Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on the New Adult Genre

Sally Stuart recently posted about a new genre in books called New Adult fiction. She explains that New Adult books target “the 20+ crowd” and “contain more mature themes and are meant to appeal to this age group’s needs.”

The Guardian defines it as ranging from ages 14-35. That’s quite a span. However, this source does provide a helpful definition, explaining that in these books, “the main characters transform from teenagers into adults and try to navigate the difficulties of post-adolescent life…”
ABC calls it the new “smut” fiction. Yuck.
I resent the inference that new adults in their late teens and twenties are only looking for trashy, explicit, “coming of age” stories. With all the changes this generation is facing, they need compelling, clean fiction with decent role models more than ever.
But I’ll get off my soap box. Suffice it to say that there is clearly going to be a dramatic difference between everyday New Adult fiction and Christian New Adult fiction.
Young Adult vs. New Adult

I first heard the term New Adult at the 2013 Florida Christian Writer’s Conference when I was pitching my Wings of the Dawn series to an agent. When I described it as a young adult series with a transcendent quality appealing to adults as well, the agent suggested it might better fit the New Adult genre.

Me: What’s New Adult?
Agent: It’s a genre that shows a post high-school character confronting and dealing with life changes throughout the course of the story.
Me: That kind of sounds like my heroine.
In addition to the protagonist’s age and stage of life, the content and issues explored in the story also factor in when determining if a book could be categorized as New Adult.

Think about Nancy Drew books. If I remember correctly, Nancy is eighteen, which is border line between Young Adult and New Adult. However, I read this series in middle school – or maybe even elementary. The content level is an easy-read mystery, not a story exploring complex issues.

Why New Adult?
From personal experience, I think New Adult is oftentimes an overlooked age group. I’ve been a part of college and career groups and also currently work with my church’s youth group. Teens and Twenty-Somethings are facing so many challenges in today’s society, and the transition from high school into advanced education, career and commitments can be confusing. Designing fiction that targets the needs of this age group makes perfect sense.

However, I think New Adult fiction should approach tough topics honestly but also in a clean way. This content will likely appeal to younger adults (12-18) who may be looking for role models in their reading or find themselves thrust into circumstances that force them to “grow up” faster than expected.

The bottom line? Christian New Adult fiction should help this age group see the truth of God’s Word applied to the circumstances characters face.

After all, the Bible is the ultimate guide to the challenges and changes of life. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Have you read any good New Adult Christian fiction lately? What did you like or dislike about it?

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