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Turning pages

Bliss wants to lose her virginity before she leaves college, so she has a one-night stand. Next morning she walks into class and discovers her date is her professor. Shock horror!
苏州美甲培训

This, it seems, is a typical ”new adult” situation. The protagonist is a young woman, usually at college, getting used to leaving home, negotiating education, career choices, and her own sexuality – as one book blurb says, ”trying to figure out how to be a grown up”. Romance looms large and dramatic soap opera-type things happen. It’s not unlike young-adult fiction, but at a later stage of life – and the sex is steamier. Oh, and sometimes they throw in a vampire or zombie apocalypse plot.

Bliss is the heroine in Cora Carmack’s Losing It, which she self-published as an e-book. It was a huge success, and as a result she signed a six-figure, three-book deal with HarperCollins in 2012. The next two titles are Faking It and Finding It.

Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more book genres, along comes new-adult fiction, about characters (usually women) in their early 20s, aimed at readers (usually women) in their early 20s. In just five years or so, it’s taken off; but it’s also being written off.

”There aren’t 25-year-olds walking around saying ‘Where is my literature?’ ” writer and editor David Levithan said in New York recently. ”It’s been a failure. It doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.”

According to Melbourne writer Jo Case, who reported on the NYC Teen Authors Festival for the Wheeler Centre, Levithan said new adult was the first category of fiction created purely by marketers – adult publishers trying to get a piece of the pie.

Is he right? Levithan is a bestselling and widely respected author of young-adult fiction, and he might well have access to more detailed and more up-to-date information than I have. If so, I’d like to know what it is. Because much of what I read suggests there are indeed 25-year-olds who want their own literature.

True, new adult started out as a publisher-driven genre, and some still view it as merely a marketing scheme. St Martin’s Press coined the term in 2009. The company had noticed that YA fiction had a large adult following, so it sent out a call for fiction that could be marketed and published as ”older YA or new adult”.

But new adult also got its start from writers themselves, especially from independent authors such as Carmack publishing their own e-books.

There’s no doubt readers are out there. There are dedicated websites such as NA Alley, and social networking site Goodreads reports that readers have recommended more than 14,000 new-adult titles. Now established authors such as Meg Cabot have joined the trend.

The genre has attracted its critics. Some are worried about explicit sex in books that might percolate down to younger teens. Booksellers seem to disagree about whether it’s a useful label. Twentysomething writer Lauren Sarner says the label is condescending to readers and authors alike: ”It implies that the books act as training wheels between young adult and adult.”

Inevitably there’s parody.

Blogger Cath Murphy has written a wicked set of rules for writing new-adult fiction, including the hero template: ”He is ripped, he is tattooed. He wears jeans so the female interest can put her fingers in his belt loops and pull them closer. He is manly, yet sensitive.”

But Murphy also enjoys the books as ”rollicking good fun”. And if they hold YA readers as they make the transition to adulthood, who can say that’s bad?

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