Saturday, May 4, 2013

A New Adult Discussion, Part One. #CFMonth13

In  my opening post for this Contemporary event, I made a few lists within the post - things that I had tentatively planned, how I wanted to change it up from last year, what I wanted to include, things like that. I also said this: 

"I am adding a ton of New Adult contemporary to the mix this year. The reason for this is simple: I love New Adult books - but in talking with some of my reading friends, I don't really feel like people really have a good grasp on exactly what 'New Adult' means. Is it a real thing or not? Is it just YA with more sex? It is an excuse to read more raunchy books? I want to address these questions by highlighting a ton of New Adult contemporary during the next two months and letting you guys see that New Adult is broad - just like Young Adult - and that within that subgenre, there is a niche for everyone if you're interested." 


Really, check it out and give me some (respectful) feedback! 
Let's talk about this, you guys. Seriously.

I think I want to take some time and really talk about New Adult - in several ways. It may take a few discussion posts, but that's okay. I think lots of us like a good, healthy, respectful discussion because we have fun and learn from each other. 


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A few things to know about Asheley the Reader

  1. I am not a writer nor am I an industry professional. I just like to read. 
  2. I like to read from the young adult section at the libraries and bookstores. However, I am a wee bit older than some of the young adult stuff, the characters, the issues. That is not a slam on YA. IT IS NOT. But sometimes I do feel a little odd reading about some of the stuff
  3. I like to read adult fiction - we'll be specific and say adult contemporary fiction since that's the theme this month. However, I see myself as a younger adult than lots of those adults I'm reading about in age, maturity level, things like that. I also don't always want to spend my spare time with the same subject matter/issues that seem to pop up repeatedly in adult contemporary fiction - marriage issues, health issues, kid issues, etc. I JUST DON'T. (See, before I started reading the contemps, I read to escape that junk - too much real life for me!) That is not a slam on adult fiction. IT IS NOT. But sometimes I feel a little out of place and, well, depressed when I read too many contemporary big-kid books back-to-back if they're not carefully chosen. 

That's why when the subgenre New Adult popped up, I started dancing around my kitchen and ate guacamole and had some cocktails. Ok, it didn't happen exactly like that, but it may as well have. Because someone finally gave a name to the stuff that was a little more tailored to what I liked to read. I have a feeling THIS may be where I'm either getting some fist pumps or I'm getting some confused looks. And that's okay. Let's keep talking. We have a lot to cover over the next few days.

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Simply stated, New Adult is that time in life/literature between Young Adult and Adult Fiction. Hmm, vague, right? YES. But there are some loose-ish guidelines. (Remember that these aren't my rules.)
  • Generally, the characters will be somewhere between 18-25-ish. BUT you may see them a little younger OR you may see them a little older depending on whatever issues they have going on in their lives at the time of the story. Vague, I know. 
  • Generally, the characters are post-high school, college-aged, or maybe even just out of college. Not everyone chooses to go to college, though, so let's keep that in mind, you guys. College IS NOT a requirement for a book to be in the New Adult genre. Vague, I know. 
I think that the biggest way to tell if a book is a NA book or not (outside of Goodreads labels and marketing) is to look at the summary, the characters - what are they up to? are they in some sort of transition or turning point in their life? If so - even if they are a little on the younger side - chances are, you have a NA book on your hands. 


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Whether or not a book fits in the the New Adult category is a wonderful discussion topic among readers, for all of my friends that love good discussion! There will generally be reasons why books could be NA and why the same books might not be NA (see below). In my heart of hearts, I believe that New Adult is a subgenre of young adult and adult, so there is always room to talk among yourselves and try to determine where you think a book or a story fits based on the elements on the inside. 

 

All I Need by Susane Colasanti & Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 

These are two perfect examples of this - neither are classified as New Adult on Goodreads (that I can tell) but this is certainly discussable given the ages of the characters and the transition they are going through in their lives. Also, do each of the main characters have to fit the age/transition qualifications - or maybe just one of the main characters? Hmm. Y'all think on that if you've read these. We can talk about it later.

But
Neither of these two have promiscuous themes. 
Neither of these two have provocative covers. 
Neither of these two have the alpha-male or bad-girl characters.
Both just happen, in these cases, to be traditionally published. 

It is possible that some readers could potentially see them as having some 
New Adult characteristics - which could lead the discussion to genre crossover...which we'll talk about later.

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Here are some more of the things I want discuss with you all:
(discuss being the operative word)

  • Tons of people know the phrase New Adult, but are at a loss for a wide variety of examples - because there really haven't been great examples of New Adult fiction given - this is a shame! There are incredible books out there, and believe it or not - lots of them are ones that many of you have read! I want to give some good examples of both traditionally-published and non-traditionally-published New Adult, and I want to do this fairly soon. 
  • I want to discuss how I think that unfortunately New Adult fiction kind of has a bad reputation - in my opinion, it's a bit misrepresented - although I do understand why. Things like certain popular books, book covers, things like that. I can't wait to let loose with this one and I would love feedback from you guys. 
  • I want to talk about how the New Adult raunchy is so much more than raunchy books about angry alpha-males, which kind of fits in the bullet-point above this one. Note: you will find those types of books in this genre. This is okay because they're in other genres too. 
  • I want to talk about why New Adult fiction makes sense to me - why I gravitate toward it LOTS - and why I tend to read all around within the New Adult subgenre. 
All of these things need to happen super soon. I feel like this is important and needs to be talked about! There are some incredible writers out there putting out some great stuff that is being sort of glazed over because of the genre title. I want to fix this at least a little bit. 

Y'all should've seen how long this post was before I split it up. It was ridiculous. This is very general today, but I DO want to make sure that I leave you with something substantial. 

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I have recently read and gotten super-excited 
about several New Adult books. Here are two of them:

  


Both of these titles were page-turners for me and 
I'm fully invested in each of these series now
I absolutely cannot wait to highlight each of them very soon during this event and trust me when I say that you don't want to miss my thoughts on them. 

My point is this: these two books are both New Adult but very different. 
They are both fantastic. Well-written stories. Great characterization. 
Great settings. Engaging plots. Things that we all love as readers. 
I can think of specific people that each book will appeal to and that I will
be recommending these books to (and some that I already have). 

We'll talk more at length about some more titles that you may be a little more familiar with and some that you may even be surprised about. 

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Is there anything about the New Adult genre 
that you want to talk about or discuss? 
Please be respectful in your comments. 

I'm serious! What about New Adult 
should I try to cover here during this event?
What questions can I find the answers to? 

Comments about this post in particular? 

Let's discuss, you guys. Seriously.

I want to say that I am not an expert on New Adult stuff. 
I just really like it. I leave the experting to the good folks over at NA Alley.

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14 comments:

  1. Oh man, I don't even know what to say on this topic even though I have thoughts in my head. I guess the way I feel about NA as a genre or whatever is that I like it, especially since I fit the target age, but I need to see more variety before I make a real decision on it. There are SO many books out there that would be categorized as NA but just sex filled books about college students. Of course, these are ok, but I'd like to see some on other topics, such as living on your own for the first time or getting that first adult job, you know? I've only read a few NA books here and there, so maybe you could make a post about the different ones you've read? Perhaps there is variety and I just haven't been exposed to it yet.

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    1. I do plan a post like that, Rachel! There is big variety, actually, but people don't realize it I think. There's a ton of hype around a few of the bigger or more popularized NA books and these often overshadow some of the ones like you and I tend to gravitate to. I'll highlight some that and make sure to include some that you'd probably like. AND may have already read. :)

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  2. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that people just don't know how to categorize this genre yet, and that it's not just an age group, but a time in life that is not easily defined. I happen to love the NA genre as well, and often connect to it better than YA books that focus on high school, because there is so much to life after that point and figuring it all out is something that I feel like I'm still doing sometimes. I think there are a lot of books that have been published as YA that feature these NA themes - Gayle Forman and Jennifer Echols write them for instance, but many others too. Books that feature characters going to college, or discovering what life holds for them when they're on their own or away from their parents (you're right, college is NOT required for a book to be NA). I'm sad that most people think these books are just about sex. If a book features college age characters and it's all about sex, I'd hesitate to even call it New Adult, if it doesn't have any self discovery themes. I'd move it up to contemporary fiction or straight erotica.

    I think a lot of this is just a semantics issue, and not knowing where to place these types of books. It's also a reaction from people who think all of the New Adult self published books are about sex. They're not, though they're often less inhibited than traditional YA books, partially because there are less rules, but also because the characters and audience are older and more experienced. I like the idea of talking about specific books in this genre. Because up until now there hasn't really been a NA publishing category, I wonder if there had been, whether some of the "older YA" books would have been published differently. Maybe not, but it's just a thought.

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    1. I think you're totally right about the semantics issue (and you can see that in Emma Hart's comment down below - she said it really well). Some of the more popular NA books (I hate to name titles) that feature that more sexual, angsty males or even females often overshadow some of the other types of NA books that are SO GOOD and this makes me sad because I just know that lots of readers would LOVE these books. BUT I understand why people have either a bad taste in their mouth about NA if they're not into that type of book OR why they're hesitant to try them at all. I've been hitting NA pretty hard lately, almost to the point of leaving out the traditionally published books (which I need to stop and include them too in this event!) and I'm hoping that a few people will find a place in this niche.

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  3. Just as YA has many different themes, I believe NA does too. I think people are quick to assume NA is about angsty, unbalanced, college age characters that have sex because that seems to be the popular trend in "NA" books right now. Does this mean that's what all of them are about? Absolutely not. I want to broaden my own scope on these books too and that is why I am looking forward to seeing your recommendations.

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    1. YAY! I'm looking forward to sharing some. I'm glad people are at least curious and open to seeing what is out there. :)

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  4. Like you say, I think the problem with NA is that it doesn't quite know what it is yet. People have been publishing books about 20-somethings forever both as chick-lit romances and as general fiction, but what seems to define NA at the minute is a YA tone aged up enough to include graphic sex. While I don't have a problem with romance/erotica-heavy books with dark narratives they aren't what I want to read and I worry that the genre is going to become set in this mould. If we took NA at its broadest definition (i.e. fiction concerned with 18-25yr olds) by far my favourite book is Ann Brashares' 'The Last Summer (of You and Me)' but it received little attention as it pre-dated the NA genre (it was published in 2007). If NA fiction was to follow this mould - character-based narratives which deal with post-school life and discuss sex as it relates to that rather than being focussed primarily on sexual relationships - I'd be much more interested.

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    1. This is so well-said. And I love that you included Brasheres' book because I know if we all took a good look at the shelves, we'd see that there are plenty of books out there that qualify as NA, but they just were written before the label.

      I can't wait to share what I've read and see if any of them are books that interest you. I've moved around a little it in NA over the last few months to try and get my feet wet and feel like it is so, so broad. But where I have done that, I realize that other people haven't had the chance to, so I can't wait to share what I've found.

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  5. As said before, the thing with NA is that it doesn't have a shelf. It's a genre made popular by self-publishing - how can a bookstore place what they didn't create? Because, ultimately, we all turn to bookstores for our answers.
    It's also referred to as a genre. It's not. It is a category in it's own right - with the sub genres of other categories i.e fantasy, romance, paranormal. It shouldn't be confused as a genre because it's not.
    The basic definition as understood by authors who write NA (and rarely understood by anyone not a writer/reader of it) is that the characters are aged between 18-25. That is the only definition - it's not all college based, nor is it sexed-up YA. Most people (incorrectly) believe it's all romance. That's only because romance is the most popular genre, so it makes sense to write in the most popular genre, but there are more and more fantasy/paranormal NA books being released. NA Romance paved the way for the category and now others are following. Sex is in NA books because it happens... And perhaps more frequently in the NA age group, because "finding yourself" is more than just being alone, it's also about finding yourself sexually. As the category and genres evolve that will become more evident.
    I'm honoured you included Never Forget in this post, and I can't wait for your spotlights!

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    1. I'm glad you've clarified about NA being a category and not a genre, because I've been calling it that. But what you've said makes complete sense. And yes, I agree that there are tons of NA out there outside of contemporary/romance but I just don't think people know about it. I love that there is a ton of NA Romance, but even within NA Romance, there is a broad range - very little sex/plenty of issues to tons of sex, etc. - just like with YA or adult fiction.

      I'm just hoping that the talking about NA will make people want to read it and make it a much more positive thing to talk about within the industry. I love it so much, I enjoy reading it so much, and I want other people to find a place within NA to enjoy as well!

      Thanks for stopping by Emma!

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  6. I think it's great that you're opening up a discussion about New Adult! I haven't read very many of them, which means I probably won't be able to contribute too much (yet), but I'm interested in seeing what you and everyone else has to say about it.

    Oh, and also, the one thing I will say: I don't think NA is limited only to those books with bad boys and sexytimes. I feel like there's potential for it to be so much more - and I can't wait to see your selections!

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    1. YAY Alexa! I read a ton of NA and have some great recommendations - can't wait to share them!

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  7. I'm hoping the NA category can move beyond the stigma of being "sexed up YA" because I agree that it can be about so much more. I'd love to see more books in the NA category that aren't the typical bad-boy alpha male meets girl with a traumatic secret. It seems like that's the hot trend right now. I write sweet NA and am looking for more contemporaries with beta heroes! A book like Flat-Out Love, for example, is everything I love about NA :)

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  8. I agree - I hope it moves beyond that stigma as well. There are a ton of really great NA books out there that are outside of the alpha-male scenario that you mention, but unfortunately people don't often know where to look for them, or bloggers/readers aren't reading/reviewing them. Flat-Out Love is a great example! I loved that book.

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