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New Adult for old adults

Over the past several years, the genre of ‘New Adult’ has become hugely popular–often a sub-genre of romance, you can find it as its own dedicated category no matter where you buy books. As far as I’m aware, the name, or even the idea, didn’t exist until fairly recently. According to the Wikipedia article on it, St. Martin’s Press coined the phrase ‘New Adult’ in 2009.

When New Adult first became a thing, I admit I was confused by it. A step above Young Adult, it typically focuses on twenty-somethings. Well, I thought, isn’t that just…fiction that’s not YA or children’s? Then, learning more about it, I discovered that typically New Adult focuses on the trials and tribulations of passing into adulthood, often in college (though not all New Adult is set in college). Basically, that unwieldy and frightening time in your life when you’re trying to cut the apron strings and be a functioning adult out in the real world. After understanding it, I wrinkled my nose–why on earth would I want to relive that time in my life? I’ve maintained disinterest ever since.

Then recently (for superficial reasons I’ll explain below) I started watching a type of TV show that I never watch. I’m a drama and horror and darkness kind of gal. I love The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, and Peaky Blinders, just to name a few. I loved Breaking Bad. I like intensity and grit and heart-stopping action. I don’t really get into comedy or fluff. HOWEVER…

There’s a teen-ish slice of life show on MTV (of all networks!) called Awkward, which I moved myself to watch a few episodes of because one of my favorite actors (the lovely Evan Williams) is in it in the later seasons, and really, who among us hasn’t gritted their teeth through some ridiculous drivel for their favorite actors? Except, once I got into it, it wasn’t ridiculous drivel. It was inexplicably funny and charming and poignant in parts, and while most of the characters are overblown caricatures, it’s done in an amusing and entertaining way. I started watching it when Mr. Williams entered the show, which was when the main character was in her final year of high school, and then she moves on to college. My eyes glazed over as I inexplicably binge-watched.

And then I realized…I’m watching New Adult!

After sitting with myself for some time, it finally clicked for me why New Adult–and Young Adult–are so popular, especially outside their target audience (the reviews for Awkward on Amazon show that a large percentage of the viewers are my age). It’s about nostalgia. High school and college are a microcosm that we never really experience again in life. High school was that time when there was so much high-tension drama, but it was fluffy drama because you weren’t paying your own bills and your parents still fed you. College is where we shape ourselves and learn who we are, but in a cubby hole of supportive and equally confused proto-adults. The rest of our lives are second jobs, taxes, sick babies, and broken water heaters. Why wouldn’t we want to go back to that simpler, and in retrospect, more fun time?

Of course nostalgia can be painful too, and some of us didn’t have a fun microcosm, but the purpose of art is to move us, so maybe some of us want those difficult feelings as well.

Maybe I need to pick up a few books and give New Adult a try after all…

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

10 thoughts on “New Adult for old adults Leave a comment

  1. Ok, now you’ve got me thinking (not an easy thing to do). Some years ago I was writing a story that now fits that category. I dumped it because like you, I didn’t like crawling through that box of nostalgia and nonsense. This post made me wonder if that was premature…

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  2. I write New Adult, actually. I like the concept of Young Adult, with it’s excitement and general pacing (and PG-13 content), but I like to write about adults, not kids–people who actually have to grapple with being an adult and all that that entails. People who are making romantic decisions that could affect the rest of their lives, and learning their place in life, and not just having crushes and dealing with cliques. 🙂

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    • That’s interesting! I think I understand the concept a lot better now and I’m going to give it a shot. I guess before I didn’t understand the appeal, but now that I had it presented to me in some form, I ‘get it.’

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  3. I haven’t read much New Adult because I discovered it when it was just starting and a lot of it was contemporary and lacked vampires. 😉 I see the appeal though. I remember my college days. I was on my own, but still had the safety net of my parents if needed.

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