but I wouldn't carve out space for it in the teen section or adult section at my library. It's going to go in one or the other, and unfortunately it will have to suffice for all us emerging adults who want to read books with people in our stage in life.

And guess what? That's FINE. The good news about this discussion, and the sales of books in the genre, is that publishers and retailers are noticing that there is a need for these stories and people are willing to buy them. This is apparent in looking at e-book sales, as well as just looking at popular culture and other forms of entertainment right now. The TV shows Girls and 2 Broke Girls, for example, are about that period, in these instances, in a young woman's life (disclaimer, I've never seen either of these shows). The only show I can think of off the top of my head about young men at that stage is the web series "We Need Girlfriends" which is awesome and hilarious.

I just think they belong in either YA or Adult fiction, and not somewhere in between. That's what we are for, the librarians and booksellers in your life. I know people don't necessarily want to talk to librarians all the time, for various reasons. But the Internet is an amazing place! I have been inspired by all this to try to create a Pinterest board dedicated to the genre, and I'm guessing there are other lists out there that people have compiled already.

In the meantime, I wish we could all agree that these books can go in one place or the other. Frankly, I don't have the space in my library to create a new set of shelves.

Oh, and another thing. I really REALLY hate the term "new adult." First, it sounds like the new adult books are actually new books for adults. Second, the acronym is NA, which just makes me think of the, to me apt, other meaning of that: Not Applicable.


42 comments :

  1. I would have to disagree with you. I WISH there was a New Adult section of the library, and I think New Adult can be just as legitimate a label as "teen," "young adult," and "adult." The transition from high school to university, college, or work is probably one of the biggest transitions in our society, but we don't a have recognized literature that reflects it. I think the New Adult genre could identify with a lot of people and create a new space for a lot of excellent literature to emerge from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with Janita. I know in your post the New Adult books you are referring to are about people around age 25. I would agree with you that those should be adult books. However, I love the New Adult genre for the people in college or maybe right out of college. I am a junior in college, and I am slowly starting to lose my interest in YA, and I am not quite ready for adult books yet. New Adult books have been perfect for me, and I have loved reading them. I would love to have one spot in a bookstore or library that I could go to find these books.

      Delete
    2. The thing is, the reason there are no books in "adult" literature is because there was previously thought to be no market for it. I'm not saying there shouldn't be books about those times in a person's life, I think it's great. I just don't see a need to section them out. We don't section out historical fiction or romance in the library, though they do in the bookstore. I just think they should be placed in adult sections. It's more of a convenience thing for people who want those kinds of stories. Again, ask a librarian or other bookish person to give you suggestions. Try the Secret Society Girl books by Diana Peterfreund.

      Delete
  2. I totally agree with you!
    I have recently read a few NA books, and I don't see much of a difference between them and standard YA books. To my opinion, they can be categorized as YA books with "Mature YA" content alert. The MA category is unnecessary.

    I think that this is a very interesting subject to discuss about!!
    Sapir @ Diary of a Wimpy Teen Girl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad some people agree with me; it is a very loaded discussion, and one worth talking about.

      Delete
  3. Agreed. To me, New Adult is a little like the slightly blurred area between children's books and young adult books. If a kid's, say, 12, he can read from the top end of one and the bottom end of the other - he doesn't need a new tween section to tell him what's okay. If the parents are in doubt (at least in our bookshop) they just ASK. I'd probably split so-called New Adult titles the same way - the ones with 18- or 19-year-old protagonists would mostly likely fall under top-end YA, and the ones with early twenty-something protagonists would shift up to adult.

    I'm 25 and I can honestly say that I've never had a problem finding books to read over the period covered by New Adult literature. I appreciate the fact that more books are being published that cover the early twenties, because that area of life DOES seem to be underrepresented in the fiction stakes, but I don't need a new section of the bookstore or library screaming it at me. I'm a New Adult, people, not stupid - I can find them for myself should I want to read them! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! :) The middle-grade/tween argument is a good one; there isn't a special section for them in the library or the store, but we all can easily figure it out when we're looking for those types of books.

      Delete
    2. Agreed. Once we start creating these new age groups, where do we stop? If we have books for "New Adults" then what about "just about established adults" "middle-aged married with kids adults" "middle-aged and still single adults" "getting on a bit" and so on. Fiction deals with all sorts of people, all sorts of situations, and I don't see the need in splitting them up into age groups as well as genres after you've reached 18 - you can look for yourself to see which books you want to read. Besides, I think the name sounds a bit patronising.

      Delete
    3. Yes, there is a space for more books about students and young people starting out, but I don't think they need their own little category.

      Delete
  4. Good post! :) I love a healthy discussion. I personally think that there should be a NA category, especially in libraries and bookshops. Like Janita said, it's a transition period for many people, myself included. At the moment, because of the uncertainty behind the category/genre, there isn't a need for the shelf space as publishers - at least, not the big six - aren't taking an interest in the works, which forces authors to self publish. Okay, I know S&S for example are picking up more NA , but five books don't make a shelf. Until the publishers recognize them, then there isn't going to be a shelf space. Which means books will only be available as e-books and on Amazon.

    What annoys me the most is that the books that are being published - for example Slammed by Colleen Hoover - are being put into the wrong shelfspace. They're going into Adult Romance or Erotica - which they aren't! And that annoys me. And I tell booksellers so.

    What I would love to see is more of an add on to the YA shelf. You could easily fill a Mature YA shelf next to the YA shelf. I see so many bookstores categorizing YA into Children's anyway, so what would the harm be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do see what you're saying, and I agree with you that there should be these books available. There is no harm in carving out a space for them near the YA section—unless the problem is a space issue. Many libraries are struggling with finding space for the collection they already have, especially the one I work in, so it seems unnecessary to try to add it when we can just have a sticker or a book list pointing them out. The wrong shelfspace thing is another issue entirely, one that is often a problem in more than just this instance! Usually it's not the booksellers' fault, or even the individual store, it's a corporate decision.

      Delete
  5. +JMJ+

    While I think "New Adult" is useful as a genre label (if only because it will help people find the books they are looking for), I still haven't shaken the negative feeling I had when I first heard of the new genre. These are first impressions only, I'll admit (as I haven't tried any NA books yet); but my sense is a lot of fiction written for people in their early twenties is now going to be forced to fit into some arbitrary box . . . or at the very least, measured against the dimensions of that box. And it's not necessarily a box created by the writers or by the readers, but by the marketers of books.

    This is not to disparage genre conventions. I personally love it when a book written to match a certain formula (for instance, a Romance novel) both meets the conventions and subverts them in a new way. It's like reading a totally original sonnet: you know the writer had some real skill. So built-in limitations can be fun, but I don't know if they are a good match for all the possible themes and twists of emerging adulthood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kind of agree with you. I had the same first impression of the genre with the added sense that from a publisher perspective that its YA with sex in it. Clearly after learning a bit more about it, though I have never read it, I was wrong.

      I don't think I am the target demographic anymore as a 26 year old, kind of established person. So I don't think I will be reading any unless everyone says their amazing because amazingness transcends age limitations.

      Anyway, I really replied this to you because I loved your second paragraph. It is how I feel about the romance genre said beautifully!!

      Delete
    2. +JMJ+

      I'm glad you liked it, Julia!

      And I agree with your point that amazingness transcends age groups. I've been reading Young Adult and Middle Grade books for years, although they haven't been written specifically for me in a long time, precisely because they're still really great books.

      Delete
  6. I personally do not think a new genre is necessary as when they did a study to who reads YA they found out about 57% of people are over the age of 18 who buy them. Also there is just such a big range of variety between YA and Adult books themselves, that it seems irrelevant. BUT as a psychology student, I know where this is coming from. There was recently talks about adding a new kind of 'adult' after Young Adult in general because APPARENTLY people in this generation around the ages of 21-28 that are just not living the same type of life and following the same 'rules' as people a few years ago. Like some people that age are still in college, when in the older days they would have been out of college, at work and married by now. Some now live at home right out of college and life does not start for them until about 30s. So I guess with that they are just trying to say a new adult emerged that's nothing like it use to be years ago. I think that's a little silly to categorize us like that, but times have changed and they feel we fit into that category better since we lead our lives differently and I think this is what the book companies are also trying to appeal to.

    Yea sounds weird i know ;/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see where this is coming from too. I recently just moved out of my parents' home, and if I hadn't gotten married I'd still be there. But I still don't think it's a reason to create an entirely new section/category. It's much like middle-grade novels; they will go in children's, young adult, or both. I think the bigger problem is the stigma that comes with YA lit, and until we can get rid of it and the ignorance that comes along with it, we will be at an impasse.

      Delete
  7. I don't think it is necessary, so many books already transition into other genres, so why another. I think those that will embrace it are those that consider themselves NA. I think newly college age, no longer a teenager, 1st job etc person is a young adult.

    There is always a new generation that is labeled so I shouldn't be surprised but new adult isn't the right term in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hear the term "New Adult" and it makes me think of how my daughter doesn't like to be called a kid or kiddo, instead I refer to her as little person. When did we all become nine year olds needing a new label? I never even think about "age" categories, instead I think more about genre such as romance or horror.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm still unsure about how I feel about New Adult as a category, but I do have to agree that I hate the name for it--it's so confusing to talk about when people don't follow book trends, because it sounds exactly like you're talking about a new book that is marketed for adults, not teens, not the age range it' actually for. I'm glad that there are books being published in this category, but I haven't quite made up my mind about how I feel sectioning said books into their own category.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the name is really the most irritating thing about it for me. The whole "NA" thing really trips me up too, I just keep reading Not Applicable at first.

      Delete
    2. It literally took me weeks upon reading reviews with the NA acronym to figure out what it was, and I had already heard about New Adult...

      actually I had to ask. So strange.

      Delete
  10. There are two ways of breaking things out: by reading level or by content level...and I think that's what causes some of the confusion. When I get a person in the library who wants a book for their child who is "seven but a really above average reader" I'm stumped because a lot of the books which would be at an appropriate reading level have content that is far to mature or scary. But "new adult"? Doesn't seem to be a need in a library or book store that couldn't be better handled with book marks or reading guides for subjects like 'college and careers' or 'new marriages' or 'being on your own'.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've read a lot of posts on this topic, and I don't think I've agreed with anyone more. Is there a growing market for the NA genre? Absolutely. Does it need its own section? I don't think so. And I say this as someone who both fits in the NA category and as someone who used to work at a library. I would put it in the adult section, personally, because that's what I consider myself. An adult. Yes, I'm 21 so I'm going through huge transitions in my life that older adults are not, but I still consider myself to be just as much as an adult as every other person 18+. I don't need a special section for books targeted towards my age group. That would be like creating a section for geriatric fiction, and I don't see that one happening any time soon. These books are about adults and should be shelved as such.

    Oh, and I absolutely hate everything about the term "New Adult" as well. That's a whole other rant haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Thank you! And thanks for the comment. :)

      Delete
  12. New acronyms/terms = new ways to sell. All about the benjamins.

    ReplyDelete
  13. As you and I met years ago in the College Students group on Goodreads, you know I am AALLLLLL for books that represent that time in our lives and also that time AFTER you graduate and you have no idea what the effers you want to do with your life and are thrust into REAL grownuphood. So I totally LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of these books and am so surprised that there aren't more that are written...just naturally...not as part of a new publishing trend. But I have to agree with you when I'm just not sure that it needs to be sectioned off by itself. Great post, Tahleen!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have two friends who are writing books with protagonists who are in college, and both were warned that unless the protagonists were under 18, these books wouldn't be marketable as YA. Neither friend wanted to make their character younger, but neither liked the idea of their books be marketed as Adult. I think they're both pretty excited at the idea of a New Adult genre.

    But I still don't know if this label is great. I'm completely with you on NA sounding like Not Applicable, and also being too similar to YA.

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is great for authors who want to write about those characters, for sure, but I'd rather see it go into adult fiction personally. I know I'm not the author, but why are they hesitant to do that? Just curious.

      Delete
  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think that "New Adult" sounds terrible, but what alternative is there? In my human development class we talked about how psychologists are referring to this agegroup (18-nearly thirty) as twixtagers (which just makes me want candy. In all acuality these are young adults - from my standpoint you are an adolescent, developmentally, until around your mid-twenties. NA is still YA so why create an extra shelf?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm a librarian, too, and see this classification as irrelevant. Plenty of YA lit is marketed to adults, plenty of adult lit is read by teens, and there's the whole coming-of-age genre that can be found in both places. When fortysomethings are reading Cinder (a cyborg-punk take on the fairy tale), and teens are reading the likes of Lauren Weisberger (Devil Wears Prada, etc), the lines are blurred anyway. I'd rather see readalike bookmarks featuring authors who write for this audience and place them in both the teen and adult sections of the library. That way, people would more easily be able to find what they're looking for.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I always thought young adult was supposed to fill that gap anyway. If it was purely for teens it would be called teen fiction. We all know adults are reading YA and teens are reading adult fiction, I don't see why anyone thinks trying to pigeon hole readers is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I totally agree. "New Adult" (both its existence and its name) makes me gag. From the sound of it, all they are doing is taking what would be a YA book and making the protagonist 23 instead of 17. Plenty of adults read YA fiction, so what's the point?
    The thing that really peeves me about this so-called "genre" is that it is much harder to represent the "new adult" age group than it is to represent the teen age group. Almost all teens have certain things in common (high school, dating, etc). I am also 25, and while some women my age are in college, going to parties every week and looking for a boyfriend, others are married with a kid. If a 25-year-old protagonist is a stay-at-home mom, you'll find it in adult fiction. If she's a waitress, then it's "new adult."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is perfect. Thanks for the insight—it's something that was in my mind but I couldn't exactly put it into words.

      Delete
  20. I think if we're going to approach NA books as YA books as the readers marketed towards it are in their 18-25s, I think authors should be more open to writing books about college years, and like Tahleen said, indicate on the book that it is for a more "mature" audience. Plus, reading about college-year books in your teens could be a great way to learn what to expect when entering the workforce or post-secondary school. But if the marketing ploy for NA works, and there is a large audience for it and a lot of books for it in years to come that associate themselves with "New Adult", I definitely think we should have a separate section for it and treat it like a library category instead of a genre. However, I think with the amount of discussion out there (as demonstrated by all these comments), it seems like the best course is to absorb it with YA fiction and make it more available to both young and older readers.
    Thanks, Tahleen, for being open to having this discussion and posting about New Adult fiction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughtful replies too, Janita. It's been a great discussion.

      Delete
  21. I agree with you; however, for so long writing about college was off-limits. You could write about 18 and under or 25 and older. But you couldn't write about college because there wasn't a market for it.

    I personally am thrilled that this new adult genre is opening up this age group for writers. I agree that it could just be swallowed up into adult fiction.

    However, I'm glad that this age group is finally available for mainstream publishing.

    Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Completely agree with you. Thanks for the compliment, and for the comment. I'm really glad books about college-aged people are being written too; it's a gap that needs to be filled.

      Delete
  22. I haven't liked the New Adult label either. In fact, I finally got around to reading one: "Losing It" the other night, and while I liked it... I mean, it didn't feel like anything MORE relatable to an older set of teens/20 somethings than like Lola and the Boy Next Door or something.

    For me, I'm 27 and married and I've not lived at home since I was 23. There is no book that definitely TALKS TO ME EXACTLY. But a lot of the times it is the feeling of regret, longing, insecurity in these books that still fit me now. You can't really put a label on those. There is so much of that FEELING in my every day life whether I'm sitting in English class or I'm going to work. It's most definitely not a 20 something virgin who gets dragged to a bar by her "best friend" to lose her virginity because IT HAS TO HAPPEN and of course, finds a cute boy with a Bristish accent who knows exactly how to kiss her. I don't have much to go by but NA seems to hold on to this fantasy element that I just don't understand. First kisses are wonderful, but not always sexy and having sex is not always such an easy transition either.

    That's a really long rant. I understand publishers need to make money, and they need to market to certain age groups. People want to be able to relate to books, but I think they need to look outside the box. Because books are doing that all the time. Even Little Women and that's a classic and we may not be the same age of any of the sisters or even the same sex. It just seems like the idea of NA dumbs everything down, and MAKES IT EASY to find something relatable. Just like iPhones/Google make everything so tangible and easily accessible. It makes me sad.

    Thanks for writing this! I still don't know my full thoughts about NA. I still just want a well written book that makes me laugh and feel things, and is written WELL. I don't care how old I am. And I've kind of been like this since I was a kid -- a kid who was reading Emma in 6th grade and stealing my mom's romance novels. Sometimes we want to read about people outside of our age group... it would be grueling to keep reading about "people like us."

    Eek!! Sorry for the rant. I really appreciate your post. :) P.S. I'd much rather there be a section for maybe MATURE YA + not NA. I know at my book store they have like "Tough Stuff for Teens" and things and that collection seems pretty lined up with the heading. (haha how about one that says "SEXY TIMES!"... okay, kidding.)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I partly agree and partly disagree. I think New Adult is a useful category for people who want to read this kind of fiction, so that they can find it more easily. I don't think bookshops and libraries should automatically make space for it unless it becomes really popular and lots more NA books get written and published. Then if it does become popular, surely it make sense to dedicate space to it, for the convenience for customers?

    You say that your library doesn't separate adult fiction by genre, but libraries in the UK generally do (maybe they have more space). My local library has separate sections for sci-fi and fantasy, thrillers, horror, romance, historical, and sagas, all to help people find their kind of fiction easily. I can't see NA taking off so much that it would get its own section in a library, but if it became popular it might get a temporary display, like my library does for LGBT books, Black History Month, film and tv adapatations, Booker prize winners, etc.

    But if I were doing the arranging, I would definitely give NA a space within the adult section, so that it wasn't confused with YA. New Adult is simply a type of literature for adults, I think, rather than a separate age category between teen and adult.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Site Design By Designer Blogs Content © 2012 The Broke and the Bookish. All Rights Reserved