Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

New Adult, Where Does It Go?

Now that we’ve figured out a definition for New Adult, what does it mean, really?

new adult 300x230 New Adult, Where Does It Go?

OK, maybe a definition is still up in the air and being worked out. (And right now, I’m
I’ll give my short answer up front, and then talk a bit more to explain it.going to assume you read yesterday’s posts and remember who was saying what about New Adult.)

More books? Great. Bring them on: more books about late teens/twenty-somethings, more books set in college or grad school, more books set in the first job(s). More books is good.

Its own category or genre? So, a section in the library or bookstore? No.

I wish we had one we could all agree on, because without it, it’s tough to discuss the whys of my own reaction.

Part of it is the failure to really have a definition. The New York Times article focusing strictly on books with “significantly more sex,” and while personally I think that’s too narrow, if that were accurate then the question could be along the lines of then does it qualify as a romance? Or adult fiction? That article also only mentioned contemporary titles — does that mean New Adult is only contemporary?

The definition in Bookshelvers Anonymous is broader, and while at first blush seems rooted in contemporary/realistic fiction, the author says “My hope is to one day find NA filled with as much diversity and adventure as YA. I want a twenty-year-old knight fighting dragons and a twenty-six-year-old explorer discovering a new planet and a nineteen-year-old graduate moving away from home for the first time.”

Great! But, I’m pretty sure that there is fantasy and science fiction featuring twenty-somethings already. There are also mysteries, and horror, and other genres. (More on specific titles tomorrow!)

Now — and I think we can agree on this — not enough.

But does it not count, just because it’s in the fantasy, romance, or general fiction section? Does it have to be on one shelf? And I admit part of my “nope” reaction is having so many parents come in looking for books for “four year old boys” or “eleven year old girls” and books and readers just don’t work that way. As librarians and booksellers and teachers and book bloggers and book lovers and readers, we can help people find books, but there really isn’t as simple a solution as “here’s the shelf for your age.”

And quite honestly, I don’t think there should be shelves based on age. One reason is, the serendipity from browsing gets lost and discoveries don’t get made. Another is, books are broader in appeal than that. I, for one, don’t think that books featuring twenty-somethings would appeal just to that age group — the best books are both windows and mirrors, and shouldn’t be labeled and shelved to just be mirrors of experience. Another reason is, why not shelves for other groups or cohorts going through life experiences they view as unique to them?

If the argument is sound for the twenty-something struggling with their place in the world from a twenty-something point of view, why isn’t it sound for the sixty-something coming to terms with retirement, the deaths of friends and families, unique struggles in a bad economy at the end of your working life, etc.?

And my response for the sixty-something is the same: yes to the books; no to it being its own publishing category.

Part of that “yes” is being aware of New Adult type books, even before our patrons ask for it. Let me put it this way: despite the months of discussion about this at book blogs, recently I saw librarians seeing this for the first time. Other than it meaning they haven’t been reading the book blogs, it means that the patrons they work with haven’t been asking for it.

Patrons not asking for something means — and I’m going to be a bit radical here — NOTHING. Nada. Zip. People don’t always have the “name” of what they’re looking for; and people like to look and find things on their own and if they can’t, trust enough in their own skills to believe it may not exist. So as librarians, we have the often thankless task of creating oxygen: those things that are there that people need and want, without ever seeing it.

In this instance, for New Adult, it means realizing that readers thirst for books about a certain age group so what as librarians do you do to meet that need? Look for them, order them, make sure they are properly cataloged and labelled (not with New Adult, because people may not known it, but with the other elements mentioned in defining New Adult), create booklists and online resources and displays . . . the usual.

What books should be on that list? And where do you find them? That’s for tomorrow!

But, I do want to say this: some of these books will be in Young Adult. Some will be in adult fiction and genres. For years — at least, with myself, my friends, and the teens I’ve worked with in libraries — teens, on their own pace and speed, have gone to the adult shelves and genres and found books. It’s not all or nothing; read a bit YA, read a bit romance, some mystery, back to YA. All rather fluid.

Part of our job — and again, I’m looking at librarians — is, perhaps, to help teens include adult books in their reading, as appropriate to their interests. So, yes, teen librarians need to be aware of adult books (more on that tomorrow) just as adult librarians should know about YA crossover titles. Adult books are not all dreary tales of sad marriages,  ungrateful spouses, annoying children, boring jobs and lost dreams. Adult books include twenty-somethings — perhaps more are needed, but ones exist, so it’s our job to not just buy them but assist teens in finding them.

For right now — what are your thoughts on what this means, for publishing and bookstores and libraries?

 

 

 

share save 171 16 New Adult, Where Does It Go?
About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Annie says:

    “Adult books include twenty-somethings — perhaps more are needed, but ones exist, so it’s our job to not just buy them but assist teens in finding them.”

    That sums it up for me. Although I would like to see more books about college students/twentysomethings, I don’t need a new section of the library to find them. I think these can weave easily into existing fiction/romance/fantasy/etc sections, as you mentioned. Occasionally I get frustrated with general/literary fiction, which seems to feature a lot of sad marriages/ungrateful children/etc., but that doesn’t mean the answer is a new genre or age category.

  2. Elizabeth Burns says:

    I would so love to see more books about that age group! I’m unconvinced they always belong in YA. And agree that they don’t need its own section. BUT YES MORE BOOKS. In writing this up, I could have sworn I read, in the past year, that one issue with college-setting submissions is that often they were written by those still in/just out of college and a real issue is that the submission itself, to be blunt, wasn’t good. I think what it said, kindly, was that the authors weren’t sufficently distanced from their own experiences to turn it into good writing.

    • Annie says:

      TV-related instead of books, but have you seen Greek? It’s about people in fraternities/sororities in a fictional college and I was shocked at how much I loved it. I feel like it could easily be a “New Adult” model.

  3. Brandy says:

    This is exactly how I feel. More books like this? Bring them on. New category? Not necessary.

    “And I admit part of my “nope” reaction is having so many parents come in looking for books for “four year old boys” or “eleven year old girls” and books and readers just don’t work that way. As librarians and booksellers and teachers and book bloggers and book lovers and readers, we can help people find books, but there really isn’t as simple a solution as “here’s the shelf for your age.””

    THIS EXACTLY!

    I said this in the comments on the Bookshelvers Anonymous post but I don’t really want books divided by age past broad categories to point children to the section most appropriate for their developmental period. (And even that system is not perfect.) I’m good with the adult section being divided by genre so I know where to find the fantasies and mysteries. I don’t care to see them divided by any demographic be it age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, whatever.

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      thinking about the adult books by genre divisions, and even that isn’t that divided. It can depend on community, I know, but for example, Historical Fiction, not in its own area — often Mystery is. Agreed that it doesn’t need to be subdivided further.

  4. David Cairns says:

    I think the suggestion that there should be age specific reading shelves is insulting to readers in two ways. First it suggests they aren’t supposed to be reading about characters who aren’t like “them” or “their friends and family”, and secondly it suggests that they don’t want to read about such people. In other words, they are narrow minded. I also agree that many people spend their whole lives figuring things out : I know I’m still a work in progress at 44. I don’t know why we need a new adult category. Wait…I do know. For marketing purposes.

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      ah, marketing. not to be dismissed, but should that control? and cycle back to what is, exactly, being marketed?

  5. BooKa Uhu says:

    I wonder if it would get lumped in with YA and the rest of the age-banded books. I also think that it would confuse the issue the marketers are trying to create and make money on. If not for those reading NA, then for others who (like the library users you mentioned) have no idea what NA is, let alone asking for it. If NA is basically YA with sexytimes (as that one article on the previous post you did described it), imagine the uproar of 14 year old being gifted with the equivalent of Fifty Shades of Grey!
    Not that I don’t know that teens are reading books about sex, but I think it would be easy for well-meaning adults to buy NA thinking it’s right for children because it’s got an age group, then finding that they’ve bought something they really didn’t want to. And then that tars and feathers both NA and it’s younger sister, YA.
    Personally, rather than having a whole new genre made up and shoved in, there should be a change in attitude so that people who like what would could be classed as NA can feel confident enough to go into their local bookshop or library and ask someone for a recommend, and not feel worried about whether it’s come from YA or adult or whatever. Or have maybe regular displays of ‘If you loved so and so, you should see these’ recommendations. I think that would work a whole lot better than a randomnly aged adult section that incorporates a lot of the stuff YA does. That does rely on a change in attitude though, which is a wee bit like herding cats :)

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      if NA gets lumped together with YA, I think it would be an issue for some school libraries, especially. and some public libraries may decide, if this is a book for a 20 year old, however it’s marketed it’s going in our adult collection. agreed re asking; but also then how we catalogue it, and describe it, etc so people can find it.

  6. Mark Flowers says:

    I have to say I’m completely baffled by the fact that we’re talking about “New Adult” books right now, or that someone thinks there are too few books about new adults. Maybe I’m just reading totally differently from everyone else, but it seems to me that every. single. book. by a debut adult author (especially MFAs) is about his/her struggling to get through/our of college, find a career/path, etc. I read this book basically all the time, and have forever. What else is The Great Gatsby? The Sun Also Rises? Goodbye Columbus?

    • Elizabeth Burns says:

      an interesting observation about the books that already exist. Why don’t they count? Is it that readers just want contemporary realistics? Is it about findability so yes the “own shelf” matters, not the existence? (And AGREED re the debuts based on personal experience which is basically that early 20s finding oneself, etc.)

  7. Nicole says:

    “Part of our job — and again, I’m looking at librarians — is, perhaps, to help teens include adult books in their reading, as appropriate to their interests. So, yes, teen librarians need to be aware of adult books (more on that tomorrow) just as adult librarians should know about YA crossover titles. Adult books are not all dreary tales of sad marriages, ungrateful spouses, annoying children, boring jobs and lost dreams. Adult books include twenty-somethings — perhaps more are needed, but ones exist, so it’s our job to not just buy them but assist teens in finding them.”

    Just gonna slow clap this part out.

Speak Your Mind

*