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