Monday, February 12, 2018

New Adult and Romance

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Discussion posts are sometimes really hard to write when you have a lot of thoughts and feelings and it usually requires a backstory. So here is a short one. Recently, on twitter, there were discussions happening regarding how homogeneous New Adult lit is. A lot of the criticism was centered around how romance and sex heavy a lot of New Adult books are.

I think no one will ever disagree that we are definitely short on the range of experiences that are usually found in New Adult novels. We need change in that regard but, I don’t think that the demand for change should come at the cost of dismissing the New Adult that already exists?

For one, New Adult isn’t really a genre. It’s a demographic, its an age range that focusses on college-aged kids. A lot of books with characters in that age range tend to be romance novels. This is probably in part due to how incredibly successful New Adult Romance novels were a couple years ago. Secondly, there are a number of books that do exist that aren’t Romance and have new adult characters. Having said that though, I know that they barely even begin to scratch the surface and we need a lot more novels written for new adults that capture our experiences.

My problem is that a lot of the discussion just seemed straight up dismissive of books that already exist and in some ways, dismissive of those that read them. Which sucks. I think there are ways to have this very important conversation without shitting on an entire genre and an entire slew of readers.

Romance isn’t a one dimensional genre where the only thing that matters is falling in love. I am not an avid reader of New Adult Romance but, I do know that the few books I HAVE read are much more complex than that. One of my favorites Trade Me deals a lot with socio-economic privilege and how expensive college can be. Other books I’ve read specifically deal with what it’s like to be on your own for the first time in your life and carving your own place in the world. Also, like, for a lot of college kids, romantic relationships are a big part of their ‘new adult’ experience. Of course, the genre really does exclude aro & ace identifying people which is an issue that we should have a lot more discussions about.

Believe me, I know that New Adult Romances aren’t perfect. I know we can and should expect more of the industry but I don’t think those expectations should come at the cost of the books that already exist. As a ‘new adult,’ I ALSO want a variety of books with characters my age. I want to see my existential angst reflected in their journeys. I want to read about college experiences reminiscent of my own.

The industry needs to evolve to accommodate more experiences but that doesn’t mean the books already out there are not meaningful to anyone or are unimportant because they are romance. It’s a shitty thing to do to dismiss an entire genre because it isn’t reminiscent of your experience or your tastes. Criticism is IMPORTANT because thats how we all learn but criticism shouldn’t come at the cost of dismissal. In my experience, romance is a genre read by many young women of color and a lot of the criticism I saw in this debate came from older white people so really, lets take a step back and reflect on that. Lets advocate for a diversity of experience and characters in New Adult novels without rolling our eyes at New Adult Romances.

What do you think about New Adult books? Romance? Let’s Talk!

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Rashika has been tired since 2013. There are very few things that spark joy for her besides a nice cup of tea, warm, baked goods, good books and good TV shows. She is here to pile onto your giant TBRs and to-watch lists. Offer her a cookie and she might be nice to you.

4 Responses to “New Adult and Romance”

  1. JennRenee

    I don’t really mind if he romance heavy. The heavy sex scenes is why I don’t read new adult. I am not a big romance fan but when it’s done well I can really get into it. I just find it hard to find romances done well for me. I would read more new adult if they minimiz the heavy sex scenes and also come out with more than just romance or contemporary.

  2. Dena @ Batch of Books

    I would love to see more development with New Adult. I don’t ever read it because of the graphic sex scenes and it’s mostly contemporary.

    Personally, I would love to see NA branch out to include genres other than contemporary romance. Fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, it’s all good and it would be great to see books in these categories written for the college-age audience.

  3. Trish @ Between My Lines

    I hate when people put down a whole genre like it’s beneath them. And romance is the genre that gets hit with this the most. So yes for more diversity, wider focuses incorporating more themes but without dishing the ones that you don’t like. They do sell well for they are working for some. Great post Rashika.

  4. Valerie

    I agree! Like we can have ALL types of books, not replace the entire genre. It just sucks that publishers focus more on YA and discourage books about college and over (I think that’s why the author of American Panda had to age down her main character)