Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Trends and Fashions: The New Adult Category and Genre - Is It Here to Stay or Will It Fade Away?

Totally off topic – but I love when I can make my title rhyme.  Now onto the business at hand!

The New Adult category has been a surprisingly controversial addition to the romance world.  Publishers have jumped on the category and it seems to be quite popular with indie writers as well.  Some people love it, some people hate it.  Some people don’t quite understand what it is.  The big question everyone seems to be asking: Is it here to say or will it fade away?

Goodreads defines New Adult as a story that “bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult
genres.  It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 26.”  Other definitions stretch this age group up to 30, but I think that is really pushing the upper limits.  This specifies the age ranges of the characters and the target audience of the category in a way similar to Young Adult or Middle Grade.  But there is more to New Adult than just an age category.

New Adult is also a type of story, a genre that tends to address a group of very specific topics.  These topics revolve around a young adult moving into to the adult world – learning to take responsibility and live and love on their own.  This age group is a natural selection for stories involving college romances or summer romances after high school graduation.  These stories have always existed; they just didn't have as wide spread an audience and their own name as they do now.

In fact, New Adult has been around a lot longer than I originally thought.   I found a contest by St. Martin’s Press looking for submissions “similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult – a sort of ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”  This contest for submissions began Nov 9, 2009, and was the first mentions of New Adult that I could find.  If you know of an older one, please let me know.  I find this type of research fascinating.  St. Martin’s press states that their reason for looking in this direction was to attract all the adult readers that were currently reading tons of Young Adult.  They received 333 responses.

Angela Brown, a Young Adult and New Adult author, describes this genre beautifully:
“Students transitioning from the guided days of high school to the independent self-management (or mismanagement) in college/a trade school/special training beyond high school academia isn't a trend. A son or daughter going straight into the workforce or a foster kid who has aged out of the system and must fend for themselves...those are not trends. And because these types of situations are par for the course, New Adult is not a trend. In truth, it's simply providing a name to a "between"category that has long needed its own identifier.”
From this point on, New Adult seems to pop up everywhere, a little at a time.  It snuck up on me and I was reading it before I even realized it.  Then it hit the adult romance world and I heard a lot of interesting things.  Many people don’t seem to take this genre seriously.  I hear it mocked and labeled as a fad that will be fading away anytime now.  Granted, these people don’t enjoy diving into a good YA novel like I do, but I think these people are wrong about the value that New Adult has brought to the book world and especially the romance genre.
There is a strong market for New Adult.  And yes, it will probably lose a bit of its hype and popularity over time.  This happens with any shiny new thing.  Paranormal romance blew up, and then it calmed down – but it is still very successful.  BDSM is currently in the blow up phase as well, but eventually the next thing will come along and it will find its happy place and carry on as well.  New Adult will follow these trends and find its place in the overall romance genre, settle in, and make a permanent home.  It’s not going anywhere.  

One of the largest (and best) reasons it’s here to stay are the authors who are writing some truly amazing stories.  New Adult writers are passionate about their work, as any author should be.  The genre has opened the doors for new writers to share their stories and really target their audience of readers.

New Adult author, Carrie Butler, summarizes it quite nicely:
“New Adult (NA), as a category, has one thing in common with its characters—the coming of age struggle. It took three years, an under-served market, a few independent bestsellers, and the support of a vocal few for it to find its place in the literary world. Talk about an uphill battle! Now we’re seeing NA contemporary romances take off left and right. Why? Because readers are finally getting something they’ve been denied for years: love (and sometimes lust) amidst those awkward exploratory years.

After this particular genre rides out its tropes and loses trend status, other niches within New Adult will undoubtedly rise to the occasion, i.e. paranormal romance, romantic suspense, etc. Sure, the settings and themes will be different, but the heart of the category will always remain the same. Characters will walk tightropes without nets and face consequences they never knew existed. Their priorities will shift, their concepts of the world will be challenged, and they’ll fight for what’s important to them. They’ll grow, and they’ll find themselves. That’s what NA is all about.

If you ask me, New Adult is anything but a flash in the pan.”              

I hope I've given you something to think about, maybe even something new you’ll want to go try.  Before you judge, pick a New Adult book up and give the pages a few turns.  You might come away with a different opinion and a new love.

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