Since I'm sick, I decided to forfeit book writing today and to focus all my energy on this blog post. I've been wanting to do a wrap-up post for the "New Adult" Project for a long time, so here goes:
In 2012, I reviewed 13 books featuring characters in the "New Adult" age bracket (18-25). Out of those 13, I read 12 of them in 2012 (The Magicians was the only book I didn't read this year.) and read 11 to completion. I read across various genres, from contemporary, to thrillers, to science fiction and fantasy, to heavier literary-type books.
Books I Enjoyed
Out of all the books I read, these were the ones I enjoyed the most:
-The Secret History by Donna Tartt
-Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
-Hushed by Kelley York
-Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
-Tempest by Julie Cross
I also thought I should include Spring Break, The Nanny Diaries, and Just Remember to Breathe as books that might appeal to other people who don't share my speculative fiction and/or literary biases. The Magicians might appeal to people who are looking for something a little more cynical (even though I myself had several issues with it). Also, although I didn't review it in 2012, I still feel like I should throw in a shout-out for I Am the Messenger.
Books That Best Encompassed the "New Adult" Experience
Not all of the books I read featured elements that were central to the "New Adult" experience. Some of them merely starred characters that were within the 18-25 age range. For that reason, I decided to make a separate list of books that most encompassed some aspect of the "New Adult" experience:
The Nanny Diaries: This is the only book in the "New Adult" project that significantly dealt with getting a job. The book centered on Nanny trying to balance fulfilling her employer's expectations and standing up for her own rights.
The Magicians: Disillusionment is a huge part of the NA experience, and no book encompasses disillusionment better than The Magicians.
Wanderlove: In the Absolute Write forums, Kirsten Hubbard herself mentioned that this book might fall into NA territory, so I feel justified in including it. In Wanderlove, Bria learns to be both practically and emotionally independent, something with which many of today's new adults continue to struggle.
The Secret History: The Secret History takes a group of spoiled rich kids who isolate themselves from the world with their study of obscure classical texts and, through an act of manslaughter, drops them right back in the real world.
Psych Major Syndrome: Borderline NA. This is the only book I read that actually depicts the college campus experience. However, Leigh has the naivete of a sophomore in high school, something that doesn't exactly improve by the end of the book. Also, casual hookups are a common thing in college, so slut-shaming should have no place in this book.
Just Remember to Breathe: Another borderline NA. A veteran trying to return to normal life is a very NA topic. However, I would have liked to see more Alex's life as a college student in addition to the romance.
Now that's not saying there is no place for the other books in NA--after all, many of today's young adult books are all but irrelevant to the teenage experience. I would like to see more books with 20-something characters and college students, regardless of whether the NA experience is at the center of every book.
So what are my views on "New Adult" in light of the growing acceptance of the market?
In my intro post, I said that I didn't think we needed a "New Adult" shelf--just more "New Adult" books. I have somewhat amended that view. Since NA is being more widely recognized, then it might make sense (at least in the future) to have an NA shelf. However, I don't think that every book I've listed should be shelved there. A book should be shelved where it will find the most readers. Ready Player One and The Magicians were both very successful on the SF/F shelf, and I see no reason to move them. And many of today's NA readers would be incapable of getting through books like The Secret History or The Sound of Blue.
You also might have noticed that very few of the books on my list are "the most talked about" NA. I haven't read big indie hits like Fifty Shades of Gray, Beautiful Disaster, Slammed, Thoughtless, etc. There are three reasons for this: a) I am not a huge fan of romance b) these books are not available at libraries, and very few of them appeal to me enough to justify paying money for them. (although I do want to read Tammara Webber's Easy), and c) some of these sound appalling--I do not believe in paying money for books that glorify or romanticize abusive relationships.
I am very happy that New Adult is finally being recognized and that more writers are gaining the flexibility to write about this age group. However, today's NA seems to center on romantic contemporary, erotica, and Twilight for College Students. Personally, I would like to see more fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. I would love to see magical/futuristic universities, college students who care about more than boyfriends and sex, characters who struggle with job hunting, protagonists who are not afraid to have multiple partners or casual sex, and of course, much darker plots. I can only hope that as the New Adult market grows, these books will become available.
I have also decided to continue the New Adult Project into next year. My reviewing will probably slow down or stop around August, when I start med school, but until then, I'm still very invested in seeing where this market goes. (I have Hold Me Closer, Necromancer sitting in my car, and I also found a lesser-known book called Ovenman that I will need to re-read. Enchanted, Inc. and Easy are also on my to-read list.) As always, I am open to recommendations.
Full list of "New Adult" Project reviews