Lately when I’m wandering through the library I find myself feeling a little lost. I’m never sure exactly where to go anymore to find the types of reads that I want. For a long time, I have always bee-lined for the Young Adult section. I’ve probably been reading from that section for 14 or 15 years. It’s my comfort place, and I always love the physical spaces that libraries create for their young adult patrons. But now that I’m getting older, I no longer feel like I belong.
Young Adult books are typically marketed to teens anywhere between 13 and 21 years of age. They can cover any type of sub-genre, from fantasy to contemporary to science fiction. The main attribute of this category is that the protagonist is of adolescent age.
I have been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer a young adult. And while there have been many good YA reads in the past couple of years that have sustained my love for these types of books, it is becoming harder and harder to find books that adequately satisfy both my love of adventure and young protagonists, but are also mature enough in their writing to remain relevant to me.
I want to read about the protagonists at the older end of the age range, and but too many of the novels contain very young main characters. While I can still understand the mindset of an 18-year-old, when I step in to a much younger mindset the entire story ends up feeling immature. Yet it’s getting harder and harder for me to pick over the YA genre and find those older characters. This is where the New Adult genre comes in to play.
The New Adult genre excited me so much when I heard about it. The novels typically feature characters in the 18-26 age range – exactly what I want! But somehow this genre has not worked out as well as I thought.
The first problem is that most publishers don’t actually recognize this genre. It’s too new, and several don’t think there’s a tangible market to legitimize the genre. This problem extends to libraries and book stores, who also don’t use the category, and according to a local librarian they have no intention of including the New Adult age range in their collection.
But on top of the genre issues are is problems with sub genres. New Adult is being swept away in a frenzy of romance and erotic fiction, as the 18-21 year old protagonists are discovering sex and sexuality. Wikipedia has a good summary of the issue, stating that in some people’s opinions, New Adult novels are entirely sexual in nature. While authors are combating this reputation, here’s a screen shot of some new releases on Goodreads in the New Adult genre:
I don’t want a romance or erotic read, and yet there seem to be pretty slim pickings of other sub-genres. All I want is a more sophisticated Young Adult-type novel. Where do I find that?
I suppose all that is left is the Adult category. My main problem with adult novels is that they’re so adult. The protagonists I read seem to all be over 30 years of age – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t feel like one of them. I don’t feel like a teenager anymore, but I don’t feel like an adult! Any book that deals with marital problems, characters with kids, or similar situations I can’t get into because I’ve never been there. I can’t relate to the characters.
The adult genre seems like a giant black hole to me. There are so many books to read, where do I start? How do I find the ones I want? How can I narrow down the field to find those protagonists closer to my age, who are maybe 20-30 years of age that I can relate to?
In the end, I don’t know. While I will continue to read YA novels that interest me, I can’t deny I feel I am outgrowing the genre. Yet I don’t feel ready to tackle the vast array of the Adult section in the library. For now, I will hide in my book recommendations and suggestions from friends and Goodreads, and hope that I somehow stumble into the genre on my own.