So add me to the list of those completely dissatisfied with Nightline’s portrayal of New Adult Books. If you didn’t see the segment featuring Colleen Hoover and Cora Carmack you can watch it HERE; the accompanying article is also available HERE. Just the title of the article alone made me bristle. Smut? Really? According to Juju Chang, who we can safely assume has never picked up an NA book in her life, the category can be described as erotica for Young Adults.
Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the term New Adult, just as in the case of the term Young Adult, refer to an age group and not a genre? Just like you can have Young Adult books in the genres of fantasy, contemporary, historical, mystery, etc. don’t these genres exist under the umbrella of NA as well? It’s safe to say that after watching the above segment, I was incredibly confused.
I labeled my debut novel New Adult based on two factors—the character’s ages (17-25) and the maturity of the content, which contained violence such as torture and sexual assault, and a few instances of harsh language. The category was initially being described by writer’s digest as being carved between the most mature of YA and adult fiction and when I first read the description, I had that instant aha, so this is what I’ve been doing all this time feeling. And let me tell you I was relieved. It was like knowing you have this strange affliction and then finding out, oh hey, it has a name. Very helpful. You know in case I wanted to google it or hang out with other people who have it or I don’t know maybe market it to the correct audience. Yeah, that’s important. And it’s something I was struggling with up until I read about this new category.
Most of what I write is about characters between the ages of 17-25—young adults by any standard except that there’s a big difference between the everyday lives, challenges, and emotions of say a 15 year old (also considered a young adult according to genre conventions) and a 20 year old. I always felt that marketing my books as YA simply based on the characters’ ages would not only have been incorrect but dishonest. So I spent a lot of time trying to come up with blurbs and teasers and descriptions that accurately portrayed not only the maturity level of the content but also the appropriate maturity level of a potential reader. And then I heard about NA and I thought it would be the solution to my dilemma.
But now I’m concerned that the media is taking this category, which could have been the solution for writers like me who want to be completely forthcoming about the content of their books, and turning it into something that it’s not. Turning it into something, that for some, may have a negative connotation.
So who’s in control here? Writers? Readers? The media? I was really glad to see in the segment that when Juju Chang tried to push the “smut” label, readers were the ones shooting her down, defending the books they loved and the authors they respected. I’m not too worried about loyal readers of the NA category being swayed by this depiction but I do wonder about potential readers and parents who are responsible for screening books before their children read them. What kind of implications could this have if we can’t all get on the same page about what readers should expect? Because that is what is most important—giving readers the opportunity to make informed decisions on what they should read next and freedom from the fear of being blindsided by content that might make them feel uncomfortable. So who get’s the final say? Hopefully the only two groups that matter in the publishing ecosystem—writers and readers—and for the sake of the relationship that exists between them I hope we can all come to a consensus soon.