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'New adult' - do we need that tag in Australia?

Oct 02,2012
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I’m excited to be Inside a Dog’s resident writer this month and hope we get some interesting discussions going over the next four weeks.

There’s lots of stuff I want to chat about, but I thought I’d kick off with a topic that’s been intriguing me for a while now: the concept of ‘new adult’ fiction.

If you’re a book blogging regular, you’ve probably come across the term. It describes novels that sit somewhere between young adult and adult fiction (say 16- 25 years): generally the main characters are out of school but still on some form of coming-of-age journey.

A number of reviewers have referred to my debut novel, ‘Shadows’, as ‘new adult’ (including a very cool review on this very website - here). I guess that’s because the characters are in their late teens and early twenties (well, kind of), and this is reflected in their language and relationships, and the level of violence in the story. (By the way, I didn’t actually set out to write a YA or new adult novel – but that’s a whole other post.)

The term ‘new adult’ seems to have caught on in the US, but it hasn’t really found traction here in Australia. I put out some feelers to find out what our publishing industry thought about it and while there was general awareness of the term, there was no sense that it has meaning here at this point in time.

So, do we need this new classification?

Plenty of readers who aren’t teenagers love YA fiction (myself included). So maybe this new category is a way for people to distinguish between younger teen fiction and novels that have strong cross-over appeal?

Arguments break out online every day about how to define YA, and the same questions exist for ‘new adult’: is it the age of narrator; the nature of their story; the complexity of themes tackled?

Maybe the reason we don’t hear the term as much in Australia is that our YA fiction pushes the boundaries that tend to define YA in other countries. We don’t need to wave a flag when a story is a little more mature or complex, because our best YA is defined by its maturity and complexity. Our books deal with suicide, incest, isolation, identity crisis, cultural clashes. We don’t shy away from tough stories.

You only have to read Melina Marchetta, Vikki Wakefield or Markus Zusak to know Australian writers tend not to let the tag of YA hold back the way they tell a story.

The categorisation may have more meaning for paranormal novels than general fiction – there’s generally a bigger gap between conservative paranormal fiction and the kind that pushes the envelope. But I’ll talk more about YA paranormal fiction (one of my favourite topics) in another post.

I’m interested to know what you guys think. Is the term ‘new adult’ meaningful? Would it influence whether or not you bought/read a book? How would you define what’s new adult – or, for that matter – what is young adult?

I couldn’t find a photo relevant to this post so I thought I’d throw in one from when I met Markus Zusak at a library event a few years ago. That’s me on the right. The wonderful lady on the left is Janet Poole, my all-time favourite (and now retired) librarian.
File 11179

Oct 18,2012
Thanks Maddie and Anonymous for the comments. I agree there is logic to being able to easily differentiate between younger and older books in the YA section - but yes, the age old issue of classifying books will always be an issue. Just as it is already between whether or not something is YA in the first place. I'm not sure how American bookstores and libraries handle this (or if they do at all), given 'new adult' is a more regularly used term there (possibly also in the UK?). I may need to do some research...
Oct 16,2012
i believe new adult would be a good idea as a new readers section as it would help to define the more mature books in the young adult section. sometimes i find that some books in the young adult section are either below or above the readers average for that section. if a new section were to be created it would help by keeping the below books in the young adult section and moving the more advanced reads up to the new adult category. this would make it easier for people to find the books they want in the library in a quicker amount go time. but there would also be some difficulties with this as there would be a bit of confusion of where to draw the line and if a book were to sit in the middle of both categories would you place it in the young adult or new adult section. overall if this idea was to go through it would be interesting to observe how it would work out.
Oct 12,2012
anonymous's picture
I sure would feel less silly standing in a "new adult" section of a bookstore rather than YA where it sometimes seems like "The Babysitters Club" would feel at home!
Oct 03,2012
Yes, Markus is lovely (and an awesome writer!). :) And yes, I agree that if you were going to give The Messenger a tag, 'new adult' probably sits more comfortably than YA. I was impressed with the Tenth Circle when I read it years ago - and it definitely pushed some interesting boundaries, but I wonder if Jodi Piccoult wrote it as YA even though it has a teenage narrator? Another one of those curly questions about defining YA... Thanks for the comment!
Oct 02,2012
Markus Zusak ♥ Author crush, much? And I adore Melina Marchetta too! Huh, young adult is weird. I don't usually think about this - genres confuse me - but I guess my subconscious says that young adult is generally what teenagers mostly read + stories starring teenagers + whatever's in the YA section of the library. Sometimes it's more one than the other, but it's never really been defined to me. But now, thinking about Markus Zusak's 'The Messenger', I think this 'new adult' concept makes sense. As well as with Melina Marchetta. So 'new adult' is more teenage+above characters, going through Extreme situations, like... like... Jodi Picoult's 'The Tenth Circle' and 'The Pact' - the 'raw' kinds of stories that aren't so much about teenage dreams than hardcore truths, if a bit, as I said, extreme.... Really intriguing thought o.O

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