What is New Adult? An author guest post from Cora Carmack.

Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author of New Adult books, including Losing It, Faking It, and most recently, Finding It. Today, Cora answers the question “What is New Adult?” If I had a nickel for every time I answered this question, I could swim in a pool of nickels. You know, if that kind of thing actually worked outside of cartoons. In a nutshell, New Adult books are about that period in life when you’re out of high school and facing the real world on your own for the first time. It’s about figuring out who you are outside of the strictures and influences of your childhood. Beyond just the normal coming-of-age and self-discovery issues, characters are also learning how to navigate a changing and challenging world.

So I’m going to break it down and give you guys the all the details…

First, in my opinion, New Adult is a category in the same way that Young Adult is a category, which means it’s an umbrella term encompassing a certain age group.

  • That age group is typically aged 18-25, though there’s certainly wiggle room. More important than age is the life stage that the characters are in. It’s that trying in-between stage where you’re definitely not a child, but being an adult still scares the ever-loving crap out of you (to put it bluntly).
  • In my opinion, the category is made all the more interesting by the juxtaposition of responsibility with freedom. The college years are notoriously a time to experiment, cause trouble, and act a little crazy. And yet, those years also see the piling on of burdens and responsibilities that come with growing up.
  • At the moment, the majority of popular New Adult is contemporary romance. BUT… that’s not all it can be. Like I said… it’s a category, which means there is room for genres beneath that umbrella term like New Adult Paranormal and Sci-fi. And we’re starting to see more and more of those pop up.
  • New Adult began almost exclusively through the self-publishing world. For years, it had been a widely held belief in publishing that books about college-aged protagonists just wouldn’t sell. Maybe they thought college students were too busy studying (yeah right). Authors were often asked to age up or age down their character, that is if they weren’t rejected outright. I remember my freshman year in college searching for books about the issues I was currently experiencing, and coming up short. I was ready to move beyond YA, but had zero interest in reading about a thirty-year-old woman who had her life all figured out.

New Adult has had a lot of nay-sayers. Some hate the name. Really, Young Adult” is a more apt term, but it’s kind of already taken. Others don’t think it’s necessary since YA has the coming-of-age thing covered. Others still have called is just “YA with sex.” Let me address those:

  • New Adult: I actually love the name. My college years were a wildly new experience for me. I changed drastically, and that was when I really learned who I was, as opposed to who my parents and my hometown had wanted me to be.
  • How is it different from YA? Well, mostly it’s the freedom. How many YA books have we read where the parents have been killed off or the kids shipped to boarding schools, so that the parents are out of the way? No need for that in New Adult. Additionally, coming-of-age in YA has an idealistic feel. New Adult strips away that idealism and shows what it’s like to actually grow up. It shows the struggles of trying to achieve your dreams while also paying bills and dealing with heartbreak and classes and whatever baggage our parents have saddled us with. It’s real and raw.

And, the big one…

  • Is it just YA with sex? Absolutely not. As I detailed above, New Adult has a different perspective, a different voice than YA. We don’t shy away from sex because our books are geared toward an older audience. And realistically, sex is a part of life in your twenties. Whether you’re having it or not, you’re surrounded by it. So why not address it openly?

Okay, so now I’ve laid it all out (can you tell I used to be a teacher? I might have gone overboard with the bullets). But I’d like to wrap this up with one more question. I’ve answered what New Adult is. And I’d like to leave you with some thoughts on why we need it.

Art imitates life. And life in your twenties is turbulent and stressful and fun and sexy and terrifying. Life in your twenties is transformative, and that transformation is at once beautiful and brutal.  It needs to be talked about.

I started writing about those years in an effort to deal with the emotions and fears that still gripped me. I was twenty-five-years-old, and still felt like I was set adrift in an intimidating world. I wish I’d had books about those experiences when I was still in college. It would have been nice to read and know I wasn’t alone. And considering that readers have made countless New Adult books into bestsellers over the last year, I’d say that the masses want art that imitates New Adulthood as much as I do. Cora Click here to find out more about Cora Carmack’s newest book, Finding It, and don’t forget to follow her on twitter @CoraCarmack! Happy Wednesday, Savvy Readers!

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Digital Marketing Coordinator at HarperCollins Canada. Film, fiction and fashion blog enthusiast. Follow me on twitter @SavvyReader & @ktvncnt.

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