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Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's a "New Adult"?

cartoon (c) 2012 CM Caterer
Sorry, blogfrogs, but I'm behind the times. I've only recently heard about a new, frankly dorky genre called New Adult. But it's been around awhile, according to this interview from 2009. Let me state upfront that I am not dissing St. Martin's or Georgia McBride, who conducted the interview. In fact, it was helpful to me. I do bemoan my own lameness in not recognizing the NA genre before now.

Be all that as it may, I reiterate my opinion that creating yet another literary genre is wearisome. A writing friend of mine suggested that NA makes grown-ups feel better about reading what's essentially still YA. Maybe so. But I would suggest we all get over it and just read, I don't know, books.

I read and enjoy YA, but I also recognize that it's something of a marketing ploy. To Kill a Mockingbird did quite well for many years, thank you, as a book for adults. It was published in 1960, before the YA genre existed. And yet, sometimes now it's discussed as a YA book because it has a 9-year-old protagonist.  "People tend to dismiss books in which the centerpieces are children or young adults," author Anna Quindlen wrote on the occasion of the book's 50th anniversary. And by "dismiss," we mean, "throw it in the YA category." Doing that will certainly turn a lot of people off a book--people who think YA is lightweight fiction all about teenagers and their romances with werewolves and vampires. But it also will draw a certain audience to the hot young thing that is YA fiction.

Ditto Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief. In Australia, the novel was shelved with the adult fiction. But U.S. publishers didn't dare miss out on the chance to paste a YA sticker on it. Yes, the protagonist is young. Does that automatically make a book YA?

I think that's what's happening with the New Adult genre. The exploits and growing pains of twentysomethings aren't, apparently, the stuff of Real Adulthood. (That's the next genre coming down the pike, I guess.) No one, the market seems to be saying, is going to care much about what happens to people this age, so we'd better shut them off in their own genre where no one else has to look at them.

The life of a twentysomething doesn't have to be seen through a myopic lens that can't encompass the greater society. They're adults. Let their stories be told through adult books. I"m not trying to diss YA, but why extend its reach beyond its boundaries? YA does reach an adult audience, but some adults simply won't read a young adult title because "it's for kids." There comes a point when a book can graduate out of YA and just be shelved with everything else.

Shoehorning New Adults into their own genre is just a way of saying, You're not ready to play with the big kids yet. You know what? I think they are.

More on this topic: The Guardian weighs in

Tell me: Do you like the idea of a new genre? Or is it lame city?

Don't forget to get in on the goodies at the Countdown to Pub Day Party! Details about this month's giveaway are right here.


  1. "I would suggest we all get over it and just read, I don't know, books."

    Right on, Claire! Another book w/teen PT (14, I believe) is THE LOVELY BONES. I guess being dead isn't racy enough to make a narrator NA-worthy, or doesn't have teeth enough to be YA. Or are not-yet-A readers considered too sensitive?

    Oh, and there's also Kate Atkinson's fabulous BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM, w/teen PT. How things are categorized is a mystery.

    1. No kidding, Kit. It seems genre assignment has little to do with readers. Great point about THE LOVELY BONES, too. I loved that book.