“I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck.”
– Katja Millay, The Sea of Tranquility
If you have been in a bookstore recently you have probably noticed the next wave of books being classified as ‘new adult’. It is a genre created by the marketing departments of publishing houses whose target audience is the twentysomething female. These stories are looking to ‘bridge the gap’ between young adult fiction and general fiction/ contemporary romance; they are basically young adult books with a bit more sex and a lot more cussing. Other than being a little insulting that I, as a twentysomething female, is too old for young adult fiction or too young for ‘adult’ fiction, it is a little sad that these marketing departments are assuming that all we want to read about is sex. We all know sex sells – Fifty Shades of Grey has proven that, a million times over. However, we don’t need a whole genre devoted to it; there are already millions of romance books out there that do the same thing!
The one thing that these books have in common is that they are depressing to read; they have a standard storyline that typically features two brooding and damaged souls who come together to escape their tragic pasts with a fiery and drama filled romance. These characters must fulfil a certain number of criteria – death of a family member/s, have suffered some form of abuse and currently suffer from depression or panic attacks.
Last year I was lucky enough to hear a talk by the fascinating Sarah Wendell, the co-creator of the romance website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The term ‘new adult’ had just started the rounds and she made an interesting observation – she said that the genre was the antithesis of chick lit. The term ‘chick lit’ refers to a type of book that reflects the ‘sex and the city’ lifestyle – groups of women celebrating life through friendships, shopping, holidays and men. It is a reflection of the affluent lifestyles many people have or wish they had. On the other hand, new adult is a term that reflects a life of recession – many characters have suffered some kind of loss. That loss could be their homes or their family members, their friends or their jobs. It’s a genre that reflects the harshness of life and the power of love and friendship in these times.
I have read many of these books and I find them to be quite hard going. While not every story needs to have a happy ending, these books leave me feeling a little empty on the inside. Despite saying this, I have finally read a new adult book that I really, really like. I just finished The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. She filled her quota of tortured souls but she balanced their darkness really well with characters equal in lightness. Instead of that heaviness at the end of the book, I feel as I would after finishing any other book – a sense of accomplishment and happiness that reading always brings. I definitely recommend this one!