In the last year, there’s been a severe change in YA fiction. A break off genre, widely called “New Adult Fiction,” has emerged and gained a surprisingly large fan base. All this didn’t start a year ago, though. It’s been building ever since St. Martin’s Press used the term in 2009. It’s exploded over the last year, though, and I thought it was about time I addressed this trend as well as offered my opinion on it.
What *is* New Adult Fiction?
So I know teachers always told us not to use Wikipedia as a reliable source, but what fun would it be if I actually took their advice? *wink* Just kidding. Since this is no formal English paper, I’m going to use Wikipedia’s page on New Adult to help define the term:
“New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices. The genre has gained popularity rapidly over the last few years, particularly through books by self-published bestselling authors like Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, and Cora Carmarck.”
As stated above, NA fiction is a break off genre geared for college-aged readers. It’s too old for YA readers (teenagers or high school readers) and too young for adult readers. This, of course, doesn’t stop many YA/adult readers from joining the NA craze. But that’s something I’ll address later. In my opinion, it seems that NA features some of the same themes of YA contemporary novels. The difference is that those themes (such as drugs, sexuality, relationship tension, etc) are maximized and emphasized more in NA literature.
A More Specific Age Category
The idea, apparently, was to focus on issues that college students face, while at the same time creating a new genre of literature for this age category. Before NA, there really wasn’t a broad genre dedicated to this age category. So in essence, NA is the result of breaking down the rather broad category of “Young Adult Fiction.” Check out the stance of USA Today’s article below:
‘Jamie McGuire, 34, who lives in Oklahoma, credits the "self-publishing revolution" for the explosion of New Adult and creating a niche where none existed, filling the gap between Young Adult (YA, for readers ages 12-18) and commercial women's fiction for readers in their 20s and older.
"Bookstores didn't have a place for novels about college-aged students so publishers were unable to sell it," says McGuire.’
I actually wrote a paper on a similar topic for a college English class I took recently. The paper was focused on the controversy of giving age ratings to children and YA literature, and I briefly talked about the benefits of breaking down the broad genre that is Young Adult. I’m all for creating more specific age categories within this genre, because YA encompasses such a wide age-range of readers. Thus, I’m grateful for NA in that it separates more mature books from those geared toward younger teen readers. I’m also thankful that it created a genre specifically for college-aged readers. We needed this, and I’m glad it happened. But that’s not my full opinion.
…Also Known As “Smut Fiction”
The ABC News article written about the raging New Adult trend stated: ‘Now there is a new genre merging the "young adult" fan base with "erotic fiction" fans. It's being called "new adult."’ The article later used the term “smut fiction” to describe the new genre of literature.
Why would they call it that, you say?
As mentioned before, many NA books deal with exploring sexuality. This apparently is a topic that is often toned down or rejected in YA literature. Books that do deal explicitly with it are put on such lists as the ALA Banned and Challenged Books List. Some felt that this was a necessary topic for college-aged readers, and thus NA was created. Most New Adult books deal explicitly with sexuality and sexual situations. For example:
‘These themes about love and romance helped catapult Cora Carmarck onto a slew of bestseller lists. The twenty-something college student and part-time teaching assistant self-published "Losing It," a story about a young woman who is desperate to lose her virginity (ABC News).’
Similarly, Jamie McGuire’s “Beautiful Disaster” tells the story of Abby Abernathy, a goodie-goodie who becomes attracted to the pierced-and-tattooed bad boy on campus. I can’t vouch for this one, as I haven’t read it, but I do know the characters dabble in some sort of bet that involves being abstinent for a month and living in each other’s apartments. It’s not your grandmother’s romance, in other words.
Publisher Liate Stehlik stated in USA Today’s article, "Sex is an element; it's not the driving thread." Ok. That’s fine and dandy, but whether or not sex is the “driving thread” is not what I have a problem with. What I have a problem with is this: sex is an element, and apparently it’s a pretty big one.
“Please, sir, I want some more.” –Oliver Twist
The thing is, readers flock to books like these. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey (though not New Adult, it does feature a college-age girl). Rebekah Hunt of Ooligan Press said, “Sex sells, and that seems to be the major defining characteristic of the [New Adult] genre. I have to agree with her. Sexuality is a central, reoccurring theme in NA literature. And people want more.
The ABC News article stated, “While it may seem like pornography dressed up as fiction, several book sellers say that's not the case. That in fact many young readers are expanding their reading lists.” This is what concerns me. Young readers picking up books that deal heavily with sexuality.
Many doubt that this NA trend will amount to anything in the long run, but I can almost guarantee it will continue to be big. As for me, I know my stance on the genre and I’m sticking to it. Though I’m entering into the age-group of NA literature as I begin my college journey, I don’t feel like this genre of literature is for me. I’ve seen it explode over the last few months and read many, many reviews of New Adult books. It seems like there are more and more coming out each day! But because of the heavy themes of sexuality (not to mention language, drugs, abuse, etc), I don’t think I’ll be joining the NA craze. Because of my moral convictions and faith in God, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to positively review (or even enjoy) any NA book I read.
All in all, this is my opinion of New Adult fiction. I’m not bashing, I’m not trying to hate on NA authors or books or bloggers who enjoy NA books. I’m just stating what I think of this new trend and the reasons why I’m not a huge fan of it. Below is the condensed version (for those of you who either fell asleep during the above portion or just scrolled to the bottom of the post hoping for a summary of my points):
The good: the new genre breaks down YA into a more specific age category
The bad: sex seems like a prominent theme in books of this genre
The ugly: young and old readers alike are having more of a craving for this “smut fiction”
Final verdict: I think I’ll just continue being a kid at heart and stick to my good ol’ YA fiction. J
As always, share your thoughts below. What are your opinions of NA fiction? I’d love to hear them!