Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yep, I'm going there. Let's talk about New Adult

Recently, in my writing circles we have been talking a lot about the new genre New Adult. Which isn't abnormal because it really is what many in the industry are talking about.

So, what is it? Isn't that the million dollar question?

I first heard the term a few years ago. THEN, I had it described to me as novels in which the main character is between the ages of 18 to say… 25-30.

My first thought was that this is a fabulous idea. Why hadn't someone thought of it sooner? Those early adult years are really quite distinct. There are challenges that we face during those years that are specific to that time in our lives. So, of course it should have it's own genre.

I have even thought of writing for that age. As a student at Arizona State University, I sit on the sidelines to observe those who are in the thick of it.

My current work in process has a lead that is seventeen and a love interest that is in his early twenties. I have often thought that this story would make a great New Adult book.

Well, not exactly….. and here is why.

NOW,  what has been coming out labeled as New Adult is filled with explicit sexual content, abuse, and drug usage. In an article I read recently an editor stated that if you submit your book to her, and label it New Adult, she expects your novel to have those elements in it (sex, drugs, abuse, raw content). If it does not, she assumes you mislabel it.

Also, an interesting observation that I have made is that, a few years ago, when the New Adult market was primarily self-published books, most agents and editors assumed that this new genre was just a fad, that it wouldn't last long. Their reasoning being that New Adult still fits in the Adult category. (I even went to a conference a year ago where that view was expressed by a few agents). Now, with novels like Fifty Shades of Grey (where the main character is a college student) exploding, they are seeing dollar signs.

Sex sells. How many times have we all heard this? But still! I think we are selling this young group of adults short.

I am not naive. Like I said, I am a student at ASU, ranked one of the top party schools in the country. BUT, I still feel that this time in their lives is about more that just experimenting physically. They are here to learn… with their BRAINS, after all. Yes, they are finding out who they are, what their values are, and core beliefs. They can do this without partying there brains out and being promiscuous.

You hear that students! You will only get one body in this life, so you had better take care of it. In twenty years your body will be reprimanding you if you don't treat it well.

Okay, that was a major rant, but to my credit, these are the people I spend my time with, and boy do I think they are underestimated.

I asked several students in my American Lit class today what they thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. Only one admitted to reading it (though, I am sure others had but were embarrassed to admit it). She said she could only get through the first book because the writing was so bad. SEE! these students are smarter than we give them credit.

The truth is, it is easy to write a physical relationship. A B and C happens, which of course = Love. Wrong. What is hard, is to write a relationship between two people that is based on an emotional connection. One that is felt in the words they use, or the words they don't, and in the very air around them, not in the way their bodies react on a chemical level. These 18-25 year-olds are smart, they can handle a little depth. And depth doesn't mean a novel that plays out like a bad country song.

Having said ALL that, here is my questions… What do we do? Do we sit back and let these stereotypes take over this genre. Do we only offer these types of books to our younger readers? Or, do we try to change the definition of New Adult? Because, I think this genre might be here to stay.

Honestly, I don't know the answer. There are already exceptions to the rule, but are those exceptions able to make a difference? I don't know. What do you all think? I would love to get the take from an author who writes clean New Adult novels.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't offend. this is just my opinion, for what its worth.


  1. Thanks for your insight, Jen. I just released a novel that I classify as New Adult but has no sex, drugs, or alcohol. In fact, I was completely naive to this trend in New Adult until someone pointed it out to me a month ago. Hugely disappointing. I say we fight the trend and make the New Adult a respectable genre. We need it. Too many readers are burned out of YA. I loved my 18-25ish years, and I really like how you point out that in real life, there is more to it than just sex, alcohol, and drugs. I think some of our pivotal decisions are made in those post-teen years, and I'd love to see more of that explored in the genre without that lousy labels. I'm just a tad bit passionate about this subject. Can you tell? :)

    1. Rebecca, I think as authors we are all a bit passionate. It's in our DNA. I am so glad that you are published in this genre. I will definitely look up your book. I am assuming I can find it on Amazon. We have to support each other in order to make a difference.

  2. I think the jury's still out on this one. I was super excited when this genre first came out, because it's what I write, albeit, clean New Adult. Unfortunately, New Adult is seen by many as requiring explicit sex, violence, abuse (physical/emotional; drug/alcohol), etc. That part of my life did not revolve around any of those things. We keep writing what we write and trying to make a positive and healthy difference. Thanks for the post