As I have been reading and reviewing for this blog, I have noticed a gap in the book marketplace – college age fiction. You could either have your book revolve around someone 17 or 18, or you skipped to the 30 year-old adult. Plus, unless you’re reading fluffy romantic fiction, you’re more likely to find literary works with protagonists that are middle-aged. Young adult fiction is finally gaining some great critical acclaim in the last few years, and is increasingly marketable to non-teens, but there hasn’t been a lot there for those in the 18-30 market. Even with the few books released with older protagonists, they often got shoved in YA, perhaps because they were young characters and couldn’t quite be considered adults.
Publishing Crawl contributor Rachel Seigel wrote about this very same gap just the other day, with great news of an up and coming category – New Adult Fiction. As Seigel puts it, New Adult fiction would encompass those “protagonists [who] are emerging adults who have a broader life experience than younger teens, but not enough experience to be living full adult lives.” That’s great news for those that are 18-25, and those who read to find common experiences for their age. It could also be a very popular category with juniors and seniors in high school, who might want to find something to look forward to.
Rumor has it that Twilight was originally written with Bella in college, but the publishers had Meyer age it down so they could market it for the lucrative YA crowd. While the characters’ ages is only a small problem in the popular-but-awful series, if authors are having to make characters younger, the stories can suffer. The transition out of high school and into college also holds a great deal of possibilities for authors to mine from. With so many Young Adult books featuring never-there parents (so that the characters can get into as much trouble as possible, thus driving forward plot points), turning the kids loose on college makes the absent parent far more believable. How many young heroines in recent years have had one dead/out-of-state/absent parent and one parent who doesn’t seem to care that their daughter is in love with a creepy boy/werewolf/fighting to the death? (Of course, Disney has done the dead-mother thing for over 50 years, and they’re still going.)
What could New Adult fiction mean then, for YA? Well, for one, there might be some authors “trading up”, as it were. But frankly, there are already a lot of books in this category, if it were to catch on. Last summer I reviewed the great Code Name Verity, and wondered at its YA classification when it featured two adult women in their early 20’s. One of my next reviews will be for The Office of Mercy, a soon-to-be-released YA dystopian that actually features a 24 year-old heroine. The books are already being written, but there could be a lot of readers missing out on them because of their younger classifications.
I have already talked about on this blog my disdain for those who look down on genre fiction. What makes little sense to me are those who might not pick up a book because it’s meant for the “teen audience”. It’s actually something I covered in my review of Code Name Verity, and it still makes me sad that there are excellent books out there that might get overlooked by some readers because they feel they are “too old” for this or that novel. The great thing about New Adult fiction would be to break down some of those barriers, get some excellent non-YA books out of the binding YA category, and it inspires authors to write those stories and editors to accept them. Let’s hope that this time next year we will have a ton of new New Adult fiction books.
I’m even going to start tagging appropriate books in my reviews. Every little bit helps the trend, right?