There’s a problem in Teen and Young Adult Fiction, and if you’re a parent of a teen or an author who writes YA, you know what I’m talking about. The age group gravitating toward Young Adult fiction seems to get younger and younger every year. YA appeals to readers of many ages. I love it. Heck, my mom loves it too! There seems to be no limit to the ages YA fiction appeals to–and this has caused quite a problem. Children as young as eleven are plucking YA books off the shelf, and as any parent of teens can tell you, a book that is appropriate for a seventeen-year-old may not be suitable for a younger teen or preteen.
This puts authors and parents in a tough position. For parents sifting through the ever-expanding YA section in the bookstore, it isn’t readily apparent which books have strong language or sexual content. YA authors risk facing the wrath of parents who become angry over edgy content–or risk losing their older YA audience because a book isn’t edgy enough.
It’s tough for publishers too. If a book features teenage characters, does it automatically fall under the YA heading? Should an editor advise his or her YA author to eliminate obscenities to suit younger readers? Do we cater to preteens who seem to find the YA shelf irresistible or do we write fiction for the older teens and young adults?
New Adult enters the scene…
New Adult is a fairly new category, rarely claiming a spot on bookstore shelves. These books appeal to older teens and young adults–readers who are old enough to drive and vote. New Adult novels have the widespread appeal of Young Adult fiction and encompasses a broad range of genres, but language and sexual content are geared toward the more mature reader. From vampires to romance to literary fiction, New Adult novels are sure to snag a huge audience, primarily those older YA lovers who enjoy reading about characters ranging from older teen to mid-twenties. And, I would predict we’ll see more and more ‘crossover’ novels that begin in high school (YA) and follow characters into adulthood. As the teenage characters graduate and grow up, so will the audience.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m super excited about the rise of NA fiction. As a YA author, I see this as an opportunity to expand my horizons. As a YA reader, I look forward to reading more books with vibrant characters, snappy dialogue, and fast-paced action generally found in YA, but with steamier romance and more colorful language. It’s not that I love curse words (okay, yes I do), it’s that sometimes a well-used obscenity adds authenticity to certain characters. As for the steamier romance, well, that’s for another post.
As New Adult fiction rise, so does the NA indie author. Let me introduce you to a couple of my favorites…
Siren Snow (Book One of the Redhaven Saga) by Victoria Barrow – This book would fall somewhere under the paranormal/ urban fantasy heading, but is so unique, I hate to categorize it at all. Lucy is a Witch–a really cool witch who can do real magic and has real (adult) responsibilities. She’s young enough to be totally adorable (in my opinion), but mature enough to be out on her own, saving magical creatures, and making decisions that affect the people under her care. She’s got a firecracker personality I absolutely love. Besides a few choice words and the occasional steamy thought, this book would be fine for YA, but it’s those few choice words and steamy thoughts (oh, please let them become steamy moments in future books. Yum!) that make Lucy who she is. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the book. And this, ladies and gents, is why NA is so awesome. We have YA charm with a bit of maturity and a whole lot of great writing.
Celine (Book One of The Night Touched Chronicles) by Maegan Provan- This fast-paced urban fantasy would appeal to lovers of NA or adult fiction. If you’re looking for vegetarian high school vampires, you won’t find them here. Provan’s vampires are young adults who struggle with complicated romance and high-society expectations. They’re independent, curfew-free, and are not restrained by YA standards. While Celine could easily nestle into the wide world of adult novels, I would recommend it to NA readers. The characters are very appealing and twenty-somethings will be able to identify with them, while older teens will want to be like them. There’s language and violence inappropriate for teens younger than seventeen, but it’s absolutely perfect for New Adult fans. The vamps who were so popular with teens five years ago may not appeal to those readers who have grown up and are looking for something more. Well, guess what? The vampires have grown up in Celine and I predict grown-up Twi-fans will flock to The Night Touched Chronicles.
The Chrysalis Series by Michel Prince – Remember when I mentioned ‘crossover’ books? Well, Prince’s series is a prime example. With the first book, Chrysalis, we find ourselves in the high school hallways, following the journey of Ellie and Oscar. This book is so steamy, it scarcely falls under the YA heading at all. There are some very intimate scenes and some very strong language. As the parent of an older teen, I happen to know some of the situations described in this book are very realistic for a certain segment of older teens. I’m okay with this. I would let my older teen read this book because I think there are some very good messages within the pages–and it’s a hell of a good story. But, for the eleven and twelve-year-olds perusing the YA section of the library… nope. Not for them. Chrysalis is just on the very edge of what’s acceptable for YA. With the second book–The Beam–we are definitely jumping over that edge into the NA pool. As teenagers tend to grow and change, so does the Chrysalis series. Prince does a wonderful job guiding her characters from teen to adulthood. As such, I highly recommend this for older teens and for young adults looking for a book with magic, romance, and substance.