I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Adult: A Real Category or an Absurd Balkanization of Bookstores? (Guest post by C. Lee McKenzie)

Goodness me, how time flies! I hope you've all had a lovely few weeks and got lots of rest in--I know heaps of you have taken breaks over the summer (US and Europe) and winter (Oz and NZ) holidays. I myself have just come back from a glorious camping holiday--winter camping (I know, right!) though we went up north to the beach, and had lovely sunny shirts-and-shorts weather, lots of ice-cream and fish and chips, and heaps of dolphin-sightings (beautiful creatures!). So I'm all rested and refreshed and ready to introduce to you the gorgeous C. Lee McKenzie, who'll be talking to us today about New Adult.

So take it away Lee, and while you've got control of my blog, I'm off to look up "balkanization" and find out what it means - I'll report back later :D

New Adult: A Real Category or an Absurd Balkanization of Bookstores?           

It has been almost three years since the term New Adult (NA) emerged on the book scene. St. Martin's Press in conjunction with Georgia McBride's YaLitChat did something amazing. They asked for writers to sub their novels to a contest. Three winners would receive a copy of Tempted by P. C. Cast and Kristina Cast, but they'd also have a shot at publication. Who could resist that? Apparently not many because they received 382 submissions.

The rules were simple and one of them set out the NA category clearly. “[Submit] fiction applicable to older teens and twentysomethings, but 20's are preferred."

Since then several articles and blog posts have been published about NA. And there's some debate about whether this is a real category or a new way to package “chick lit.”

Uncreated Conscience says, no. “[Saying NA is all about “chick lit is] like saying YA is only about high school. It is not. YA is about a certain time of life, when you are no longer a child but not quite an adult and one can write about this period of time through less literal genres like historical fiction or science-fiction and fantasy. Similarly, New Adult is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one.”

Writers seem to applaud the possibility that they'll be able to write books with slightly older protagonists (18-24) who are dealing with major life issues for the first time.

As author, Lynn Rush, says, "Kids and teens focus on the present, while adults draw on their past experience to inform their present and future decisions. New Adults are somewhere in between…. That distinction might seem subtle, but it comes through loud and clear in the voice of New Adult Fiction.”

In From the Write Angle, J. Lea Lopez argues that with NA “Variety is really the whole point here. There's variety in both YA and adult literature, and as a supporter for a New Adult category, what I'm rallying for is even more of it.”

NA Alley, Bridging the Gap Between Young Adult and Adult Fiction is a most site where seven writers have come together to write and promote this “category” of fiction.

I can see why writers would embrace NA as a category. Look at the diversity of themes that are available. What previous generations have embraced as traditional steps following high school, no longer applies. As Robin Marantz Henig writes,”The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there.” The writer in me translates that as a lot of opportunity for stories that readers are waiting for.

What happens when a twentysomething:

• moves home?

• is rootless, going from one place to another, not establishing any community?

• goes from job to job? Will this be a great experience or result in a failed career or worse?

• lives with a partner, but doesn’t marry?

• marries much later than that traditional early-mid twenties?

We’re already seeing some of these stories, and in all likelihood, we’ll see many more of “twentysomethings churning” because this group of readers exists and scholars are providing a ton of research about them.

JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., calls the 20s a distinct life stage and refers to it as “emerging adulthood.”

But there’s an argument against creating this NA category. In an Upstart Crow Literary post, “New Adult”--Specious category or market opportunity? the author, Michael, calls it a "slippery slope," even, "an absurd Balkanization of bookstores." He says, "[when I was a twentysomething] I didn't need any sort of bookstore category to do my thinking for me . . ." He humorously proposes that this “slippery slope” could well lead to other categories: “‘Elderly and Disgruntled.” “Stories for Shut-Ins.” “Masculine Asses.” “Pre-Feminist Thinkers.’”

Then there’s the “dumbing down” factor that pops up in comments about NA. Do we spoon feed our children so much already that creating this category is just another form of parental helicoptering? Is it a way to confirm that the twentysomethings don’t have the ability to select books from the adult fiction section, the history or science sections?

As for me, I’m excited to see something new. The publishing is a constantly and--now more than ever--quickly changing business, so I ask, “Why not?” Besides, some authors already refer to their books as New Adult. They’ve found a niche for those not quite YA, not quite Adult novels.

How about you: As writers/readers, what do you think about New Adult finding a shelf (real or virtual)?


Thanks so much Lee, for your intriguing post on New Adult. I really enjoyed reading it, and now that I know the meaning of "Balkanization", life is all good :)

Have you read Lee's book yet? It's called ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD, and here's the blurb:
Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.
Here are Lee's author/contact details:

WEBSITE: http://cleemckenziebooks.com

BLOG: http://writegame.blogspot.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/cleemckenziebooks

TWITTER : @cleemckenzie

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0042M1KYW

GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2809083.C_Lee_McKenzie

And if you'd like to check out Lee's book, here is some link love:





Catch you all soon, and big hugs,

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