I can only shrug, or laugh—or snicker might be the better word. Because I don’t see much when it comes to trends, I mean seriously—I’m about as out of touch with trends as they come. But I saw this coming from a mile away. And it wasn’t Easy, or Beautiful Disaster that clued me in, either. Although I did read those books long before NA took off and yes, I did love both of them.
But I knew back in 2010 when this whole thing was really starting to take form that my main character in my book would not be a young adult in the traditional sense of the word. She’s far too nasty, has a foul-mouth, and I’m not really sure when she lost her virginity, but it wasn’t anytime recent in her nineteen year old life in CLUTCH.
I made my character this way on purpose. I wasn’t making a likable girl, I was making a real girl. And yeah, she’s a bit over the top with her violence, but I was writing science fiction, so I could do that and make it normal. I also knew this book was NOT for kids. Not even for teens, although I have a lot of teen fans I actually do worry about them reading my books.
I never saw the draw to young adult when it was taking off in a big way this past decade, but I knew it was a very popular genre for writers to be in. I wish I could’ve checked that category when I published Clutch because these books would’ve gotten a lot more attention.
But I didn’t. I put the book where it belonged—squarely in adult science fiction, even though it really isn’t your typical SF story and certainly does appeal to young audiences because of Junco’s age.
And age is everything in the YA and NA markets because age defines these markets. New adult is not about sex, or love, or college, or finding one’s self. It’s about all of that from one unique perspective…the eighteen to twenty-six year old.
And I’m so freaking sick of seeing this question…what is new adult? How is this hard? I can’t even comprehend the confusion. New Adult. It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? In America when you’re seventeen you’re a kid. You live by the rules others make for you. Most of us have parents who make these rules, but it can deviate.
When you’re eighteen, BOOM…you’re an adult.
A new adult.
It’s not a mystery.
When I think back to my eighteenth birthday I was kinda depressed. I lived in Anaheim at the time and I was walking down my alley alone. I have no freaking clue where my brother was, or my dad, or my boyfriend, or my friends, for that matter. I had all these things, but I was alone, walking down an alley to a neighbor’s house, on the morning of my eighteenth birthday.
A neighbor whose name I cannot for the life of me remember, all I remember is that he was gay and he was in his late twenties, so he had a clue about life. And even way back then, he knew. That guy knew that eighteen was a big deal in its own special way. And he was the first person to see me on my birthday and he gave me a present.
This present made my whole day—so much so I still think about it, even though I cannot remember his name, I remember what he did for me that day as I was lost in my own angst in becoming a new adult.
He gave me a chamois to wash my new-to-me car that my dad bought me as a graduation/birthday present. I didn’t even have my license yet, but that stupid sheepskin chamois made my whole day.
Someone I knew, but not that well, someone I really had very little in common with other than we lived close to each other, cared about me enough to give me a present that was maybe a little unusual for an eighteen year old girl, but it was personal. He knew I got a car and that I wasn’t allowed to drive it until I got my license. And he wanted to celebrate that with me…he even reminded me that a car was a ticket to freedom.
The day went downhill from there and I ended up at home that night crying. LOL… oh, God… seriously, the best thing about my day was that chamois from the neighbor because that gift helped erase the feeling of being all alone in this world. And on my eighteenth birthday, that’s the feeling I had. It wasn’t fun or cool or anything like that.
It was scary as fuck.
This is what new adult is.
It’s scary as fuck shit that you cannot explain. You have no idea why life is so hard, or if you’re making it harder than it needs to be, you just know you’re one panic attack away from losing it all completely. You have no idea if you’re doing it right or even if there’s a right way at all. You have no idea if college is a good thing or a bad thing, you just know that’s what kids do after high school. You have no idea if your boyfriend loves you, or just enjoys the fact that you sleep with him at night.
You have no clue because you have very few experiences to base your decisions on. Growing up is a collection of experiences that translate into life lessons, and when you’re eighteen, you just don’t have what it takes to make good comparisons when you’re presented with choices.
And this is why life as a new adult is so unique. As a young adult you have your fall-back, your family, your family home, your support system. But as a new adult, whether you realize it or not right away, it all comes down to you. You make your decisions, you succeed or fail based on those decisions, and you take the credit or blame in the end.
This is what’s going on in the new adult fiction world.
New adult is booming because new adult authors are writing real shit. They’re writing about sex, yes, because most people at this age are thinking about and having sex. They’re writing about college because this is where many new adults end up after high school, where they experience these firsts and formulate opinions on things. They’re writing about decisions, bad and good, and consequences.
They’re writing about love, because everyone wants to fall in love. And not the love you have as a teenager living at home with your mom and dad. But the love that comes with no buffer between you and your feelings.
And that’s why I started the New Adult Addiction blog. Because turning eighteen is hard. It’s emotional, and it’s frustrating, and it’s scary. And navigating the next six to ten years is all that and more.
And whether you think it’s a real genre doesn’t matter. It is, because new adult is an actual human life stage. Besides fiction, I write non-fiction science texts and this weekend I’m making a course on life cycles because it’s spring and the cycle is getting ready to start again.
If humans had a little life cycle chart like the one’s I’m making for this unit study, then new adult would be the tadpole with legs, the salmon smolt, the fledgling eagle, or the caterpillar in the cocoon.
And if a fucking fish can have a new adult stage, well, I think humans are entitled to one as well.