My three most recent novels feature major characters – men and women – who are initially mostly in their late-teens and twenties (Conventions: The Garden At Paris); next they move into their thirties (Tomorrow The Grace); and finally we are with them in their forties (Capture The Cause), by which time they have maturing (even youthful adult) children of their own. So this publishing issue intrigues me. For some reason it keeps popping up on social media, and here it is recently mentioned yet again:
The notion of books with “18-30 year old” protagonists as somehow a unique literary “category” all its own called “new adult“ – for lack of a better description, books “starring” the age group that had been the Friends television series (meaning twenty-somethings) – was first floated by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. It was apparently seen as a way to market books featuring those recently graduated from college, newly married, etc.
The problem is “new adult” never caught on in the publishing business because the readership for that “category” was simply not there. It is not that 18-30 year olds don’t read books, of course. I suspect a large part of the reason was as adults most of that age group simply do not want to be marketed at as if they are somehow “old teenagers.”
I see in “new adult” also the attempted marketing stretch toward a “teenage-ization” of “under-30” adulthood. Having once been “18-30” years old myself I hold firmly to the belief that adulthood begins at age 18 and everything after that is simply “adult.” Thus the category’s inability to gain real traction among readers in that age group was actually a GOOD thing because it demonstrated 18-30 year old readers did not fall for it.
Consider this. In Pride and Prejudice, “Mr. Darcy” discloses at one point that he is “eight and twenty” (age twenty-eight) and “Elizabeth Bennet” informs “Lady Catherine” that “I am not one and twenty” (meaning she is “twenty”).
Another example. In This Side of Paradise, the major characters are all clearly well under age 30. “Eleanor” in particular, with whom recent grad and young war veteran “Amory Blaine” spends a summer, is age eighteen – and she is decidedly NOT a “teen.”
By the standards of the “18-30” year old “new adult” protagonist(s), Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “new adult” books? Thus we see how silly it was to attempt to invent that category. ADULTS are always finding themselves, always searching, and we only discover that as we age.
An attempt at “introducing” a new publishing “category” 13 years ago that STILL is not a “success” is an indication it probably never will be accepted widely. So it is simple, really. There are books most age-appropriate for “17 and under”… and then there is everything else that is for adults that are just books for adults…
For nearly a decade now, my readers – women in particular – insofar as I have been able to establish have been everywhere from ages “18” to age “99.” It is time to give this “new adult” stuff a rest. Adult literature is adult literature and that is that.
Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂