In Defense Of The New Adult Genre

There are rules and labels for everything because that's the type of society we live in. Our success is defined by our lack of chaos. This is also true in the book industry.
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This is a response to a post HuffPost Book ran last week about the problems with the New Adult genre:

There are rules and labels for everything because that's the type of society we live in. Our success is defined by our lack of chaos. This is also true in the book industry.

As an author of many different "labels" or genres, if you will, I found the article about New Adult books a bit misleading. The focus being on the content of New Adult books.

"Therefore, the new genre of New Adult is a large step backwards. It increases the system of categories and labels even further, and prevents readers from expanding their horizons and minds."

Labels help you find things. If I'm looking for a book on History, what do I type into the search engine? Or if I want a book by a specific author? Things have to be organized and categorized.

I agree with part of what the author said in her article: the NA content is a lot more mature, but that's not true in all cases. As I said, I write both NA and contemporary romance. My NA books don't even have sex in them. Actually, all of them are pretty clean in the sex department except for one. There isn't extremely strong language and they're not always about angst.

New Adult books are about life--they're about living. They take that specific time in every person's life--the time when the apron strings are cut, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life that you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is where your young mind is molded into mush or genius.

Think back to your first college experience? Your first party? Maybe even your first serious boyfriend? This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. A person has to take responsibility and live with the consequences. I challenge anyone to think back to their college years. I imagine most of your scenes could be put into a book and labeled as New Adult.

Want to know why?

You wouldn't want your twelve-year-old reading it.

That's my entire case, my entire point. New Adult wasn't established in order to create more labels, or to confuse people, or to give authors an opportunity to put sex into an otherwise YA book. The genre was created because although its packaged as a YA book, it isn't.

As an author who has over 5 years of school counseling under her belt--I fully support this new genre. It helps parents decide what they will let their kids read. Not everyone should be reading NA and thats the truth. I don't want a ten-year-old picking up my book about the Mafia. Not only will they not get it, but the content is college age. They should be outside climbing trees--not reading about fighting, mafia wars, love triangles, and drugs. It just doesn't make sense. I know lots of authors that even use pen names for their NA books so that their YA readers don't cross over.

New Adult deals with the ugly. It deals with the topics that YA doesn't really want to tackle. YA is a great genre, and I agree it doesn't define who the readers are. My grandma reads YA! It's kid friendly, it's adult friendly. And again, this is where NA is different: it isn't pretty.

NA takes the blood, the guts, the ugly, the "I can't believe that actually happens to people" topics and turns them into something beautiful. It's realistic, it's raw, and it's addicting. The reason NA is doing so well isn't because it's a shiny new genre, or because there's more sex or cursing, which I've already established isn't true of a lot of New Adult books. NA soars up the charts because it's meeting a specific need. Not everyone comes from shiny houses with two parents, a small dog named Choo-choo, and family dinner night.

For most people life is ugly, it's hard, it's a struggle--New Adult targets exactly that and helps people look outside of themselves. I would even go as far as to say that New Adult is a world changer. This genre will make you laugh, ugly cry, throw your self across your bed, and in the end, you'll be a better person for having read it.

This is, of course, my own personal opinion...and maybe the discussion is a bit too close to my heart. After all, I used the New Adult label to write a book about cancer---a book about the reality behind it, because I'm living it and experiencing it with my family. There is no other genre that it could be defined under. The people are in college, there's angst, but there are also happy tears. It fits, and because of that handy label, people who like those types of books are able to find it.

Authors aren't mad about this. There's room enough for all of us, and there's room for billions of labels. Authors don't control the system--readers do. We just write what's in our hearts and pray that the readers are affected as much as we are.

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