WTF is New Adult? (No, What is it REALLY?)

"Open wide, world!" (Don't be gross, you guys.)

“Open wide, world!” (Don’t be gross, you guys.)

I’ve recently discovered that I write in a genre called New Adult. It almost sounds made up, doesn’t it?

Author’s Note: for those of you who frequent this site, you’ll know that I have a lot of strong opinions. That I don’t hesitate to dabble in hyperbole, or make blanket statements for the sake of humor or simplicity. For those of you who are newcomers to my little world, let me offer this disclaimer: the world according to me is a bombastic place.

So, what am I writing about, really? New Adult Fiction is a term you can google, but when you do, you’ll be bombarded with a litany of conflicted opinions about what the genre actually IS. This is mine.

WHAT DO PEOPLE MEAN WHEN THEY SAY ‘NEW ADULT?’ AND WHY CAN’T WE JUST CALL IT ‘OLDER YOUNG ADULT?’

In the world of publishing, the term “New Adult” currently carries a semantic weight like unto the term “New Money” in the 1900s. Certain purists have been known to utter the phrase with disdain, verbally abusing it as a passing fad, like bell bottoms or parachute pants. It implies that a person is old enough to know better, but young enough not to give a damn. The morality of New Adult deals with what comes after the “coming of age” YA stories, after the hero slays the dragon, after the fledgling has left the nest but before it’s capable of building a permanent nest of its own. It’s the “what next.” Some people might say that this genre caters to a selfish and unmotivated generation of reality TV watching hooligans with a failure to launch complex. But I think it’s long overdue.

WHO QUALIFIES AS A NEW ADULT READER?

The person I write for is supposedly between 18 and 30 years of age, but I think they could be 17 or 35 and it wouldn’t really matter. Age is somewhat irrelevant in this genre.

As for me, I write for the girl who quietly lies awake at night wondering if she peaked in high school. I write for the guy who graduated university two years ago, but who still hasn’t settled into a career because he’s terrified of losing himself to a profession like his father. I write for Jane and John Adult, who might have married a little bit too young, and who even now are discovering that “real love” isn’t anything like the hormone-fueled fairy tales they’ve been spoon-fed by writers like Nicholas Sparks or Stephanie Meyer. (No offense to either, but in my very brief experience I’ve observed that true eternal love is seldom rock hard and sparkly or accompanied by a tragic death wish. It’s soft and surprisingly messy. And occasionally, it goes bald or gets a little bit fat.)

Just in case any of those examples frighten you, I also write for the cultural and socioeconomic nomads, the ones who refuse to put down roots until they’re absolutely sure of who they are. I write for the cruise ship employees, the dancers, the amateur con artists, the temps and the trainees. The waiters and waitresses of all ages, and that poor sap who’s stuck in an entry level position while he or she slowly claws his or her way toward the top of the food chain. I write for the PhD candidates who study abroad, the new mothers, the interns. (Especially the interns.) The perpetual commuters, and anyone who pretends to watch CNN and then sneaks and watches Gossip Girl or Supernatural on Netflix.

In my humble and admittedly warped opinion, all of these things are New Adult worthy. Chances are, if you’re wondering whether or not you fit into this category, then you absolutely do.

WHY DOES NEW ADULT MATTER?

Why does any form of fiction matter? It’s like journalism, only less predictably depressing. In the old days, people sat around and listened to the radio or practiced crocheting. Now, we’re bombarded with social media and on-demand entertainment, and every moment is filled with so much white noise. But we still need a mirror to look at ourselves, just like we need photographs from our youth to compare that image to and remind us of how far we’ve come. We need imaginary friends who experience the same things we do, like little bits of anecdotal evidence to show us we’re not really alone. We also need the wisdom that comes from this perspective. But not so much that we can’t still make some very stupid decisions from time to time. On purpose, or otherwise.

So there you have it, ladies and gents. This is my version of New Adult. I hope you get to read all about it soon.

(As always, please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.)

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2 thoughts on “WTF is New Adult? (No, What is it REALLY?)

  1. Pingback: On Friendship: The One Ship That’s Never Supposed to Sink | Veronica Park... Author... Journalist... World Traveler... Lover of Ellipses.

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