What is New Adult? “New Adult fiction bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between ages 18 and 26,” and “characters who are at a stage of figuring out who they really are—and all that goes with it.” Many of the New Adult books focus around college campuses and the individuals who at currently trapped in that period between childhood and adulthood, stretching their wings for the first time, yet still unsure of themselves.
Although the target audience of New Adult is 18 to 30, and I am…no longer checking that survey box, I have found myself quite intrigued by this new genre of contemporary fiction. The world has changed since I was college-aged, and as a mom of two young girls, the New Adult books are opening my eyes that the world of dating that they will enter—hopefully a long, long, long time from now—which is very different from when I first met my husband.
One underlying truth in many of these stories is that the antagonist in the story turns out to be a well-meaning, or not-so-well-meaning, parent. In this uncertain period between childhood and adulthood, it is not just the children trying to navigate the uncertain future. Many parents have a hard time allowing their “little girls” and “little boys” the freedom of making those adult choices which could affect their whole future. In demanding that child act in the role of the parent, or worse, in a misguided attempt to save their children from learning a hard lesson, these parents are stunting their child’s ability to make those choices for themselves.
Samantha Young’s second book in the On Dublin Street series, Down London Road, focuses on Joss’s co-worker at Club 39, Johanna (“Jo”) Walker. In the first book she came off as a gold-digger, always looking for her next rich boyfriend. In Down London Road, we finally learn that Jo doesn’t make these choices for herself. Jo had to leave school at age 16 to get a job to support her mother and much younger brother. Her father is gone and her mother is an alcoholic and has not been able to hold a job for quite some time, leaving Jo to support the family. Without a completed education and no skills, Jo knows she will never do more for her family then help them exist. Jo believes she has nothing going for her in life but her good looks, and she feels she must marry a man with money who can take care of her and her family. Jo would like to take her minor brother away from her alcoholic mother, but her mother won’t allow it, expecting Jo to care for her as well. When Jo falls in love with Cam, a fellow bartender and out of work graphic artist, she feels she can’t follow her heart without it destroying her family and her brother’s future.
In the upcoming release True by Erin McCarthy, the parental antagonist comes in both forms. Tyler is in college to get his degree so he can become an EMT. His mother is a drug addict and is physically and mentally abusive to her children. Tyler has taken on the responsibility of caring of his younger siblings. Any attempt Tyler makes to take away his siblings is met by his mother’s rage since she knows she would be left behind.
But it is not just the abusive parents that causes an issue to our couple, those well meaning and loving parents can be the cause of just as much distress. Tyler’s tattoos, leather jacket and all around bad-boy look is enough to give any father pause, but it is the additional issues of the drug addicted mother and the long term custody of the younger siblings that is throwing Rory’s father into apoplexic fits. He knows his daughter faces several more difficult years of medical school and he is concerned that his daughter does not need to start her young life hampered the additional responsibilities of Tyler’s younger siblings and the constant threat of his mother’s drug issues. In trying to force Rory away from Tyler with his “I know better” attitude, he is forcing her away from a responsible and caring man, who is years more mature for his age, and who cares greatly for Rory.
As a parent, it is difficult to determine if when to step in and when to step back? What is guidance and what is interference? Decisions of what to wear to school and who should be my friend will quickly become who do I want to spend my life with and what do I want to do with my future. More importantly, whose decision should that be?
It is important to make sure that children are ready to move forward into adulthood and to allow these new adults to choose for themselves where their own futures lie—both inside fictional books and in real life.
Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog http://ebookobsessed.com. Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.