Tag Archives: Megan Abbott

‘New Adult’ Fiction; What is the Point?

One of the many things that I love about recording The Readers every week, with Gavin of Gav Reads, is that it makes me think about (and in this case have a rant about) things that I wouldn’t expect it to. This week Gavin wanted to talk about the genre of ‘New Adult’ fiction, I have to admit I knew very little about it to be honest and so I went off and did some research. Having done so I have to admit that my main thought with it is… What is the point of ‘New Adult’ as a genre?

If we use the trusted source (my tongue is slightly tickling my cheek here) Wikipedia for a definition then it is “New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin’s Press in 2009.St. Martin’s Press editors wanted to address the coming-of-age that also happens in a young person’s twenties. They wanted to consider stories about young adults who were legally adults, but who were still finding their way in building a life and figuring out what it means to be an adult.” What is all the more interesting/odd is that the age range for this new type of genre is according to several sources the age range of 14 – 35.

Now we will slightly gloss over my main issue that this is a genre simply created by some marketing people in a publishing house to sell more books which is no bad thing, until you see some of the quality of some of the books and the sort of stories they are. Snobbish? Maybe! It seems like a cash cow and one which I find a mixture of patronizing and perturbing.

My first concern is that the first book which has been published as a ‘new adult’ novel is Tammara Webber’s ‘Easy’, which starts with the protagonist of the book getting raped. I am aware this happens in the world and that younger people need to be taught the hardships of life (though in my day it was being taught about death by being bought a hamster or goldfish that would invariably pop it’s clogs in a month or two) but at the age of fourteen, really? This for me becomes all the more disconcerting as apparently the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy has now, along with ‘Twilight’ but not Harry Potter, been put into this category. Do we really want anyone, not just girls, under the age of 18 reading books with graphic sex in them, regardless of the tin of S&M worms that come opened with it? Weren’t we all calling these books ‘Mummy Porn’ just months ago, now because we are so stupid forward thinking and ‘out there’ let’s pass it on to some youths. I am inwardly groaning as I type. I am not a prude but this does all just seem wrong.

The question is what next? Will the ‘Mummy Porn’ become a genre alongside ‘Tragic Life Stories’ (groan) and ‘New Adult’ (I have just seen how appropriate that title is for books that seem to technically be Baby Black Lace/Black Lace for Beginners), will there be a ‘Ready Meal for One/Spinster/Lonely Man in a Cardigan/Eternal Bachelor Fic’ to run alongside ‘Romance’? Will I be dashing to buy from the ‘True Tales of Animals Daring Do’s’ shelves? Will ‘Grey Fiction’ suddenly take off? The mind boggles, though if any of those do become ‘the latest thing’ I want royalties.

Also what annoys me about it is that those publishers pushing this genre are actually closing off a world of books to people rather than opening the eyes of many to more wonderful books. Are we all going to have to follow the same reading trajectory? You start with picture books, then children’s books, then YA, then NA, then ‘fiction’ and that is the only option? What happened to just getting to an age where you read what you want? For me, who is from a generation prior even to YA (yes I am that old), it was a case of reading from Robin Jarvis to Patrick Suskind, possibly via some Point Horror, because I just naturally progressed at my own pace in my teens. Are the ‘New Adult’ book police going to stop my 14 year old sister from her current read of ‘An Evil Cradling’ by Brian Keenan (no she really is) or make my 13 year old cousin stop reading Charles Dickens and C.J Sansom because apparently he isn’t ready for them yet, instead handing them ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to have a think about as that is what they should be reading at their age? Erm, no thank you! It all seems preposterous to me. And what about YA is this defunct, down graded or what?

Is this 'NA' or is it 'YA' or simply just fiction?

Is this ‘NA’ or is it ‘YA’ or simply just fiction?

That said, as this is a rather one way set of thoughts on the genre I have recently got a ‘New Adult’ book, though it was just in ‘Fiction’, from the library in the form of ‘Dare Me’ by Megan Abbott. I thought I really should try one of the books from the genre I am writing off a) to see what I make of it b) see if really it is just fiction or YA under an addition unnecessary pigeon hole c) because Jessica of Prose and Cons Book Club (who I love and wish blogged every day, no pressure) loved this tale of crazy evil cheerleaders and it might be a laugh. I will report back, I might end up eating my hat, or I might find out this ‘New Adult’ tag is just a bonkers new genre that need not be, we will see.

As you might have noticed this subject has brought out the rant filled part of me, which you can actually here in the last section of The Readers this week, and I could go on all day. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on it. Regular readers of this blog of course, but also some of the NA lovers out there and maybe even some of their authors. So what do you think about NA, am I just being a grumpy old git or what?

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Die A Little – Megan Abbott

Have you ever heard someone say “they don’t make noir crime novels like they used to anymore”? No I dont often either, but actually they do and I have to say the first Megan Abbott to get released in the UK is some of the best ‘noir’ I have read. I was sent this by the lovely people at Simon & Schuster to review as its not out right now but it will be soon and I think that everyone should pop this on their to read pile. Can I also at this point add… how fabulous is the cover, very glam.

In case you are wondering what noir crime fiction is here’s a lovely definition from Wikipedia “In this sub-genre, the protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. He is someone tied directly to the crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation.” Noir was also big from the 1930’s until the 1960’s and this book is set in the fantastic era of the 1950’s Hollywood glamour era, with some scenes featuring Doris Day in the background.

In this story the protagonist is Lora King, a school teacher who is quietly happily sailing through life with her brother until he meets and marries Alice Steele. Alice is a beautiful Hollywood wardrobe assistant, but for some reason Lora doesn’t trust her and even thought her brother (a junior investigator for the District Attorney) trusts her and misses Alice’s inconsistent tales of her past, Lora believes there is more to meet the eye. Lora decides to investigate her sister-in-law herself taking her into Hollywood’s underbelly a world of sex, murder, drugs and prostitution.

I absolutely loved this book and happily devoured it in two small sittings. I like a good crime and this had lashings of murder, mayhem and mystery. The other major thing, bar the era in which it’s set, that I loved was the characters. Lora starts of as a sweet teacher who is drifting merrily like a Doris Day character through life but as she uncovers more and more of Alice’s past an inner femme fetale is released inside herself which is an interesting tale along side the mystery. Alice is amazing, I loved the fact that she had this dark past that you felt she was still visiting every now and then but the rest of the time she was getting involved in charity gala’s and cake baking alluding to the perfect wife. A character that I particularly loved was Lois, a friend from Alice’s past, who is hapless and always almost lets something slip, and I loved her story. The men in the book take a slight back seat Bill is a besotted man who cannot see anything wrong with his wife, however Lora’s lover becomes quite a rogue love interest that you don’t quite trust with his hidden depths.

I would recommend this to anyone who loves great writing, noir fiction, crime or just a really good story. Yes this ticks all the boxes and hopefully Simon & Schuster will bring the rest of Megan Abbott’s novels over to the UK as soon as possible.

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