Apparently, there is now something called "new adult" literature.
I know this because
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday
According to unnamed publishers, the target audience for "new adult" books is 18- to 25-year-olds, and when they say 18- to 25-year-olds, they mean 18- to 25-year-old women because apparently no one even bothers pretending that 18- to 25-year-old males read anymore. The protagonists of new adult novels are supposed to be doing the sorts of things that a typical 18- to 25-year-old woman is doing: moving away from home, first job, first serious relationship, laundry, that sort of thing.
It's not clear even to me why this sticks in my craw — what's in a name, or marketing label, after all? — but I've been gnawing this over for the better part of a week, and it's time to unburden myself on you good people. In no particular order:
1. By declaring that this category of books with these particular concerns is what a particular reading demographic desires, we're essentially signaling that what people want or need in books are characters that are mirror reflections of themselves. It turns reading into an act of narcissism, whereas I believe one of the greatest pleasures of literature is the chance to spend time inside the lives of characters we'd otherwise never know.
2. The notion that the difference between young adult and slightly more adult literature is a matter of adding graphic sex scenes is an insult to both young adult and adult novelists. Given that by the time you exit high school, you're more likely to have had sexual intercourse than not, it's hard to argue that the sex act itself is the dividing line between not adult and adult. Young adult writers have the same goals as adult writers, to bring to life the emotional interiors of their characters. If we believe that writers should have the freedom to write in ways that are true, they should neither feel compelled to age up their characters or call their work "new adult" just because they're writing about sex.
3. As a teacher of college for the last 13 years, and therefore someone who spends many hours per week in the company of this so-called new adult demographic, we're not doing the 18- to 25-year-olds of our society any favors by codifying the idea that they're not expected to be fully adult and therefore need their own category of book. While we can all recognize that additional age and experience brings wisdom, the notion that these people are somehow not yet capable, or somehow not interested in "adult" literature is sort of sad.
I know, I know, it's a marketing thing, not an actual reflection of the world of books, but I believe this kind of increasing segmentation doesn't do the book business any favors. When we signal that certain books are for certain people, we lose the opportunity to cross pollinate, to experience worlds other than our own.
Under this ultra-niche model, all I'll have to look forward to are novels about old white guys with swollen prostates. Who's to say I can't enjoy a novel about boyfriend problems?
I'm glad I came of age when it was OK for boys to read Judy Blume or when "The Clan of the Cave Bear" was the introduction to sex for many a teenage girl. (Caveperson sex, but still.)
I don't want to be a demographic. I just want to be a reader.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. "Calico Joe" by John Grisham
2. "Lost" by Michael Robotham
3. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
4. "About the Author" by John Colapinto
5. "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell
— Rose K., Winfield, Ill.
A fan of the thriller/suspense genre here, who doesn't seem to mind a little grit in the gears when it comes to the story. Let's go with "The Snowman" by Jo Nesbø.
1. "Dogfight" by Calvin Trillin
2. "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn
3. "The Odds" by
4. "Girlchild" by Tupelo Hassman
5. "I Married You for Happiness" by Lily Tuck
— Amy R., Eden Prairie, Minn.
Anyone who checks out this book is going to need a hanky or two handy and should probably not read it on public transportation, unless they enjoy being stared at while letting loose a torrent of tears in a very satisfying emotional catharsis: "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe.
1. "Hot Pink" by Adam Levin
2. "Nightmare Alley" by William Lindsay Gresham
3. "Arkansas" by John Brandon
4. "The Simulacra" by Philip K. Dick
5. "No Longer At Ease" by
— Michael S., Los Angeles
For Michael, I'm going to go with one of the all-time classics of crime/noir and a truly disturbing (but really fun) book to read: Jim Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me."