The publishing industry seems to have given birth.
No, not to a brand-new, screaming, pink-faced baby—that would be weird—but to a new category.
Welcome to the world, New Adult.
I know, I know. NA isn't really new anymore. I mean, if you’ve been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to the bestseller lists over the last eighteen months, you’ve seen the NA books dominating the lists. There was this weird gray area at the beginning where no one seemed to know how to categorize these books featuring college-aged/early twenties men and women living somewhat messy lives. Messy because they’re at that point in life where no one knows exactly who the hell they are or what they want—well, besides a hot boyfriend/girlfriend, a job that gets their parents off their backs, some spending cash, access to alcohol and, of course, sex.
And, now, everyone seems in a rush to define what NA is. Which I think is a little silly because it’s pretty difficult to define any genre or category. Mysteries and romances span the gamut as to what they cover. Science fiction and fantasy encompass a multitude of themes and worlds. There aren’t one sentence definitions for those categories and there isn’t a one sentence definition for NA, either.
I think a better question is WHY? Why the hell is this new category more popular than a naked Channing Tatum handing out hundred dollar bills on a street corner? OK, that might be an exaggeration. I'd certainly abandon all of my reading materials for a piece of that...
I’ll tell you why. The people reading these books—mostly women from late teens into their forties—are finally finding something they can relate to. And escape to.
Did your college years suck because you dated some loser? BOOM. Here’s a book with the awesome boyfriend you wished you’d held out for.
Did your first time in the sack totally suck because the guy you were with didn’t have a freaking clue? BOOM. Here’s a book with this incredibly sexually talented dude who can make your toes curl just by looking at you.
Did your best friend suck because she dated the guy you wanted to date? BOOM. Here’s a book with a best friend who will walk through a wall of fire (and fat guys) for you.
And were your early twenties just a blur of job interviews and indecision and bad dates and overall just a terribly unexciting time? BOOM BOOM BOOM. Here’s a whole plethora of books that offer up the drama you wished you’d been a part of.
Because let’s face it. We wish guys had fought over us. We wish guys would have stared at us across a crowded room and tossed people aside to get to us. We wish the guy who'd asked us out turned out to be a billionaire. We wish the guy we'd hooked up with made our eyes roll back in our heads the first time we slept together. And we wish for the happily ever after that every single girl grows up wanting.
Because life isn’t always happily ever after. Maybe you settled. Maybe you fell out of love. Maybe your kid threw up in your lap this morning. Maybe you’re out of work. Maybe a loved one has died. Maybe you don’t know what the hell is wrong other than you know something’s wrong.
NA provides an escape. And maybe some hope, too. Maybe the happily ever after is still out there like it is for (insert your own favorite characters and books here). It’s okay to want it and to chase it and read about it.
That, I think, is why NA has exploded. Because it’s exciting to think about all of the possibilities. To get an imaginary do-over.
And I don’t think it’s a fleeting thing. NA has tapped into a part of our lives that’s never really been covered in books. We don’t need flowery language or thought-provoking themes or fancy awards. We just need books that speak to a time in our lives that is/was both exciting and stressful.
Our instructions to these books is this: Take me away and let me do it right. Let me make it more exciting. Let me hope.
You wanna try and define it? You go right ahead.