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Categorizing

Shy, but spunky wallflower meets hot, broody guy.  Sparks fly, complications arise, but true love triumphs in the end.  This could take place in any high school, college, or corporate setting.  And love is love at any age, right?

So, why is there such a flap over bookstore placement of Young Adult vs. New Adult titles?  It all comes down to sex, of course.  The older the protagonists the more sexually explicit the books has always been the rule of thumb.  But, is that still true?  Was the New Adult category created so that everyone involved was of legal age but still playing varsity, emotionally speaking?  Or is there more to this in-between genre that makes it deserving of its own place on store shelves?

I get not putting sexually explicit material next to middle grade or picture book offerings.  But what’s so hard about sliding over a couple of bookcases and hanging a sign saying “New Adult”?  If the problem is that you don’t want kids exposed to inappropriate content, then clear labeling is a tried and true way of dealing with the issue.  Clearly this is a category that is extremely popular for both older teens and adults but one that is having a hard time finding its way into the hands of print consumers because of what seems to me like simple orneriness on the part of booksellers.

Am I missing something here?  What do you all think?

4 Responses to Categorizing

  1. EDWARD says:

    As Beavis and Butthead shrewdly noted, the more detailed movie ratings become, the better it is for THEM. They would much prefer to sneak into a movie with “pervasive sexual content” than get stuck watching a movie with mere “brief nudity” in it. As PORTNEY’S COMPLAINT opened the tent for males, FIFTY SHADES opened the tent for females. It is time to make another slit in the tent for young people who are not as young as we think they are. (“Heh, heh. He said ‘slit’”). The more fuss that is made over new classifications, the more books will be sold. Or stolen.

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I don’t blame booksellers for being profoundly suspiscious of organized gangs of gatekeepers who are trying to reinvent the wheel. Anybody around here remember Lad Lit? Somebody under the influence of too many mojitos at a power lunch several years back had a grand vision that the world was full of sensitive, caring young guys who’d recently had their hearts broken who’d line up around the block to read about themselves struggling soulfully to find new love. It isn’t, of course, and they didn’t, but not before several editors and agents planted facers in the mud trying to promote the idea. Now, flash-forward to YA, probably the biggest market out there with no end in sight, provided we avoid replaying the great Mediocrity Meltdown of 1994. New Adult?! Excuse me, but sexually active vampires are practically jumping off the shelves over in Fantasy and Manga, and giddy young girls are having all kinds of madcap adventures on the way to finding new love in Sophie Kinsella’s hang. And if Winters Bone isn’t “serious” enough, I suppose somebody could start a series about a posse of 19-years olds struggling with student loan debt, joblessness, and the looming threat of medical bankruptcy if they so much as stub their toes. But for me, I’m sticking with escapist YA. You know, where the money is… Thin air isn’t much of an investment potential from where I’m sitting.

  3. Ellie Anthony says:

    Good question, Miriam.

    ‘New Adult’ is still relatively new so perhaps that leaves the door open to more intense debate? A quick scan of the internet seems to indicate current opinion is divided in areas such as:

    a) the maturity of YA readers and their capacity to handle sexual
    material at all (let alone crossing into the NA category)

    b) YA being recognised as young ADULTS not teenagers (sorry about the
    caps, couldn’t get underline to work)so is this an artificial line
    in the sand anyway?

    c) who is the target audience (young adults versus 18+)

    d) how explicit material should be regardless in this sphere

    …and the list goes on.

    Perhaps when the dust settles, so to speak, NA will find a cosy, more understood, less scary home amongst readers and booksellers alike.

  4. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Well, I’m all for innovation, so if somebody gets this idea off the ground and makes it pay I’m all for it. However,my own accidental foray into this doubtful region may prove instructive…Early in the last decade, I was musing on the cyclic nature of the Boy Band virus, and came up with a wildly funny mockumentary “tell all” written by a survivor of a formaerly world-famous crew that had painfully and publicly imploded due to a gay love triangle, a lustfully voracious teen pop diva and a host of other complications. Great ingredients, so far, so good. I also imagined an audience of post YA 19 and 20 somethings, which didn’t exist for reasons we’ve already discussed. The one agent I got to read it said it was indeed the funniest thing he’d ever read, but the only way I could have a hope in hell of selling it was to change the hero to a heroine, (guys of 19 and early 20’s have long defected to video games, fantasy and Maxim magazine) drop the satiric behind-the curtain attitude about pop music, and of course, lose the sex and drugs. In other words, turn the ship around and head back to YA! Other than that, he thought it would probably make a great screenplay, which he didn’t handle, and so that was that. And since selling a screenplay without connections in Tinseltown is like trying to draw attention to oneself by throwing handfuls of powdered sugar into a snowstorm, SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE (which was the title of this quixotic project was relegated to my One Of These Days file and there it stays, world without end, Amen. Don’t let me stop anyone from flying New Adult Airlines, but you’d better pack a lunch…

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