When The Piper’s Son, by the Divine Miss Marchetta was nominated for a CBCA Award last year, I was simultaneously ecstatic (it is a wonderful book), and bemused. It was shortlisted in the “older readers” category, which I always explained to customers at the booky nook as the “young adult” section – loosely, books for 12-18 year olds.
So what confused me about TPS being nominated was that its protagonists do not fall within that age bracket. They’re in their early twenties, or even older. Heck, one of the main characters is in her forties! These were not “young adults”. They were well-and-truly adults, dealing with adult issues, not teenage ones. I was thrilled the book was receiving well-deserved recognition, but I just wasn’t quite sure what it was doing in a category amongst books concerning the lives of teenagers. There needed, I thought, to be a separate category for “only-just-adults”.
Turns out that it’s now a “thing”.
And, instead of using my slightly (ahem, okay, pretty massively) dodgy name for it, this new demographic has been dubbed “new adult”. And, in the past few weeks, I have read my first two examples of it.
The first was an as-yet unpublished manuscript by a talented up-and-coming young writer. I first read this MS a year ago and advised the writer that, while I thought it was an awesome manuscript, I wasn’t quite sure where it would “fit” in the market, in terms of target audience. The book spans the lives of three friends from their last year in high school to the end of their first year of university. It explores some very adult themes and I knew a publisher would have trouble placing it – a book that wasn’t quite YA but wasn’t really “adult” (general fiction) either.
I’m relieved that, as I read it a second time, a square hole has been created for the square peg of this book to fit into.
The first published example of “new adult” I’ve read is Laura Buzo’s Holier Than Thou.
I very much enjoyed Buzo’s work of a couple of years ago, The Good Oil, very much a contemporary YA, and was intrigued to hear her next book would be an early canary in the coal mine of this new area of fiction.
I loved it and am now so excited about this whole “new adult” malarky. It opens up worlds of possibilities for writers to explore the lives of young people – just older than teenagers but still not quite in the “twinset-and-pearls” stage – making their tentative way in the big, wide world. It also provides a neat pathway between YA and general fiction (unless, like me, you never stopped reading YA).
I’m not sure I could ever write a “new adult” book. Inside, I’m still a fifteen-year-old, not twenty-two, but I look forward eagerly to reading more in this exciting new … I refuse to call it a genre because that’s inaccurate. It’s … a revolution, I guess. Much like the “tween” explosion in books a few years ago, it’s a thrilling development in the publishing industry – a recognition that readers don’t fit neatly into “early childhood”, “children’s”, “YA”, “general”. There are many shades of grey in between and I’m excited that these “in-between” times are now getting recognition.
So come on, writers in their early twenties, and those who still are inside (I really hope I NEVER move on to twinsets and pearls). Write me some gosh-darn “new adult”. Join the revolution!
And as for you, Little Miss Talented Emerging Author? You’ve now got your demographic. Go to it and be published!