There have been a number of articles written lately defining what “New Adult” is. Talking about whether it’s a new genre, a new age range, or just a passing fad. And there are people who have expressed opinions much more eloquently and have far more insightful thoughts about New Adult than I do (and if you have not read Dahlia Adler’s amazing interview with Diana Peterfreund,you are MISSING OUT! It’s about many awesome things, but has a particularly great question/answer about New Adult. Seriously, go, read it now!) but I wanted to talk briefly, as someone who is actively acquiring books, about what New Adult is to ME.
When I first started reading YA, I was about 11. It wasn’t called YA, but it was newly shelved in its own section for “Older Readers” in the library. The section consisted primarily of high school-aged series books (Sweet Valley High and the like) and about one, fairly empty, shelving section of books that had teen protagonists. Some of these were marketed by the publishers as children’s book and some as adult, but all of them were YA before YA was a thing and I wouldn’t have discovered any of them if they hadn’t been shelved together in my library and specifically designated as “FOR TEENS”.
By the time I was in high school and then going into college I moved to the next age-appropriate section of the library (and bookstore) which was Adult. I devoured classics and chick-lit and historical fiction and magical realism – but the majority of these books featured “grown-ups” and while I loved many of them, I definitely wasn’t at a place in my life where I related to them on any kind of deeper level. And since they were written for – and marketed to – adults, they weren’t necessarily meant to resonate with me.
By the time I WAS what society deems a “grown-up”, YA was becoming a thing and I was all too happy to dive back into reading books that took me back to what it was like to be a young teenager: dealing with parents, and high school and teachers, and changing relationships with friends, and first loves, and broody boys who just happened to be vampires…these were all things that I could relate to (mostly) because I had been there.
But the thing is that I kind of feel like I skipped a step. I can’t help but think how great it would have been when I was in late high school and early college to have had a section of the library and bookstore to go into and be able to easily find books about 18-25 year olds and what they were going through. To have stories about guys and girls who went to college and those who choose other paths. To live vicariously through fictional friends who were navigating the changes that I would soon be facing – like falling in love and deciding whether or not to make that love a lifelong commitment, or living without the rules and regulations of parents for the first time, or deciding what to DO with my life.
That is what I hope New Adult will grow to become for countless readers who are getting ready to hit those points in their own lives. And for readers who are past that point in their lives and want to vicariously discover the paths-not-chosen by them. For me, reading has always been both an escape and a chance to discover possibilities. And there is no time in your life when there are MORE possibilities that YOU have to make decisions about than that time at the end of high school and into college. As an editor, I want to be one of the people finding those books and putting them out there under a banner that says “FOR NEW ADULTS” so that the people who want (or need) them most will be able to find them easily.
To that end, below is a short list of some of the things I would personally love to see in my contemporary submissions inbox:
* Life in college, particularly Greek life or intensive programs in life-encompassing fields like medicine or law
* Stories with MC’s who are dealing with issues closer to the middle/end of college (i.e., internships, career choices, graduate school, “where am I going to live now that college is over” etc.)
* Life after high school stories about MC’s who choose a path other than college, whether by choice or circumstance
* High school or post-high school stories about MC’s from different social backgrounds entering a larger community (i.e., from homeschooling, closed-off community or super strict family going into public school or large college/university)
* Military stories, particularly girls in the military and/or focusing on the decision to enter the military and how that affects various relationships
* Vacation or travel abroad
* Long distance relationships (especially told in a unique way)
* A LOVE ACTUALLY style story
* Sweet romances with nice guys/gals who finish first
* Modern day royalty
* Series with large cast of characters who are navigating various types of relationships (a la Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, Friends, etc.)
*Any of the above with LGBT characters
UPDATE: EDITED TO INCLUDE EXCELLENT SUGGESTIONS FROM COMMENTS! (THANKS DAHLIA!)
* Stories set in culinary school
* Stories with NA aged professional athletes and Olympic hopefuls/participants!
Do you think New Adult has potential as a lasting, independent demographic? What do you want to see it become/not become? What kinds of New Adult books would you be dying to read?