Off the Shelf – February 16, 2015

Listen to the column here

First of all, I don’t really believe in putting books into categories. I don’t believe in book shaming – that is – judging someone for reading something they enjoy just because it doesn’t fit into someone’s preconceived notion of what a person should be reading. So, for example, adults reading Young Adult lit. I read it because I teach teenagers and in order to do that well, I think I have to be on the same page as them (pun intended.) But I also read it because a lot of it is really good.  I guess categorization is useful for finding books – but I always tell students it’s important to read outside their comfort zones every once and a while.

When I think back to my days as a young reader, it was really before such a thing as “Young Adult” literature. You read kids’ books like Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew and then you just graduated to the rest of the books. So, when I stopped buying books from the Scholastic book flyer I graduated to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I can also remember reading my mom’s bodice rippers, books by Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Now, of course, young readers have a lot more choice and one of those choices is New Adult.

New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–25 age bracket. St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult‘.”

So – it’s sort of like the protagonists have graduated high school and gone off to college.

Remember being age 18-25? It is a tricky time in the people’s lives – sometimes juggling new responsibilities and freedom is harder than it looks so some of the tropes in new adult fiction include personal issues like anger-management, family difficulties and expectations, abuse, alcohol and drugs and sometimes the plots are soap-opera-esque. Often the narrative is told in the first person. The other thing people will likely notice in NA fiction is that the romantic scenes are just a tad racier than in YA fic – not of course 50 Shades racier, but still.

<insert rant about how crappy 50 Shades is>

OK – I am not a book snob and I read 50 Shades of Grey and laughed hysterically at all the hype it got as the book that revved up the libido of women all over the planet – 100 million copies, people. But that book has a very peculiar pedigree, right – started as fanfiction based on Twilight. So Anastasia is Bella and Christian is Edward. E.L.James wrote as Snowdragonprincess and posted the story in installments on Twilight fansites. Her fans (yep, fanfiction writers have hoards of fans) encouraged her to change the names and publish it as original fiction. My issue isn’t with the content or even that it started as fanfic – my issue is that it’s just BADLY WRITTEN. Here’s my review of the book.

But I digress

If you are interested in checking out some New Adult fiction, here are a couple titles in the genre.

easyEasy  – By Tammara Webber

So Easy is the story of Jacqueline Wallace, a second-year university student who is leaving a frat party and attacked by someone. She’s rescued in the nick of time by Lucas. He’s a Harley driving, pierced and tattooed artist-type who is also smart and awesome. Although their relationship is not without its problems, these are characters readers will fall in love with and root for. There’s a sequel of sorts for Easy, it’s called Breakable and it’s Lucas’s story. I really liked this book.

tentinybreathsTen Tiny Breaths – by K.A. Tucker

I didn’t like this one as much as I liked Easy. Kacey and her kid sister leave Michigan where they’d been living with their aunt and uncle after the death of their parents in a drunk driving accident. Kacey decided it was time to go after her uncle was getting a little too hands n with her little sister. They arrive in Florida where Kacey gets a job and meets Trent, the hot guy next door who has his own dark past. This one was just sort of ‘meh’ for me.

If you are interested in checking out other NA writers here are some of the names to know: Cora Carmack, Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire.

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