May 19 2013 11:00am

New Adult is All That—In a Bad Way

The cast of All ThatPhilosophically speaking, I’m anti-New Adult fiction. I’m quite fine with Young Adult fiction, and over the years as a PW reviewer have read many a coming-of-age novel, but I’m genuinely annoyed by the notion of a genre of fiction for 18-26 year olds. What’s next? Not-Quite-New-Adult fiction, for the 27-30 set? How about Fiction for 30-Somethings, Unmarried Fiction, Menopausal Fiction, or...better still, Men in Midlife Crisis Fiction? Isn’t it bad enough that just the other week Wikipedia started removing women novelists from its list of American Novelists onto a separate list for American Women Novelists?

With New Adult Fiction, though, my grouchiness goes deeper. Blame it on All That, a variety show on Nickelodeon when my daughter was young. It aired on Saturday evenings, featuring comedy sketches and musical guests, supposedly in the tradition of SNL. If by “in the tradition of” you mean it was on television and it was on Saturday nights, then yes. If you mean anything else...well,

By the time my daughter started to watch All That, my husband and I had already spent far too much time watching Rugrats, Spongebob, Catdog, The Angry Beavers, and [my personal favorite] Rocko’s Modern Life. Anyone who grew up watching cartoons knows there’s generally something for everybody in them, regardless of your age, which is why as a family of three we could all survive the many, many re-runs. It’s why The Simpsons continues after more than 25 years on television. Unfortunately, All That was written specifically for your (and my) little kid at their most obnoxious, with no redeeming anything for anyone older than, say, ten years of age.

Call me cranky, but when I was about the same age, I watched The Carol Burnett Show and even Laugh-In with my family. Burnett’s genius was that even if I didn’t yet understand all the comedy, I still cracked up weekly over a crazy costume or a ridiculous character—all of which All That tried to emulate—or just Carol doing her Tarzan yell during the opening Q&A. As for Laugh-In, watching Lilly Tomlin as a snarky telephone operator was guaranteed fun for all ages circa 1970. So was Ruth Buzzi as Gladys Ormphby, a little old lady sitting on a park bench smacking horny old man Tyrone F. Horneigh (played by Artie Johnson) with her purse for being fresh.

My hatred of All That, and the reason I’m anti-New Adult Fiction—those who watched the TV show are now the age NA Fiction targets—is that it helped to create a demographic that would be ruthlessly marketed to by advertisers. Pretending that kids were small adults to be catered to as though they were adults set up in them a sense of entitlement that continued as these kids grew up. Perversely, the same thing responsible for our kids growing up too soon is also now partly to blame for the delay of adulthood.

But there’s something else. In all the initial articles I read about New Adult Fiction, eroticism and Fifty Shades of Grey were always mentioned, which struck me as incredibly sad. After having looked at some of the more popular New Adult books, I can’t honestly see the Fifty Shades connection, but let’s use the articles’ references. When you’re 21, isn’t the sex still new enough that you don’t need BDSM? Back in the day, vanilla sex was all we needed. After all, unlike being gay, which is innate, a person isn’t born a Dominant or a Submissive; discovering you need true kink in your life must come after years of experimentation.

I actually posed the “isn’t the sex still new enough” question to my 21-year-old daughter last week...rather an odd question for a mother to ask her daughter, but we have an unusual relationship and have learned to talk theoretically about such things without particularly personalizing them. Her response surprised and enlightened me. Initially she didn’t understand what I meant—was I talking about feathers and scarves? That brought a smile to my face because if for her kinky stuff is a feather and a scarf, I can relax in the knowledge that her boyfriend doesn’t own a flogger.

When I told her that no, by kinky I meant really kinky, she said I shouldn’t compare my 21 to her 21 because of the Internet. Today 21-year-olds are indeed exposed to so much more sexual content that I actually didn’t even know what whips and chains were at her age, while she does. And then she said this: “Mom, maybe people my age, sexually active for perhaps a few to just several years, are doing kinky stuff because the sex is so bad.”

Hmmm...that kinda sorta fit what I learned from reading Donna Freitas’s The End of Sex. Freitas’ book is a sociological study about the very same hookup culture my daughter entered when she started college. It’s a fascinating, albeit incredibly depressing, book but according to my daughter, fairly accurate for many college students. Never before have I been so grateful that my daughter has already been through three college relationships, all of which ended badly, because when you’re in a relationship, the hookups end. Rather than boy meets girl, boy and girl go steady, boy and girl have sex, in hookup culture it’s like this: Boy and girl hook up, boy and girl hook up some more, and as a result of serial hookups, boy and girl go steady.

According to Freitas, there’s so much pressure on college kids to hook up that they do it. Among the rules are no personal connections and a lack of emotionality. Unsurprisingly, a hallmark of hookups is really bad sex, particularly for the girls, who (also unsurprisingly) end up as givers rather than takers.

Much as I’d like to, I can’t blame hooking up on All That. But I still hold it responsible for New Adult Fiction.


Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on herMy Obsessions tumblr blog, Goodreads(where she spends much of her time as late), follow her on Pinterest, or on@laurie_gold, where she mostly tweets about publishing news and [probably too often] politics.

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Lori K
1. LoriK
Actual BDSM isn't something you do because you're bored with vanilla sex. Yes, some people do know at 21 or even younger that they need it and for those people no, the fact that sex is new doesn't mean that vanilla is enough. Which isn't to say that New Adult is a good idea, or that hook up culture can't lead to bad sex or whatever. Just that there's a difference between kinky and bored.
Laurie Gold
2. LaurieGold

Thanks for your insights.

Now for a general follow up...Not long after I turned in my draft for this piece, I read a fascinating article on that kinda vindicates some of my argument:

(Read it if you have the chance)
Laura K. Curtis
3. LauraKCurtis
I can't deal with NA fiction as a genre because it seems so much a part of the infantalization of America. I didn't read much YA fiction as a child with the exception of The Outsiders. I went from kids' books to adult books with no transition...and no problem. But I also got my first job at 15, a job I maintained through high school, and I worked continuously all through college, so when I got out of college, I wasn't a "new adult," I'd been an adult for several years.

I couldn't care less about the sexual aspect. The adult stuff I read in my early teens, or even as what they would now call a "tween," had sex in it. If kids want to read about sex, that's between them and their parents. My parents didn't care and it didn't scar me forever...and even after reading all the non-consentual sex in the 1980s bodice rippers, I knew rape was wrong. (And reading all that sex didn't mean I was *having* it...I was, among my crowd, late to the sexual party.)

But in the 90s, almost all the romance I read would now be classified "new adult." The heroines were rarely older than 27, the heroes never over 30. In fact, it got very irritating to me to be reading about them because they fell into one of two categories:
1) no real life experience, so they were just starting out all wide-eyed and innocent
2) far more life experience than any 25-year-old could possibly have--you know, the MD, PhD and three years with Doctors Without Borders type.

But now, we seem to have entered an era where people aren't considered "adults" even in their twenties. They still live at home. They are still trying to figure out what they want to be. And that's okay. It's so okay, they even have a literature all their own. It's true that romance in general seems to have aged up a tiny bit (and thank goodness for that) so that heroines who are doctors are realistically aged for their field, but there are still plenty of books out there for those interested in reading about 20-somethings.

I just feel as if encouraging people not to explore literature beyond their age group by saying "look, here are books specifically for you" does a massive disservice to both readers and the society at large.
Laurie Gold
4. LaurieGold
Laura, I thought for sure my rant on this would come off like I was being crotchety. I'm glad to know that you get what I was trying to say.
5. Torifl
I like NA in general and as with any genre, I've found there are good stories, bad stories, and a whole lot of "this should have never been written, much less published" stories. I have a penchant for YA so it was inevitable I would read NA. I don't feel, however, that this new genre. More like a recycled one that has been renamed and the h/h is just been placed in a new setting. Some NA's I read remind me of the Harlequin's of old. Only difference? It's been modernized. Instead of the innocient virgin being forced into the workplace and made to become a mistress to her boss, she's now in college with more choices. There are still HUGE secrets, miscommunication, and sex.

My main peeve? The trilogy. Why must it be dragged out over three books? Can't anyone wrap it up in one book anymore?

As for BDSM-it's a hot trope. I tend to shy away from any BDSM in NA because it is too often entered into in order to combat a personal tragedy. I have issues with any genre that uses sex as a cure all to begin with so it's best I just don't even go there.

But all in all, I agree with your assessment. NA is all good and dandy, but we should never pigion hole an age group and only push that genre to them to read.
6. SusieK
Hi Laurie,

That Salon article is really interesting! Thanks for posting.

I, too, have found this trend in "New Adult" fiction strange and slightly twisted. Honestly, I think the BDSM stuff is just another layer of "shock" that Millenials seem to require to make anything eyeball-worthy in the ocean of other eye-popping (and/or shocking) things they are exposed to hourly. A young person is probably exposed to hours of footage of naked people on TV or in the form of invasive advertising online, that by the time they pick up a book, it's almost humdrum without something a little "extra" in there!

With the mainstreaming of BDSM, eventually people with find this too kind of boring. I wonder what the next shocking thing will be!

Rakisha Kearns-White
7. BrooklynShoeBabe
The idea of New Adult makes my stomach churn. No offense to those in the age group of 21-35, but do you really need a genre of books dedicated to your struggles when everything is targeted to you demographic. Once you pass 35 or get up to 40 (like moi), you realize you have at least 15 year void where you don't count and then AARP shows up. Chick lit, romance (of all varieties), women's fiction, and any adult contemporary fiction that I pick up the main female character is under the age of 35! I even read a romance where there was an adult older woman getting it on with a man 8 years her junior. SHE WAS 33.

At 21 sex was still super new to me and I wanted to try everything! (In retrospect, my everything was still pretty vanilla.)
Rakisha Kearns-White
8. BrooklynShoeBabe
One more thought about NA, if you're not encouraged to explore the world outside of your little bubble (even if that exploration takes place through books), how are you supposed to grow as a person?
Carmen Pinzon
9. bungluna
I have a problem with the way American society divides everything by age, sex and race: urban fiction, women's fiction, NA, Ya, chick lit, etc. I guess fiction is reserved for old/dead white male writers, huh? I read everything I could get my hands on when I was young, regardless of sexual content. I encourage my kids to do the same, but their schools practically funnel them into the YA/NA path. I dread to think what will become of this new generation when they realize that they have to live in a world comprised of all ages and races. As for the sex, I believe it's more of a fad. Anything that titilates and sells will have it's fifteen minutes and untold immitators.
Christopher Morgan
10. cmorgan
Full disclaimer, I don't read New Adult. Mainly because I don't like Contemporary stories. Give me Fantastical, Furture, or Past and I'm golden.

People, when taken as a majority, don't read. You limit your age group to 20s to early 30s and you reduce that minority even more, you limit it to men and it becomes as rare as a white buffalo. (I'm talking serious readers, like H&H crowd type readers.) That being said, when you are coaxing someone to read more, or even outside their usual, you stick with what they know. I got my dad to branch out into fiction from nonfiction by turning him onto Alt-History for example. So if NA is going to get a new generation of readers by telling them stories that they are living wheres the problem?

As a millenial and a target demographic, minus a sex change, it's not about the shock of BDSM, or about the sex, or any of that. All that is just there to get new people to read. Sex sells. It's about reading about people who can see the world from your perspective. Yes, mellenials can be a bit whiney, but every generation has it's problems, and can be equally whiney, even if it's about "kids these days, bah". And it is always nice to be able to share those very unique problems with someone, so if a genre of books does it, isn't that the point?

The books don't pigeon whole the reader, the reader pigeon holes the books. Look at Fifty Shades, or hell, anything popular. You sell a million copies, you can garuntee that you will be seeing a near infinite number of clones of that book. It's like those bad Blockbuster ripoffs.
11. JamieBeck
I've read a few New Adult books, but I won't be reading any more. I think, as a 40+ woman, I couldn't enjoy the stories and characters. Most of us probably made a lot of mistakes (especially in the romance department) between the ages of 18-25. As we mature and learn more about ourselves and love, we can quickly tell the difference between "love" and "lust" when we read a story about a 20-year old "instant/dysfunctional love" we just can't get into is too obviously false and rarely has anything to do with love. I feel the same way about all of the BDSM books, too (not that actual couples who engage in this don't love each other, but the book versions of these couples often seem to confuse their sexual relationship with love).

I haven't read The End Of Sex, but I've read similar studies about the negative impact of today's teens sexual behavior/hook-up culture. It is particularly damaging for men, in the long term, because these kids who don't date and learn how to evaluate relationships and compatibility end up picking the wrong partners...leading to an ever-escalating divorce/split-up rate. In older age, unattached men have less healthy emotional lives because, unlike women, they do not generally have a big emotionally intimate support group. I could go on and on, but I won't bore you.

Bottom line, I'd love to see more romance (whether YA, NA, or other) focus on stories that involve real acts of love (sacrifice, compromise, loyalty, honesty) instead of sexual attraction, control/dominance, and so on. Let's give today's teens a better model of love to aspire to rather than trick them into thinking a hot roll in the hay is what life is all about.
12. Lex
I'm going to take my response in a point by point of the issues you brought up in the order they where brought up.....

-Should there be a segment of novelization for 18-26 year olds.....Yes. I will start by say that I don't read New Adult books. I'm 23 so I'm in their wheel house so to speak, but I think anyone over about 21 the New Adult thing is a little late to the party for them. They have likely graduated to 'Adult' books as it where b/c this was not an option for them until like what, the last couple years? I think there is a place for these books. Think about it, you read Dr. Seuss, jump to Harry Potter/Twilight, and then just to JR Ward or LKH? At least I did and most of my reading friends. That is a rather large leap to make for maturity content. Also I don't see a difference in the the 'New Adult” classification then how Romance books are split into Paranormal/Historical/Classic/Erotica, ' What’s next?' Unmarried Romance, Menopausal Romance, Midlife Crisis Romance? If you ask me the classification of 'New Adult' is just a way to help consumers find a book in their interest easily. Why is that a bad thing or annoying?

-Being the All That age generation I know exactly the show your talking about and am the flip side of the coin to you in watching the show (which I watched every week). I liked it, like I'm sure your daughter and other people my age did. It was FOR ME. The thing that bugs you so about this show it WHY kids like it. You talk about the Carol Burnett Show and Laugh-In saying you didn't understand everything, but you still laughed. That is great, but you know what, kids like to always know what is going on as much as adults. I remember watching Star Trek Next Generation with my family every night, and while I liked the show for all the things a kid would like and understand, half of it flew over my head. You don't like going to movies and not understanding everything, so why would children/kids? Adults call people my age the “entitlement” generation (which I get pissed about) because I think that having programing just for me at my age was the correct thing in an time period where it could easily be given and adults made money off me watching it. What a load of Bull to say that I'm entitled for that! With 100 plus channels how come having a program just for yourself at 10 makes you entitled? It is the product of the time in which your are raised, you adults didn't get that kind of programing because the cost/benefit of such programing in your day and age was not worth it. That is not the fault of my age demographic. “Pretending that kids were small adults to be catered to as though they were adults set up in them a sense of entitlement”....How insulting. Kids want things for themselves, because they are kids. That fact that those desires are met is no different then any kids wanting Bugs Bunny or Micky cartoons for older generation.

-Sex for the generation of All That....No this of all things I think you have the most disconnect. You talk about 'Donna Freitas’sThe End of Sex' which I have not read but based on what you have said I am going with the fact that it is about ' hookup culture' since that is the word you used. Well you can find a culture of anything. There are different circles that people hang in and the collage demergraphic as a whole is NOT a hookup culture. This may be a a culture in collage, it may if be bigger then say the other demographics in college, but you belittle an whole generation by more or less say that they lack the social skills to make a relationship first. If anything in a New Adult Fiction, books on ROMNCE, it shows that the case if the opposite. It is just more interesting to look at my generation like a bunch of entitled sex crazed snots because then if the world goes to hell it not YOUR generations fault it would be yours.
Laurie Gold
13. LaurieGold
Alex, I don't think you or my daughter are part of a generation of sex crazed snots, but I would love for you to read that article I referenced in comment #2. You make some excellent points, which echo back to my daughter: The world in which I grew up is not your world. I've spent lots of time trying to stay current, so don't think I'm not going to process and think about what you've said. I will. When I've figured it out, I'll respond here.
Laurie Gold
14. LaurieGold
Okay, Lex, I've had some time to think things through. I LOL when I read "The thing that bugs you so about this show it WHY kids like it." Guilty as charged.

There is, however, some social science to back up some of what I've written about, although it's not about blame. If there's blame to be placed, it DOES belong to those of us in my generation who believed in "the experts" who told us that building self-esteem was paramount in our children. We are the same Yuppie Generation, who like our parents worked really hard, but turned shopping into a recreational event. We were going to raise our children different from how our own parents raised us...and that's where I think we fucked in in many ways.

I'm going to speak in generalities now, and not to you specifically. What I'm about to say comes from that piece and from a recent article in Time by a writer whose entire career has been based on writing about his own self-absorption: Joel Stein. I happen to think he's hilarious, but this article is not his weekly All About Me column; it's about your generation. In the end he is optimistic that you will save us from the mistakes we set in motion, but first we have to lay out our mistakes and what they have wrought. Also, his article is very controversial; he's been skewered for it from Slate and the Washington Post.

The research shows that when you add the materialism of our generation with the parenting mistakes we made in terms of building self-esteem in our children, the result is a dissonance in our children who want things as much as we do, but aren't as willing to work as hard as we did to get them. When we tried to boost the self-esteem of our children, we ended up boosting narcissism instead, which is borne out by statistics. The argument is that all that self-esteem results in disappointment when "the world refuses to affirm how great they know they are."

Add in economic uncertainty, the Internet age and social media, the individualization of entertainment (500 TV channels, Spotify, etc.), and that's why the "millenial" generation is seen as self-absorbed and entitled.

But you're also more likely to be bullied, and in a more public way due to social media. Thankfully, you are also less racist and homophobic than earlier generations (and I'm surprised to find out I'm apparently a Gen X'r rather than the Boomer my husband is). Personally, I embrace the increased liberalism of my daughter's--and your--generation, and think that every generation finds a way to whine about the next one. Whenever my m-i-l came to visit, she invariably slammed us for having too many toys for our daughter to play with, because, in her day, all she had was a lump of coal. You're also unfortunate enough to have to pay for economic mistakes made by your elders, which means higher unemployment and lower pay than when I was your age.

In essence, when I sent my rant to H&H, I thought it might be controversial because I was pretty crotchety when writing it. Happily, TPTB allowed me to turn all Andy Rooney for awhile, because it's generated some interesting feedback.

Look, I can run around until I'm blue in the face saying things like, "In my generation we didn't yada yada yada" all I want. It's my generation we didn't. In your generation you do. It is how it is, and hopefully your generation will find your way out of a mess that was not your making. You might be surprised, but I'm rooting for you.
15. huntece
@laurie hey just want to say I appreciate your candidness in the comments. I am a 21 yr old andit gets really frustrating how often people bash my agegroup as being lazy and entightled. But its never their child/grandchild/niece etc because I raised them the right way. I know ive called my dad on this a few times :P I probably would have ignored some of the interesting thoughts you had in your argument if I hadnt read your comment responses cause I generally tune out some of the more negative complaining type stuff or else id just get pissed off all the time.
I dont read na because im more into scifi fantasy and historical so dont have an opinion on the genre. What i have a problem with in na is the same problem i have with a lot of the genres and its how homogenized they get because companies think that only this one particular type of story will appeal to this particular audience. So u end up with really interesting books not getting published because don't fit into the cookie cutter category ideal.
Maybe ill start reading na if it expands to university age girls kicking ass with magic swords, going out with friends to the bar, meeting cute boys who turn out to be shapeshifters and stressing about writing that 10pg paper :P
Laurie Gold
16. LaurieGold
I would love to read about a cute, kick-ass girl and a cute werewolf boy. In fact...I just did. It's a short story and a look at the next generation (set in the future, actually) of the Wyndham Werewolves created by MaryJanice Davidson. Most of the stories in this series are short stories and it's nowhere near as popular as her Betsy books, but the new pack leader is daughter of the old pack leader. He retired because he realized years earlier, when she was six or so, that she was wise and brave enough to take over the pack after stopping him from ripping off the head of his best friend for overstepping...into his alpha shoes. That original scene from inside Derik's Bane is repeated in this short story, so I got to relive it in its oh-so-funness. Anyway, she takes over and her brother, a total beta whom their father loves but does not understand his slacker-ish ways, happens to be there, waiting to eat bacon, when her father's friend's son walks in. He's two years younger than she is, and kinda quiet and nerdy, but totally werewolfie. They've known each other for years but haven't seen each other for two years and all of a sudden it's wham, bam...and bacon destruction. It's a really fun story, and all three characters were in the NA demographic.
17. cjs33955
I am so glad to finally have this discussion! I hate the idea of new adult fiction for "18-26 year olds." It's not because limiting to this age group limits the number of reader. People jump genres all the time. Look at the number of twilight fans who are my mom's age. Or even the people commenting on this post for "new adult." I agree with cmorgan, breaking down books into genres and sub-genres does not limit the number of people reading these books, but rather makes it easier for people to find a book who may like that specific genre.

My problem lies in the way this new genre is marketed to the age group of 18-26 year olds. This may seem like I'm going against what I just said, but it's different. Every genre has its own sort of formula; romance does, erotica, mystery... That's the point right? I read Beautiful Disaster as a part of that whole "what's next after 50 shades." Which I think was just a marketing scam to pull you into to reading it. No BDSM, but it was indeed what I read after 50 shades. But as I was reading it, I kept trying to figure out what sort of book it was. It wasn't erotica. It wasn't quite romance. I hope it isn't teen. That's when I read this article about a new genre gaining popularity called New Adult. That made sense. It wasn't quite falling into any other category so it was great to call it something. What started to rub me the wrong way was how the article said it was geared toward 18-26 year olds and all the experiences you go through at that age and the emotions that go with it. But that's not quite right. I'm 25, so technically I fall into this age group. But I felt no connection or kinship to the situation or characters. I'm not saying I didn't like the book. I just have a big problem with a whole genre of books saying "hey, this is what's normal your señor year of high school and into college. Sex. Sex with the bad boy/ man whore and turn him into a one woman man. By hooking up. Never mind getting to know them or caring for them. Just have sex with multiple people. Because that's what is going on at this age and you can connect with this." It's sad if people are just hooking up with different people that consistently and it's not even that good.

I just think its wrong to come out with a genre and say, here is a book about college life and you can relate to it. And the books are about hooking up, and drinking, and drugs. Yes, that stuff happens, and i always hated it when adults would says we are so i
19. Maddie Grove
I think this article is a decent microcosm of previous generations' inability (or refusal) to understand Generation Y. Metaphorically speaking, why should we all have to watch Laugh-In, decade after decade, understanding fewer and fewer of the jokes with each subsequent generation? Why should we chase after bigger houses, better cars, and more prestigious colleges than our neighbors have, even when we can't afford them and we get no enjoyment from them? What's wrong with a little change and innovation? People can't go on doing things the same way forever, because the world is different.

That's why I challenge the accusation that my generation is more entitled than Gen X or the Baby Boomers. Very few people who complain about us bother to examine the economic situation with any thoughtfulness or empathy. Companies demand so much--time, qualifications, control, a simulation of love--in return for what often isn't a living wage. You may call wanting a better bargain than that entitlement; I call it hope.

I will concede that All That was an unbelievably crappy show, although I find it hard to believe that you found it more objectionable than the disgusting CatDog. Also, as a twenty-two-year-old in graduate school, I don't find the prospect of reading New Adult especially thrilling. If I want that kind of thing, I'll just think about my job, talk to my friends, and maybe construct a BDSM fantasy in my head if I have to.
20. huntece
@laurie hmm kinda burned out on mary janice davidson a couple years back but I might give that a try :)

@cjs33955 overgeneralization is exactly what i hate about the different genres.
However I feel the need to comment on the whole hook up culture/university life thing, even though i havent read any na but i feel its probably as realistic as most fiction :)
I feel the whole everyone is doing this at this age is a overgeneralization that plays to the whole bashing of the younger generation thing even if it isnt being negative about it. But there are people that are doing this while they are at school saying everyone is doing it is wrong but it is apart of it. And funny thing the people in this (im only talking about girls not sure about the guy side) 'culture' come in a wide variety. Some are unhealthy and acting a certain way because they have issues and hangups about stuff in their life but others just like sex and are unapologetic about it. And others do it because theyve burned out on serious relationships for awhile. And still others dont hookup at all. So, I think labelling hooking up as simply problematic and doesnt happen for the norm is also an overgeneralization.
The truth is there is no 'norm' just stereotypes that society tries to fit people into.
Jennifer Proffitt
21. JenniferProffitt
While I don't agree 100% with this post and actually read quite a lot of NA, I do think that the moniker is patronizing as it makes 20-somethings (of which I count myself) who have not been infantized to feel as if they are being looked down upon, and allows those who have been infantized by the media/society to continue on in a slightly-adult, slightly-childlike existence.
22. Lisa Marie
There's one thing that I feel the need to point out ... New Adult is sort of a misnomer. My guess is that a very large segment of NA readers are 35+. All of the gals my age (late 30s and 40s) are reading NA. But I can't think of a single NA who's reading NA.

It doesn't take a marketing genius (I work in marketing) to figure out why NA appeals to this older demographic -- I'm part of it, and I know quite well why it appeals to me. It's that big life "do over" that you wish you had -- to go back in time, young and attractive, and have that hot, steamy "forbidden" romance (and racy sex) that you never had. Or that you lacked the confidence to pursue.
NA is wish fulfillment for the 35+ set: we wish we were younger, prettier, and more sexually desirable. We wish we could go back in time. These books allow us to step in the shoes of our former selves. So while I don't have any issue with the concept of NA, I do feel that it's not an appropriate label for these types of books.
23. carenl
For the record, the genre was created because the books are *about* those ages 18-26, not because they were marketed *for* those ages. There are probably more women my age (30ish) than those in that range who are reading these novels.

And what's the harm in it?

Women of all ages have been reading romance novels for years and years, why is it suddenly taboo because there's a group of books with characters near the same age?

Oh, and let's get this straight: just because the scenes in these books are more risque than those in a typical young adult book, does *not* mean they are ANYTHING at all like the pile that is Fifty Shades of Grey. That book is about a misogynistic, abusive "man" and the dumb girl who falls in love with his money. I don't see the connection. Nor do I understand why everyone wants to group every book with that piece of trash.

The simple fact is that New Adult books center on college and not-so-young adults who, whether you want to believe it or not, are having sex. Lots of it. I was that age once, and so were you. Don't be naive and pretend that one genre is going to turn any young girl who reads it into a submissive who's getting spanked on the weekends.
Laurie Gold
24. LaurieGold
Lisa Marie, I can't think of any time I'd like to revisit less than that age! I asked my husband and he said the same. Both if us were focused on school and starting careers...the same for our friends. Also, at that age I thought *I* was "all that"...and I wasn't. ;)

caren, I don't believe that a girl is likely to turn submissive any more than I believe reading romance is likely to addict me to bad boys. In other words, not at all. ;)

Maddie, one of the reasons I wrote this was for greater understanding. You've given me a lot to think about. Thank you.
Jennifer Proffitt
25. JenniferProffitt
@carenl, I totally agree.

To say all NA is Fifty Shades is the equivalent of saying all erotica is Fifty Shades. Neither is true. There is a lot out there in New Adult that is funny, contemplative, and, yes, sexy.
26. Suleikha Snyder
Back in the day, vanilla sex was all we needed. After all, unlike being gay, which is innate, a person isn’t born a Dominant or a Submissive; discovering you need true kink in your life must come after years of experimentation.

I'm not sure who this "we" is that you speak of, but to dismiss kink as something that's not innate and as something recent that those whacky "kids today" are engaging in is just another way of dismissing the broad range of human sexuality. Not to mention two different subgenres: new adult and erotica.

That media conflates them is on media. It's fairly clearly that they are marketed differently and to two different audiences, filling two different needs. Why should fiction span 14-18, stop and then continue after 26? Because the monolithic "we" that you speak of is uncomfortable with it? That's short-sighted and limiting.

Sure, it's "hot" right now and might just die off in a year, but in this moment new adult is speaking to readers of all ages — primarily adult women! Teens are still reading YA or sneaking their mothers' romance novels. Gasp.
Laurie Gold
27. LaurieGold
I must have done a piss-poor job trying to explain myself, and for that, I apologize. I don't think it's something new and experimental that those crazy kids are doing today. What I *did* understand is that a person doesn't know they're Dominant or submissive until after they've become sexually active. Unlike gays/lesbians, who often know they are not straight much earlier in life. If I'm wrong in that assumption, I appreciate being set straight.

As a general rule I am against compartmentalizing. I read YA fiction as a YA and continue to read it today. Every year I re-read The Phantom Tollbooth. I started to read "grown up" fiction in the fifth grade, when I read Gone With the Wind, and encouraged my daughter to read whatever she wanted while growing up. My mother did the same for me. If a book my daughter wanted to read concerned me, I read it first, then talked to her about it before she read it.

My "objection" to NA fiction fits more into my concerns about the delay of adulthood that have become a noticeable phenomenon in recent years. If it's speaking to adult women, more power to them. This was my personal rant, reflective of nobody but myself.
28. Enfantil
If I'm wrong in that assumption, I appreciate being set straight.

You're wrong in that assumption. I was kinky and submissive when I was three.
29. Ridley
After all, unlike being gay, which is innate, a person isn’t born a Dominant or a Submissive; discovering you need true kink in your life must come after years of experimentation.

If I'm wrong in that assumption, I appreciate being set straight.
You're wrong in that assumption, as well as in others. I was engaging in BDSM at 15, back before the internet was much of a thing. It was a natural outgrowth of my personality and sexuality, and I didn't actually know it was called BDSM or anything until my 20s.

Kindly stop implying that kinky people are perverted weirdos who are into non-vanilla sex for the shock value. Speak to your own experience instead of making baseless assumptions about others'.
30. Lisa Marie

I wouldn't want to revisit that age if I weren't equipped with the knowledge and wisdom that I have now. However, if I were able to carry that with me and go back in time, I'd do it in a second, and I would do a lot of things differently. The emphasis is on "do over."

Re., the mad success of NA: I think that what we're seeing is what happens to the Female Gen-Xer Zeitgeist well past the prime of its heydey. This is what's on this markets' mind: "I wish I were young again.I wish I were sexy again. I wish I could go back in time and do all of it, all over again, knowing what I know now."

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "The devil is in the details." With NA, it truly is. If you'll notice, the heroines and heros in NA books have the types of life experience that most IRL people their age don't -- they've lived through the loss of parents, through abuse, through rape, etc., This "damaged character" trope resonates with an older generation of readers who have lived, very extensively and comprehensively, and who are a bit world-weary. Thus, imposing the experience of an older adult onto a very young person suddenly makes sense; it makes the character relatable.

It gets far more nuanced than that. The female protagonist in "50 Shades" didn't have a computer or email account -- she had to be introduced to the tech of the 20th century by Christian Grey. Some readers -- the younger ones -- remarked, "Oh, that's just stupid! Everyone grew up having a laptop and email account." Except the demographic who were really into this book actually didn't.

Oh well, okay, I've nattered on far too much for one afternoon. And I'm really starting to sound like I work in marketing, too! :)
31. Emdee
How about if you clearly haven't been reading NA, don't write an article bashing it? And guess what? People reading NA want to read it and it's very popular so maybe it's not for you but it's for tons of other people who would appreciate you not turning your nose up at something they enjoy. The way the snooty lit crowd turns their noses at “normal” romance readers.

Here’s another surprise for you. Not everyone who dabbles in BDSM tried it out of boredom after decades of “normal” sex. How do you know that no one is born a Dom or sub? Maybe there is an eighteen year old out there that is having “normal” sex and is unsatisfied. Oh, but how can that be since they are so young? Lucky for them they might be exposed to a wide variety of sex at an early age so they can start discovering what kinks work for them without suffering decades of boring sex. Unlike someone who wasn’t exposed to it until they were middle-aged and tries it to add some spice to their life. Or never had the courage to try it because it was not “normal” and they read a horrible article like this that made them feel something was wrong with them.

Keep your narrow-minded viewpoints to yourself.
Carmen Pinzon
32. bungluna
Lucky for them they might be exposed to a wide variety of sex at an early age so they can start discovering what kinks work for them without suffering decades of boring sex. Unlike someone who wasn’t exposed to it until they were middle-aged and tries it to add some spice to their life. Or never had the courage to try it because it was not “normal” and they read a horrible article like this that made them feel something was wrong with them. Keep your narrow-minded viewpoints to yourself.
This argument sounds to me like the cries of "homophobe" because I don't like Doccubus, or racist if I critizice Chris Brown. As my inalienable right as a middle-aged "normal" sheltered romance-reading coward(?!) I have to say that this new generation, as exemplified by @Emdee, has no idea how to have a civil discourse other than to descend to name-calling.

Note dash of humor with rebut.
33. Emdee
Bungluna, show me where I name called anyone. I was not referring to anyone specific when I said the middle-aged person. I was referring to Laurie's thought that some people don't discover or experiment with BDSM until they are looking for something new after decades of boring sex. That is not the only type of person that seeks it out. And even if they did for that reason, there is nothing wrong with them. This article is myopic. But thanks for saying I was part of the new generation. The flattery feels like I'm getting ID'd for buying liquor all over again.
Heather Waters
34. HeatherWaters
Hi, all. We so appreciate all the viewpoints being shared on this post and hope you'll continue to discuss. Please just remember to always treat each other with respect; disagreement and debates are very welcome, but personal attacks are not.

Thank you for your thoughts!
Carmen Pinzon
35. bungluna
On a serious note, I took the article to talk more about modern media segmenting the market to the point that everything will be neatly categorized to suit marketing. This trend is leading to the isolation of all races, sexual orientation and ages into their own little niche, which I personally thing is horrible for our culture.

NA fiction seems to be inordinately populated by innocent but damaged heroines who find the fix to all their problems through dominating billionaire older males who are also damaged, which in my day we called bodice rippers by Rosemary Rogers or M&B category romance (humor). On a more serious note, the heroines and heroes of these novels do seem to me too stacked towards the emotionally damaged by experience, which I don't believe is the norm for that age group, generaly speakind. It feels more like the success of one book has led to the usual glut of immitators trying to grab a piece of the market pie.

I dislike the trend of making any entertainment so specifically targeted, be it books, movies etc. Shows like the Carol Burnett show were for the whole family. Nowadays I have a hard time finding any type of entertainment that the whole family will enjoy.

I don't enjoy books with too-young heroines hooking up with too-old dom guys, sorry. Anybody who wants to read them and enjoy them has my blessing, for what it's worth. I love reading contemporary romances and sci-fi, hurray me. As for S&M, I just don't buy that these books actually present a realistic picture of that lifestyle or that they will lead their readers to seek it themselves.

I just feel that the way things are being micro-targeted is harmful to us as a culture. The End
Freedom Ryan
36. fryan
My only comment is what happened to a plain "romance" genre? It seems as though in this age of so many more authors, pubication types, etc the authors and booksellers are trying to take all the work out of finding a good book. So now we have all these sub genres to assist us with finding a certain type of book and there is no real discovery for the reader involved. I remember when I was young I read anything and everything no matter the genre just to get the experience of reading and determining what I really liked.

How does a young person expand their horizons if they are stuck in the same NA grouping that Amazon or Goodreads suggests by what you have read before. I discovered wonderful books by just reading through a lot of crap and determining what I liked, disliked, and just plain couldn't handle.
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