Inbetweening

So, it’s a term that’s been banging around the publishing world for a while, but what exactly is ‘New Adult’ ?

Good question. One which most people, including publishers and writers, are struggling to define. St Martin’s Press pioneered the genre, and while it’s created a bit of a buzz, no one really seems to know what exactly it is.

From the various, questioning sources out there, it seems to be a slightly older version of YA. Think College Age and that should be the ball park area. It’s supposed to be about the issues that effect those in their very late teens and early twenties as they embark on the first stages of their adult lives. It is, I feel, a very under represented area of fiction, where there is normally a clear gap between the YA and adult novels.

But what purpose does it really fill?

I’m 28 and I still read massive amounts of YA (and MG) most of my friends do. Partly this stems from the fact that, despite being a married mother, I still don’t consider myself to be an adult. Not really. I’ll admit that I find it hard to relate to characters in the books that are meant to be for me – I don’t cry about shoes, I don’t work in PR, I don’t obsess about my weight and I’m not likely to end up shagging my millionaire boss/ tv personality / rock star / sex god. Nor am I likely to be captaining a space ship or running around on a Costa Rican island trying to avoid dinosaurs.

Inside I’m still seventeen. And that is the appeal of YA.

When I was going through my turbulent university years – well, about as turbulent as you can get at an agricultural college in Fermanagh – there weren’t really any books that dealt with what I was going through. Adult books were all about people who had passed that phase, and YA books were about people who hadn’t reached that phase yet.

As a reader I felt stranded and alone.

And that is why I am looking forward to a new age of books, the New Adult, or whatever you want to call it.

But how much do college aged kids really read?

Now, I don’t usually trust statistics, since 64% of them are made up anyway, but research would indicate that college age people read less books than their adult or teen counterparts – less books that aren’t on approved reading lists that is. And I can understand that. When I was at college I was doing 14 hour days and then reading my course material – which was as dry as cinnamon sandwich I can tell you. I desperately wanted to read more fun stuff, but I just didn’t have the time, or, to be honest, the energy.

In my case it took a while after I finished college before I started to read again, and even longer before I got back up to my pre college speed. Most of the people I’ve spoken to about this say the same thing – they would have liked to read more, but didn’t have the time / inclination.

So I started to question whether college age readers would read New Adult books.

Answer – some will.

But the majority of those books will be read by teenage readers or older readers – teens because at that age we like to read about protagonists who are a little older than ourselves, it gives us a sense of expectation of what will happen to us at that age – and older readers because we all like to look back and New Adult will, for the older reader, be an extension of YA.

How it will all work out in practice is another story altogether. But I’m looking forward to more NA books hitting the shelves and will be following closely to see if everyone else is as excited as I am.

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