Different Definitions of New Adult Fiction

The more I read about New Adult Fiction, and the more definitions I read that are different, the more confused I get sometimes. On one hand I see real new adults…the people who are writing new adult and are actually new adults…doing something interesting based on their personal experiences, which I think I like the most so far. Then I see the mainstream media pronounce new adult as the new version of YA smut, which I don’t agree with at all. And of course, I’ve also seen the sex police bloggers trying to bleach new adult into a vapid sexless version of bad romance with unrelated sociological references that look good in a paragraph.

It can get confusing, especially with so many who are willing to offer their unsolicited opinions about the the definition of new adult. I’ve never been that bold, nor would I ever attempt to take it upon myself to define an entire genre of literature for the entire world. I’m still looking for the perfect definition. But what do I know?

Here are a few of the things I’ve read so far. Oddly, I agree with them all for the most part. And yet it’s hard to agree with them completely because each one seems to want to define new adult on his or her own terms in very specific ways. And only a handful are actually new adults, which is interesting.

Here’s one that claims new adult has tons of “sexy sex.” Seriously. Here’s the link.  

The thing about regular old YA fiction is, there’s no sex, at least not without some mitigating metaphor like vampire bites or Quidditch. (Just try and tell yourself that those brooms aren’t some sort of Freudian representation of dicks — they’re made of wood, you put them between your legs. It’s like, we all get it J.K. Rowling — Quidditch = flying orgy.) That’s fine for snickering pre-adolescents who maybe have slow danced at arm’s length with a middle-school crush, but when that demographic matures into raging sex fiends, publishing companies have to craft a whole new book franchise to appeal to a whole new generation of incipient readers.

The problem with this is not everyone agrees that new adult is a continuation of YA. I read some YA, but not much. However, I have become a huge fan of the new adult books I’ve read so far and the two genres seem completely unrelated to me. As a side note, I read one YA novel last year with a sex scene that actually made my eyes open wide. If I were writing YA, it’s not something I would have written. And, this was a book with an agented author and from a large publisher.

Here’s one from abc news that claims new adult is “Smut” fiction.

The demand for “new adult” books is boosted by its mature themes. The stories often involve lovers finding their way in a complex world. They are a bit like the old Harlequin romances set in modern times, with younger characters, many of whom are in college, coming of age and often exploring their sexuality. Not Pulp Fiction. Think Smut Fiction.

I’ve written smut fiction myself and I don’t find this definition for new adult reliable at all…unless it’s a sub-genre of new adult they are talking about. If I were to write something that were new adult I would add sex, but not nearly as much, or in quite the same way, I’ve written in erotica or erotic romance. In other words, a lot of the sex I write in books is because I’m writing for a genre specific audience who expect me to do that. If I were writing for a new adult audience I wouldn’t write the sex the same way.

And here’s another link with more links to several definitions. I have to say I do agree with most of what I’ve read here…except for the ones that don’t think new adult has anything to do with sex. As a genre I don’t see how new adult couldn’t have some sex, unless the main character was suffering from some kind of trauma or psychological issue regarding sex. Then it would make sense. But most normal new adults are having sex because they are at the height of their sexual peaks in life. And to ignore that in a new adult book would be to ignore a basic fact of life. And it doesn’t have to be smut, or even erotica. But the sex can’t be dismissed either, not completely.

It used to be that you went from child to grown up lickity split. You got married in your late teens, worked your job, had a family. Rinse. Repeat. Even up to a few decades ago, you graduated high school and went straight on out to get a Real Job. Now going to college is the norm, which delays entry into the Real World. And the state of the economy is such that full independence from parents isn’t happening for everybody right upon graduation (somebody want to explain how you’re supposed to get experience for an entry level job that requires experience?). This gives rise to a whole host of new issues and challenges.

That makes sense to me. And I have the nieces and nephews to prove this. One is a doctor and still living at home with his mom and dad. Another has been in college for almost ten years and is now in med school in Iowa. Most of my friends with kids in their twenties are still living at home. I could continue, but won’t. The point is that things have changed for new adults, and all these student loans they are dealing with is also defining them.

So far, I haven’t seen one set definition of what new adult is that I can buy into completely. What I have seen are a lot of opinions that are all moving in the right direction, but some tend to go off track a little. And right now I’m not sure anyone really knows what new adult fiction is completely, unless it’s a real live new adult writing the fiction from his or her own POV based on his or her own personal new adult experiences. And for the most part, that’s the kind of new adult I’m looking for right now, and the kind I’ll be vetting until I see something more solid as far as a definition of new adult goes. 

The Perfect Example of Subjective…And an Idiot

In the post before this, I talked about how writing is so subjective. And this afternoon while I was lurking around the Interwebs I saw something classic.

I went to a blog I don’t usually frequent, for reasons you’ll understand by the time this post is finished. The author was ranting about other poorly written author blogs…in a general sense…and how the authors who maintain these blogs confuse people with too much information and clutter. I’m not joking either. This was a full fledged rant and my jaw was on the keyboard.

This is something I would never do, and most bloggers I know wouldn’t do it either. I got to know a lot of bloggers when I worked for bestgayblogs.com and I grew to respect them all. Blogs are personal online publications that, in a sense, reflect our individual personalities. And they are free!! When I go to a blog, it’s almost like being invited into someone’s home; I’m a guest. This is how personal the experience is…for me. And no one with any amount of decency would criticize someone’s home.

I won’t go into detail about the rant. But what I found interesting while reading the author’s extremely negative post is that while this author/blogger was criticizing and ranting about everyone else’s blog, HER blog is published in beige on beige. The photo above is a good example. The background is beige, the print is beige, the post titles are beige, and I have a feeling this author’s life in general is pretty beige. The words blend into the background and all that beige is so difficult to read you can’t look at it for too long without blinking.

I’m really not dissing the author’s blog. I’m dissing the rant and calling attention to the irony. While this author is ranting about other blogs being too confusing and filled with clutter, HER blog is so beige it’s virtually impossible to read.

I’m also pointing out an example of subjectivity. I’m sure there are some people who love beige on beige blogs and they have no trouble reading them. I’m also sure there are just as many people who love loaded blogs, filled with all kinds of information that isn’t necessarly in detailed order (I do), and they become loyal followers. Blogging is a means of expression, not just a way to promote something. And I’ve always found the most successful bloggers are the people who know this and follow their hearts.