My New Adult Frustrations

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Hello friends!

My reading journey was a weird one. I started off just like any kid, devouring children’s books from age zero (my mom used to read to me) to age nine, then I transitioned to middle grade until age twelve. So far, so good, right? Well, from there I jumped straight into new adult and adult romance books. YEP. No young adult novels, whatsoever, those weren’t available to me so I went to the next category that I had at hand and at a reasonnable price (my mom also had a small collection at home that I read and could use later to exchange at the secondhand bookstore). I think I read hundreds of romance novels between age 12 and 16. There were days when I’d read two in one day.

Looking at the title of the post, you might thing “Why the hell is Fadwa rambling about this?” I’m getting somewhere, I promise. When I reached 16, pic of teenage angst, and as much as I loved romance books, I wanted to see people my age doing things, in all genres, so that’s when I started digging and found YA. I didn’t completely relate (because they were all white teens) but it was something. Fast forward a few years later, at twenty one, I still read YA and in some ways I do relate to some especially in my past experiences, but that yearning to see my own CURRENT experiences is still there. I want to read about people my ages, experiencing similar events, emotions, circumstances. I know what you’re going to say.

New Adult Novels.

They have people my age, right? I read them. I love them. But they’re so painfully romance focused. Don’t get me wrong though, I’M ABSOLUTE TRASH for romance novels, they’re my escapism when I just need something to get my mind off of life, I can devour then in no time, and at the time I’m writing this post, they’re all I’m in the mood for. But as someone on the Aro spectrum and if I didn’t know any better, looking at New Adult, I’d think that my life at this age is supposed to revolve around romance, that it’s one of the most important things, if not THE most important thing. But nah. I thankfully know better though, because that would make me feel like crap.

Knowing those things doesn’t mean that I stop wanting OTHER things for new adult. And I know I’m not the only one. There are SO MANY of us who want New Adult to thrive and expand outside of romance. The weird thing is that children books exist in all genres, so do middle grade books, same goes for YA and adult, so HOW COME WE SKIP OVER NEW ADULT? And I know that some authors are starting to reclaim it now as an age group and not something that’s automatically synonymous to romance, writing NA Fantasy mainly but most authors are still scared of it, because fact is, NA has a bad reputation, when people hear NA, they hear romance, mostly toxic, shallow reading, waste of time, etc… When in fact, they’ve just been looking in all the wrong places. Is it mostly romance? YES. But it’s not all toxic or shallow if you know where to look. There are thousands of books in the genre that are amazing.

I feel like. No, scratch that. I KNOW that once (if) New Adult gets destigmatised, authors, agents, publishers, etc…won’t shy away from putting books in the age bracket they’re appropriate for. Let’s take fantasy for example and the most common way of classifying books, the MC’s age. Less than 19? Young adult. 20 and above? A D U L T. When in fact it should be New Adult, this for me, is the most striking example of how everyone likes to stay away from New Adult. And I think that we should all work together, writers, readers, promoters and everyone else against all the bad promo the age bracket gets because we need MORE of it, beyond the romance, and it won’t happen as long as people automatically associate New Adult with romance. And not the good kind.

Give me all the different narratives, give the age bracket I belong to the same treatement all others get, there are literally so many things to be done, I feel like we’re ALL missing out on a huge amount of potential and it makes me sad. A few examples:

  • NEW ADULT FANTASY. Need I say more? I know some exist (the first that come to mind are books by Claudie Arsenault, RoAnne Sylver and Elise Kova) but they’ve just started popping up and we NEED MORE.
  • University experiences outside of romance. I know a lot of NA is set in college/university but we don’t get to see much of that. And it’s a shame, because that life period is so filled with change, people gaining independance, making new connections, thriving and failing, struggling and finding their footing. I just want experiences that resemble my own.
  • Non-university related experiences. I know. I KNOW. I just said the opposite, but I want both. There are a lot of people who don’t attend it which is completely fine and whole different set of experiences that need to be represented especially with the stigma these people already deal with in a day to day basis.
  • FRIENDSHIPS. That transition between teenagehood and adulthood is the time where a lot of friend break-ups happen. People drift apart, grow in different directions and part ways, especially since friendships in high school are based on proximity. it’s also the time a lot of lifelong (or not) friendships form. You meet people, learn what kind of people you want to surround yourself with, etc…
  • Aroace representation. I can’t speak for the ace part of this statement but oh my god CAN I GET AROSPEC MAIN CHARACTERS?!!???! I just need less falling head over heels right away, or falling head over heals at all. Sometimes I just crave good ol’ non-romantic attraction (sensual, aesthetic, sexual, etc…). I know that these are rare even in YA, adult, etc, but New Adult is so romance centered that we rarely even get Aroace (or aro or ace) CODED main characters.

And don’t get me started no all kinds of representation. But those aren’t exclusive to NA, so I’m leaving them out of the post. 

My brain is swimming with so many more words and ideas and things I want but this post is already at over a thousand words and all over the place so I’ll leave it at this. I hope it somewhat makes sense and conveys how I feel about the topic. Frustrated. Yearning. Hopeful.


What do you think New Adult needs more of?

Do you have any recommendations of what I mentioned above?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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21 thoughts on “My New Adult Frustrations

  1. Totally agree! Romance and stock stories dominate so many genres, but they do seem particularly dominant in NA. And the classification is so murky -I recently read A Court of Thorns and Roses, which is shelved as YA but has a 20-year-old protagonist and lots of explicit scenes of sex and violence. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t NA (or even just general fantasy).

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  2. THIS IS EVERYTHING. I think the reason I’ve been in such a slump recently is that I’m continuously searching for books that feature characters in that New Adult age bracket that aren’t focused on romance. At 24 I am in that postgraduate stage where I’m still trying to figure out this adulthood thing, find my place in the world beyond academics, and carve out my life. I have no room to be actively searching for romance, so I would love to see these struggles highlighted in a book for once. There’s more to New Adults than romance and I am waiting for the day that book makes itself known to the world.

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  3. I am definitely looking for more New Adult books that don’t focus on romance. I’m 19 and it is so annoying that I can barely find “adult” books with people my age doing things that are exciting or pertain to the things that I go through. I was reading Young Adult but that started to annoy me so now I’m kind of stuck. I think I did find one series that’s self-published that focuses on college friendships and I’m excited to start it. The first book is College 101: Freshman Orientation and it’s self-published. I’m really hoping that it’s not romance heavy and would love to find even more books like it. 🙂

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  4. I love this post, this is something I’ve been complaining about for years! I enjoy reading NA, but I do want to see people my age doing other things than just falling in love.

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  5. Oh my gosh, Fadwa, I love this post! I am demiro, and I tend to steer clear of NA because, like you said– even though the protagonists might be my age, my life isn’t all about romance. Actually, at the moment, it’s not about romance at all, and I still am a complete, fulfilled, happy person. I would love to see more discussion of friendship in this age range! Because not only do friend break-ups happen during this period of life, like you mentioned, but I’ve also met pretty much all of my closest friends in the past four years. Like, I think there’s huge potential for some awesome female friendship stories. I’d also love to see both university and non-university experiences represented in NA. Thank you for writing this post! ❤ I’ve bookmarked it to share in my next monthly wrap-up post on my blog!

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  6. Oh, this speaks to me. And me makes thinks a lot about my WIP. But also about me. I’m definitely in the asexual spectrum but I’m still conflicted about being aromantic or not. Sometimes finding a book with a character around my age that explore the topic of attractions, romanticism and such would be so helpful. Okay, in this case a YA would be helpful too, but also there are some major difference in the life I’m living now and the life I had in my teens years.

    Also, it would be a lot interesting to read about a character that should be already quite good to care after themself but aren’t at the same time. Or how over-protective parents can influence the life of someone who is not a teen anymore. And so many other topics. (yeah, those are really personal topics XD)

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  7. Thanks for this! As a fellow aro who somehow really enjoys romance in literature I felt really understood hah. I also agree with your frustrations… as enjoyable as reading about relationships might be I’m yearning to read books that focus on other things as well! As a twenty-something, even if I wasn’t aro romance would be the last of my priorities tbh

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  8. Omg, I feel you SO HARD on this! And it’s not like I want to get rid of romance all together, but not even the romances are varied in YA! They’re always straight, they’re always over-the-top sexy…where’s all the sweet, non sexual romances? The LGBT+ NA romances? I mean, even if the genre takes a while to grow, can’t we at least start there, still in the roots of where it all began?

    But I’m SO happy there seems to be this shift toward NA, and readers are demanding more from it nowadays. YA is awesome, and I’ll never abandon it, but I don’t know why every hero that saves the world either has to be 16 or 36. Are people in their 20s just too wrapped up in themselves to step it up???

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  9. When I first learned NA was a “thing” I was so excited. I write for this age group! I was a professional college student for, like, a dozen years and taught under-grads and think this is the most exciting time in life: you’re learning to form your own thoughts and beliefs, you’re full of questions about how you will fit into the world in your chosen career.

    THEN I learned about the NA “bad rep/rap” of being all escapist romance, err–sex.
    Noooo! I write spec fic. I raise questions about societies in flux–like all sci fi allegory does. I want to empower this age group! And I don’t write romance–at least not how a romance writer would.

    So here I am getting ready to query by year’s end and I’m left hanging: dare I mention my “audience”–even though the age group is highly relevant?
    And how DO I find you readers of a certain age without seeming to pull a ringer, I advertise NA and then DON’T deliver “romance” as “promised” ?

    What a disappointment, to be so excited for 5 minutes, then to discover there will be no easy, direct way to market myself.

    What writers have you younger folks liked who DO write about these particular NA perspectives, and not simply romance?

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  10. I know a lot of books revolve around romance as at least part of the story. When this is done well and healthy it can be a great escapism. But I also want to read other kinds of stories that are not cookie-cutter types. Due to my health issues I am still finishing University in my early 30s. I do not have romance in my life and I have health issues in my life and I help look after family who have their own health issues. I would like to see this experience represented more often. I know I can’t be that rare. Not everyone moves out of the house at 18, get a job, marries and has kids by 25. That is not how the real world works, it is the expectation of how it should work and they are two different things. It would be nice if more YA, NA or adult would show more variety of experiences. To be honest I don’t know the difference between NA and adult, though, I may have read both.

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  11. Honestly I really want more university contemporaries, British lit is ok for it but it’s pretty white. I want to read a new adult book about someone like me who hasn’t dated anyone at 24, like it’s upsetting. Great post love!

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  12. You nail the problem of genres so well. They get taken captive. Just look at “Young Adult,” which should be called “Young Teen.” When you do find a work that doesn’t fit in neatly with the New Adult romance takeover, your crucial role as a reviewer/critic is to help advance it. Help it break out of the “marketing” niche. Run with it!

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  13. When I was 13, I finished the MG section of the library I used to frequent. It was a private library so they only had books they thought of/could get and not everything. So yeah I kept wandering to other sections. I read mystery, thriller, fantasy etc but I also read adult romance and I just was SO CONFUSED. They didn’t have NA.
    Fast forward a year or so and I found NA titles online (yes my younger self thrived in piracy because the library shut down). The one thing I get frustrated about are the tropes. The man- whore and the virgin girl. It was fine for one or two books but so many???? Also I hate the excessive amount of curse words!! Is the guy only cool if he says fuck every two sentences?? NO. ARGH. Also the “innocent girl”. Also the rock star who sleeps with everyone and finds a girl who doesn’t give two cents and falls in love with her. Also the “strong, imposing frame”. Oh and the classic super popular guy and nerdy girl. It was fine for a while cuz hey, I’m the nerdy girl and I have dreams but a few books later I just realized how DUMB those girls were?? Guy keeps hooking up with other girls and you STILL pine over him? Nope. Bye.

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