Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Adult: My Thoughts

I've let this post compost in the Drafts section for awhile. I wanted to make sure my thoughts were well thought out, instead of just a reaction to the current articles.

As a result, these links are a few weeks old, but still relevant. You should check them out if you want to find out more about this new genre.

As I tweeted to Sara Megibow, I am honestly a little disappointed that this new genre is being touted as YA with sex. I know that's not all this genre is about; I certainly am not trying to stereotype any of the books or authors coming out. I agree that we needs more YA books that handle sex in an adult manner. We need books about teens and young adults going through their first sexual experiences. I know people think sex in books will encourage kids to have sex, but I don't agree. If they want to read books with sex in them, all they have to do is pick up a romance novel. 

It would be better in the long run if they could read about a character's first experience with sex in a variety of different forms and out comes, and make their own personal decisions from there. I firmly believe we read books for a vicarious experience. I want a book to make me think and see an old topic from a new perspective, but it's also training wheels. I know from reading tons of horror, if there's a crazed serial killer on the loose who wants to kill me dead, I will not go into the darkened basement sans flashlight.

Some of my favorite books growing up were by Judy Blume, who tackled the topic of sex with realism and depth. I watched my friends and associates struggle through their first sexual experiences, and I can't help but think a little more preparation might have been nice. I knew girls who had sex to make a guy like them, because they were curious, because they wanted to get it over with, so they could be better in bed for when their real crush asked them out. Because they thought they were in love, and because they knew they weren't but they wanted to get back at an ex-boyfriend.

I know this would have happened regardless of the amount of sex in YA, but I think if we could have experienced these things through the lens of a character, it might have helped some of us work through our issues (for the record, none of these girls were me. I was terrified of the idea of a guy seeing me naked, so I waited until I was a) older and b) knew I was really in love. There's your TMI for the day.).

So yes, I am all for sex in New Adult. But is that all there is?

What about the entire experience of remaking yourself? What about going through being a responsible adult for the first time? Your entire life up to this point centered around school. Your friends, love interests, and associates were completely dependent upon geography. These days the Internet can fill in some of these gaps, but you can't tell me having three dozen friends on the Internet who like the same things you do will make up for eating lunch at school alone. 

I had friends in high school, but as you know, I am a nerd. I played Dungeons and Dragons. I read fantasy books. I watched a ton of anime. I went to high school during a time these things were not cool. Becoming an adult...I just can't explain the amount of freedom I felt getting out into the real world and no longer being judged (as much) by my reading preferences.

The things they tell you matter in high school (getting good grades, being a jock) no longer matter. The manager at your crappy minimum wage job gives not one single shite that you were a quarterback in high school.

Even if your parents made you pay for stuff, getting an apartment for the first time will not prepare you. It will not prepare you for prioritizing your bills, and realizing after you paid rent, your car note, insurance, and the utilities, you have fifty dollars left to buy food.

If you never went grocery shopping alone, taking that fifty dollars to the store will not prepare you for how little that will actually buy. Let's not even discuss junk food.

I wish there was more emphasis on EVERYTHING there is to learn and figure out about being an adult. Not just the sex part. 

New Adult looks like a promising genre, but I wish there was more focus on other things than just the sex. Because "YA with sexy parts" does not a genre make.

What do you think?


  1. I go back and forth about this one. I think that people equate sex with adult, and that's sort of not totally correct. (I could hedge a little more)

    Part of that is because we've been programmed to view things like that because of the rating system. You can have wild amounts of violence and still be PG 13, but once you have naked bodies and sex, it's rated R.

    The rating system for books should be different because you're totally right, just pick up a romance novel and viola, all the sex scenes you can imagine.

    I absolutely agree, there's a problem when we equate age with sexual maturity. Especially considering how young a lot of people are when they become sexually active. I hope NA grows into a genre that's more than steamy YA

    1. Me too! I have such high hopes for this genre....

  2. I personally wish there were more adult books without sex. As you say, anyone who wants to read that could pick up a romance novel. Why can't someone who doesn't want to read that, but also doesn't want to read about a teenager, find any appreciable number of books that are written these days to read? I wrote a book that could be considered new adult, but it's also a fantasy, so the focus was on the fantastical, not the who-wants-to-sex-who, or the details therein.

    I don't want every aspect of my life injected with sex, and this includes what I read or watch on TV. What ever happened to the 50's way of handling it, where the man and woman kissed and went behind closed doors, then fade to black?

    1. I certainly think there should be a clear distinction. Sex can be a tool to show your characters in another light. It shouldn't be there just because, like any other aspect of fiction. Too often I feel like sex scenes are there because they're titillating, or the author feels like it's necessary. Um, no. It's only necessary in romance, and even then there's a wide latitude of how much is actually shown.

      If it's not needed for the book, then I agree. Fade to black and carry on with the story.

      Thanks for the comment!

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