Before I went to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in 2013, I had never heard of the new adult genre. YA – check. Romance – check. Historical, paranormal, fantasy, steampunk (all in one novel?) – check.
New adult was described to me, and Wikipedia et al have since confirmed it, as the 18-25 year old protagonist who is going through some of their “firsts” as a new adult… hence the name.
When I think back to many of the chick lit books that I’ve read in my day, so many of them centre around big, new moments in young women’s lives. Their first amazing job opportunity (as opposed to the crappy initial ones we all face), the first love of their adult life, getting married, having babies. Based on this, I would argue that new adult actually covers a wider age range. I can see this covering 18 – 30. Many of us are prolonging life decisions, finishing university later, getting our first job later, traveling before we work, etc.
Most of my own major new adult life moments have happened post 25. I met the man who would be my husband on the cusp of turning 25, got my big girl job at 25, and rented my first proper non-college/parental apartment at 26. Then again, I dallied in the whole life journey and spent a few years traveling.
Maybe I’m taking this whole age range personally, but it feels limiting to me.
Off topic – okay. So, the question is, is new adult fiction here to stay? A hundred and ten percent yes. I think it was always here, we just didn’t put it in the “new adult” box. We didn’t label it. It’s definitely gaining more attention with novels like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. If I think of Erich Segal’s Love Story, from 1970, was that not technically new adult? Students who fall in love in university?
With new attention on the genre, it is garnering some criticism. Is there there too much sex? Is there too much foul language? Is it too trivial? Sometimes, maybe, and maybe not. It will appeal to some and not to others, just like any other genre out there. But it has legs.
I feel more and more encouraged that our youth are reading today. Having just visited the successful annual Calgary Reads book sale, and trolled the internet for interviews with YA author Kiera Cass, I am confident that kids are reading. And when they progress into their new adulthood, they’ll want to read something that they can relate to. And when they progress further into adulthood again, they’ll be looking for something different.
The genre will always have a corresponding generation, and the generation will want to see themselves represented in literature.
New adult, here to stay.