YA and The ‘New Adult’ Category

Apologies for the radio silence!  New York was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy and I lost power for about 3 days (my parents fared worse, their electricity returning after nearly two weeks).  There’s nothing quite like mother nature to remind you of how fragile life is.  Nevermind the many ‘first-world’ problems we had such as not being able to charge your cell phone.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Young Adult category.  There’s also been buzz about the “New Adult” category that caters to Generation Y and 20-somethings.  Now that I’m 30, I can successfully say that I survived my 20’s, but I definitely remember the angst, confusion, identity-quest and soul-searching that categorizes 20-something life.  The New Adult category, not to be confused with the Young Adult category (of which there are gradations within such as mature YA, paranormal YA, fantasy YA, sci-fi or futuristic YA, the list goes on), seems to be gathering steam.

YA is still hot and will likely be that way for the foreseeable future, especially given how young readers prefer to receive content on multiple platforms, such as cell-phones, e-readers, etc.  Harper Collins recently announced a new imprint, HarperTeen Impulse, which will solely be a digital imprint that focuses on short stories and novellas.  You can read more about it here.

When you hear the phrase ‘Young Adult’ do you think of this movie starring Charlize Theron?Source: Paramount Pictures

But back to the “New Adult” category, which I’m more intrigued by.  In a recent interview with Dan Weiss, publisher-at-large for St. Martin’s press, and arguably expert of all things YA (he started SparkNotes among other things, don’t tell me those of you born in the 80’s didn’t use SparkNotes or CliffNotes!), Weiss explains that he quickly discovered that Gen Y’s preferred medium is digital.  He opines, “it became clear that digital publishing — multi-platform, multi-format and interactive, plus conventional print — were powerful ways for kids to acquire content.”  He also relates that there’s no ‘New Adult’ shelf and so publishers have to use analytics to find their target audience.

Perhaps part of the reason why there isn’t as much clarification about what books qualify as ‘New Adult’ is that even if the books in terms of content deal with 20-something themes, we are all at some points of our lives 20-something.  The terms quarter-life and mid-life crisis are common now but I think because we are all living longer lives that some of us undergo re-invention at multiple points of our lives, which resonates with 20-something themes.  And since our culture is a culture that is obsessed with youth, 20-something themes will always receive attention and publicity.  See Lena Dunham of “Girls”/ HBO fame.

Sometimes I wonder if these reader distinctions are necessary or helpful.  We all saw how The Hunger Games ripped the box apart in terms of cross-over appeal.  We can say it started with Harry Potter or The Lord of The Rings, or any number of typically thought of as YA type books.  What is so interesting about these categories, other than from an industry and functional standpoint, is that they reveal our reading habits at any particular moment in time.  We like to re-visit our favorite books as the years pass.  When I was a YA you could find me reading R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series or Louis Duncan books (Down a Dark Hall was particularly memorable and chilling).  But I won’t lie and say I haven’t read some books that qualify as YA recently…not to mention the manuscripts I’ve been reading that deal with YA concerns.

What do you think about the YA category?  About the up-and-comig New Adult category?  Do you think having categories or genres is necessary for books?  What do you think about when you think about your 20’s?  And most importantly, can someone tell me what happened to that VH1 show “I Love the 80’s?”

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