The Emerging New Adult Genre and Why CNN Hates It
I’m not going to write an article about “New Adult” books, or what the “New Adult” genre includes, or even the debate over whether this term should actually exist. That’s a pretty boring discussion that I’ll let people like Liz Burns over at Tea Cozy bludgeon to death with a wall of text.
What I do want to write about is the way the media has received the emergence of New Adult as a genre–and what has become an unwarranted, vitriolic attack on what real readers are reading.
Jezebel is the worst offender. The first article published by Jezebel on New Adult came last month, titled “‘New Adult’ Is Now an Official Literary Genre Because Marketers Want Us To Buy Things.”
It’s not that I don’t think marketing happens. Pixar’s Cars has action figures; Jelly Belly makes Harry Potter-themed jelly beans. But to claim an entire genre was “invented” by a skilled marketing department just to snare a narrow group of readers–I’m sorry, ma’am, but your logic is flawed.
Jezebel continued down the rabbit hole last week with an article by Doug Barry called “‘New Adult’ Fiction Has Tons of Sexy Sex For the Millennial Reader Trapped In Adolescence.” Beyond the condescending headline, Barry digs himself a six-foot-deep pit of unfounded accusations towards young 20-somethings and the writers who write for them.
He claims that those 19-to-25-year-olds reading these types of books (he doesn’t actually cite any actual New Adult books in his article, but does mention Fifty Shades of Grey and Harry Potter a couple times each) are all living at home with their parents and shirking their responsibilities. That they (we? I’m 24, I think I still count in this group) can’t handle growing up and becoming adults and so we bury ourselves in clones of Harry Potter that have been sexed-up and drugged-up enough to keep our fleeting interest.
This is a man who seems so jaded and bitter towards my generation that he is about to foam at the mouth. And I can’t help but wonder: why? What could possibly be wrong with the thing he’s describing if it’s actually as he describes (“Harry Potter with an explicit content sticker on the front”)?
I just don’t get it. What’s wrong with people reading the fictional novels they want to read? Everyone enjoys different things. It’s like saying someone refuses to grow up because they prefer watching football on television instead of historical documentaries.
And it isn’t just Jezebel. On Sunday, CNN pronounced that “The Novel America Needs in 2013” is not a New Adult book, and that our youngsters need to stop “clinging to young adult fantasies” and just grow the hell up. Oh, sure. Because what we need is twenty-somethings with no ambitions, no dreams, and no escapism. It reminds me of an old guy shaking his stick at some kids and shouting, “Go get a job!”
Yes. Let’s stop adolescence from creeping into adulthood, because it’s not like more people going to college before entering the workforce is a good thing. The problem is obviously fun romance books written for early- to mid-twenties audiences, as if the fact they might enjoy reading it is a sign of their laziness. Don’t let them have fun! Don’t let them dream of stormy love triangles or fantasy worlds that “real” adults are allowed to live in! (Tolkien? Patrick Rothfuss? I’m confused.) I don’t see Mark Bauerline ripping contemporary romance fiction a new one, or tearing down grown men who like science fiction. So what’s the freaking problem?
I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think the writers for CNN or Jezebel know, either. I think they want to tear down New Adult because it’s new; because it’s something they don’t understand; because there is a generation of people who graduated into the Great Recession and books were the solace they found in it.
Look: if it gets people reading, what’s the need for all the derision and hate? Let people enjoy books. It can’t be anything but a good thing.