The Definition of New Adult. Also Sexy Teenage Fiction
PUBLISHING: Gosh a lot of people are reading and apparently enjoying young adult fiction. It’s selling really well.
PUBLISHING: How would it be if… we had… TWO categories that were selling really well? We’d be selling TWICE as much! MATHEMATICS!
(Similar conversations take place in businesses all the time.
PETER JACKSON: Three Hobbit films instead of one!
PRODUCTION COMPANY: *weeping with joy* A trilogy! A trilogy of gold!)
PUBLISHING: People who aren’t teens are reading a lot of YA, and some people must be kept from YA by thinking that they wouldn’t like ‘kid’ books… so… how about something to catch the overflow of older YA, let us tell a few stories about college, let readers tell themselves they’re adults…
PUBLISHING: We’ll call it New Adult!
If The Catcher In The Rye was published now, it’d be published as YA. If someone gave me Catcher-In-the-Rye-related-amnesia, put the book in my hands and told me it was written by John Green, I’d say ‘Entirely plausible. Huh, he’s writing historical fiction now. I wonder if he’ll write Looking For The Amazon next or maybe An Abundance of Catherines and Also Quite A Few Annes (that one’s a biography of Henry VIII).’
Lots of people have been paying a lot of attention to sexiness in fiction because Fifty Shades of Grey is a publishing phenomenon. It may have been very much inspired by a YA novel, but it isn’t one: it hasn’t suddenly inspired SEXINESS IN YA WHERE THERE WAS NO SEXINESS BEFORE!
Sex in YA novels is nothing new. Here are some YA books with sex in them. Holly Black’s Valiant and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely and Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden (they’re brother and sister! Gosh that prudish YA) and Tamora Pierce’s In The Hand of the Goddess (insert divine sex joke here) and Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters and Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Fire and I LITERALLY DON’T HAVE TIME TO LIST ALL THE SEX-AY YA NOVELS, but trust me, they’re there, they’re sexy, get over it.
I am totally cool with having a new category. They’re just labels used to sell things, helping buyers and sellers alike. Means I can zoom right towards the bookshelves I want in a shop.
But the fact that there might be a new buyin’ and sellin’ category is no need to run around like scandalized Victorian chickens going ‘SEX, there will be SEX in all the children’s books from now on!’ or ‘New Adult is the mark of the beast, the Scarlet Letter, all the teenagers will be turned into sex fiends endlessly consuming… literature…’
However ‘Dudes, Calm Down, What Is Your Damage’ is not a compelling article title and that is why I am not hired to write articles about New Publishing Phenomena and The Fact People Sometimes Want To Read About Knocking Boots.