Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why We Need "New Adult"

I know this discussion has been circling the internet for the last year or two, and despite a lot of people's enthusiasm for this new category, it doesn't sound like "New Adult" will ever happen.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for a new publishing category or a new shelf in bookstores dedicated to college students and twenty-somethings. (I will discuss this later.) I would, however, like to see more books that feature college students, college graduates, and other out-of-high-school protagonists.

And this is why:

I'm twenty-three. I graduated college in a shitty economy and couldn't find a job. A lot of my college friends moved away, and only a handful of my high school friends still live in my hometown. After the lab where I was volunteering had to cut back because of funding issues, I decided to try my luck in the Northeast. Cue in angst about still not being able to find a real job. Cue in more angst, because I don't know anyone my own age. And then cue in even more angst about my future due to medical school application stress.

Whoever said that the teenage years were the most turbulent time in a person's life probably lied to you. After I got out of middle school, being a teenager was easy. High school meant that I was able to see my friends every day with little effort. No one tried to guilt me out about not being able to support myself. Classes meant that I had something in which I could succeed. As a teenager, I never had to sacrifice my ideals.

As a "new adult," I still don't know where I fit. I've legally been an adult for five years and it's still hard to think of myself as one. When I think of "adults," I think of the parents in Montclair, New Jersey--people in their thirties and forties who go to dinner parties where the main topics of conversation are children and home repairs. And then I start thinking about those acquaintances from high school who are now married with children. I'll be honest. It weirds me out that some people jump into adulthood so quickly. Because I'm not even close to thinking about children and long-term relationships.

I'm not going to lie. I miss college. I wish I were still a college student. And college students would make awesome protagonists. Think about it.

-College students are usually living on their own for the first time. Therefore, college is a perfect environment for characters to sleep around, be responsible, be irresponsible...and all without parent interference! (As it is, YA novels do anything in their power to get rid of those meddling parents!)
-College is where you start figuring out where you belong in the world. You have to make important decisions, like picking your major (dun, dun, dun).
-College students have more out-of-class responsibilities. When I was in college, I was planning fundraisers and writing grant proposals. And then there are more real-world responsibilities, like internships.
-Study abroad. I spent a semester of my junior year in Madrid, Spain. Fucking unforgettable.

But what about post-college life? (You know, the life I was just bitching about.) It's a life riddled with challenges that would make an excellent basis for a novel.

-How do you reconcile your dreams with real-world survival? I'm lucky in that I have a baby-sitting job and a really good family support network. This means I can accept an unpaid internship in a spinal cord injury lab, a field I'm super-passionate about. But this isn't the case for everyone.
-How do you reconcile your ideals with real-world survival? Brutal honesty will not get you far in the workplace. Neither will making snide comments when your boss wears a fur coat. And that evil corporation that you swore you'd never work for? Well, it turns out they pay more than a non-profit.
-How do you build a social life when you don't have classes to throw you together with people? A lot of my newer friends are people whom I know through my raver friends. As a result, they're not always people I like.
-How do you deal with roommates? I spent some time working at my parents' apartment complex. One tenant wanted to evict her abusive boyfriend. He didn't have a job, so she was the only one paying rent. Unfortunately, his name was also on the lease, so she couldn't legally kick him out for another five months.
-How do you deal with asshole or incompetent bosses and co-workers? (Kind of self-explanatory.)

I could probably think of other examples, but this post is already hitting the tl;dr mark.

I don't necessarily agree that we need a "New Adult" category. College students don't have a lot of time to read, and I feel like a lot of post-college books would fit just fine in the adult market. I would, however, like to see more books that focus on these age groups.

That's not saying these books don't exist, because they do. Some are on the YA shelf, while others fall into genre or general fiction. A couple months ago, I reviewed Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger, where the protagonists are in their late teens/early twenties.

However, the fact that these books don't fall under the same shelf means they are harder to find. For that reason, I decided to start the "New Adult Project." Ever week, I plan to review one book that focuses on a "new adult" character. I already have a small list compiled, but if you know of other books, I will be happy to accept recommendations (all genres are welcome.)

ETA 3/8/12: Make that one book every other week.

You can find the list of reviews here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...