It looks like we have a new category thrust upon us. It's acronym is NA, standing for New Adult. It seems to be picking up steam since my peers (and I) have seen requests for it from agents and publishers. It's gained popularity in just the last year or so. But hey, it's really always been with us, if you stop to think about it. It features characters who range in age from 18 on up to...you name the 20s. I've seen it explained as college kids between the ages of 18 and 22, from 18 to 26 and from 18 to 30. I've also seen it meant to represent 21 to 30. The thing is, everybody has a different idea about the age range but it's safe to assume that it features young adults in their 20s who are in college or fresh out, or just young and on the job hunt with the intention of starting their lives. In comparison, YA characters might still be living with mommy and daddy.
What brought this new category to our doorstep? I keep hearing about the influence of 50 Shades, how racy and daring it was. That book also topped the charts and spawned a huge host of imitators. So is it ambulance chasing? Maybe. But like I said, I think it's always been with us in contemporary and genre form from the very beginning. I'm thinking of the young cast of Starship Troopers, albeit a SF military adventure, but the age range fits. Is it a new marketing tactic designed to draw in a younger or newer readership? I think that might be the case. We all know how the literary world operates; one trend can catch fire and then burn out, but the profits are realized for that short burst. I'm reminded of SF romance and how that was hyped and became popular. Yet SF romance didn't quite burn out as much as it settled in, to shoehorn itself in between space opera and hard SF—a very welcome genre, if I do say so myself. Didn't Alien spawn SF horror? Well, I suppose, but we never let SF horror really get off the ground as a genre unto itself.
Is NA just an excuse to allow the inclusion of some unbridled sex scenes, legalized drinking and perhaps some experimental drug use? Now that would depend upon who the publisher was, wouldn't it? A Christian or non-Christian outlook and tone? One thing is fairly certain, the contemporary genre will most likely dominate in the beginning since those have been the most often requested books from what I can see. Will writers be primarily confined to the college life or can we expect to write about any lifestyle facet for this age group? What about genre? Can you imagine NA—NF, or NA, urban fantasy, SF, military, epic fantasy, thriller or horror. Strike that last one. Horror seems to feature lots and lots of persons in their upper teens and early 20s.
I can't help thinking that this extra category is superfluous in many ways. As a tag, it seems to be suggesting that YA fans read up and that it's perfectly fine for adult fans to read a bit down. Sounds like another marketing gimmick, wot? Pretty redundant when you consider YA readers lust after adult books and vice versa. Why so cognizant about age when it's really the story that matters? A great book is going to be read over all age determinations. Just exactly where is it going to go on the books shelves? Under YA, or Children? Or do you think there's room for a new category when retailers are having a hard enough time finding shelf space for anything that will sell? I also thought that college people were having a hard enough time getting their assigned course study reading done, so if they are the new target market in any way, it's going to be a hard push. And, so help me, I'm just one of the many who didn't attend college and I would find it hard to identify with the academic aspect of it. And boy, is this new category wide open for cliches—I can smell the nerds and jocks coming from here.
I can just imagine watching a reader browsing the library and picking up a book that has a small NA logo on it, thinking that it's something new and revolutionary. Then after finishing the book, slamming the cover shut and and whining, “But I've read books like this before! Where's the new beef?”
(BTW, The War Gate is free on Amazon for three days--the 29th to 31rst of July.