This week I will be taking a look at the latest trend in books and publishing-New Adult Fiction. This category has sparked quite a bit of debate. What exactly is New Adult? Is there really a need for New Adult? Where the heck do you put these books? All of these were questions that were examined at ALA this summer when I went to a session entitled "New Adult Fiction: What Is It and Is It Really Happening?" Oh, it's happening alright and I have reason to believe that we should be afraid!
Okay, maybe not afraid, but I'm not stoked about these books either.
New Adult as a category seems to be marketed to newly independent adults, mostly of the female persuasion as the vast majority of New Adult (NA for short because I am going to be typing this a lot) are steamy romances involving overly flawed characters or precious good girls that want to unleash their inner sex kitten but they just need the right guy to show them how. As I typed that last sentence I wondered how long it will take until there is a whole sub-genre of innocent librarian school virgins falling for hunky high school drop-outs. That's another post for another day (or blog all together).
Why shouldn't there be a category for these newly independent adult readers? The twenties are a difficult time, I know having survived them. You're broke, you're naive, you're desperate for affection, and you're trying to finally be an adult without any real training as to how. But are the books out there really serving this audience with their overly sexed plots and tragic characters?
At the ALA session, these feelings were all lamented. That NA is just YA with 10,000 extra words of sexy times. I really feel like I should ask Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy for permission to use that term. As one of the moderators, she must have said "sexy times" at least twenty times, followed by giggles from the crowd. Apparently a room full of librarians are just not as worldly as the characters in these books. Also, it was mentioned that they characters in these books really just need therapy and a warm cup of tea.
The success of Young Adult fiction over the years has lead to an army of readers that are ready for books that are more mature and grown-up, but not dry, like so many book club selections that I have run into. So, the creation of this category makes sense. Burns said at the ALA session that many readers are coming in asking for books like the HBO series, Girls. In the interest of science (or reading, or entertainment), I watched a couple episodes of Girls yesterday. I won't be doing that again any time soon, but I see the value in the show for young 20-somethings. It is a show about being on your own, having sex, getting a job, being broke-all the things that make your 20's hard to navigate.
Now, before I go any further into discussing what the next week will be like, let me first give a warning. If you are my mother, mother-in-law, sister, or any person related to me under the age of 18 or over the age of 40, please take a week off from my blog. Just stop right here, right now, and go look at adorable pics of my nephew on Facebook. I'll be back next week with wholesome reviews of middle grade fiction and Bluestem nominees, but this week will be pretty spicy, and I would rather not discuss that with you over dinner. So, just go, that's fine. I understand.
If you're still with me and not my mother, great! I would like to present the patented (not really) Miss Tiff's NA Readability Scale!
In my opinion, books in this category can be divided into three categories: Delightful, Smut, and Porn. I'm being a little snarky here, so imagine that Porn designation comes with a Sarcasm Sign (also patent pending-also not really!).
Here's how I came about these three designations:
Delightful: A book with a solid plot, likable or relatable characters either in college or just out of college, sexual content not necessarily required but not unwelcome, and overall good reading experience.
Smut: Stock or underdeveloped characters in college or just out of college, predictable plot that mostly revolves around sex, and overall sense of having read this book before-most likely a Harlequin hidden in your mother's sock drawer.
Porn: No to little plot, just sex. Example, if you remove all of the sexy times, how many pages are you left with? 20, 15, just the title page? Yeah, it can be that bad.
Each book I review over the next week will be treated to two tests: The Girls test and the Readability Scale. Should be a great time!
So, grab a cool glass of water because it's about to get steamy up in here!