When I originally thought of the premise for the novel I’m currently working on for NaNoWriMo, the age of one my main characters wasn’t even really a choice. I knew it had to be someone just entering the workforce and dealing with the changes and sometimes letdowns that go with that period.
And even though my other main character is a teenager so it technically qualifies as YA, it got me thinking about why we don’t see more New Adult (NA) books.
I’ve seen countless posts on Twitter from first-time authors that are wanting to write NA, who are hesitant to do so because they worry about that affecting the likelihood of being published.
To me, the lack of NA books being published doesn’t even make sense. A lot of the experiences that are dealt with in NA stories are similar to those in YA fiction, as well as adult fiction. The transition from college to adulthood is very similar to the transition from high school to college, but in addition, adults can relate to those first few years of exploring life as an adult.
In my opinion, that period is such a formative part of growing up. For me, even more so than my teenage years. And it’s such a scary time period, too. For many, it’s the first time that people are truly responsible for their own life.
Sure, most people have part-time jobs throughout high school and college, but as you enter the workforce it’s truly a different experience. For many, there’s a feeling of anxiety constantly over you because of the fact that if something were to happen to your job, you might be screwed, financially. Lots of people live paycheck to paycheck in the first few years of working, and not having any saving to fall back on can be terrifying.
At least as a teenager and college student, most may have parents or other relatives to fall back on. Once you’re out on your own, it feels like the stakes are so much higher.
Not to mention the countless expectations placed on you after you are done with school. If you’re not immediately successful in your career, some may view you as a failure. If you still live with your parents in your twenties, you may be seen as a failure, even if you’re successful in every other aspect of your life. No matter what you do, there’s always that one thing you don’t do, and that’s the thing that people will latch on to.
To me, that period feels like a time in your life where you’re trying your best, and your best is never good enough. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who truly pulls everything off and is happy right of the bat. I’ve yet to see someone gain that level of success, yet the media (and by media I mean those publications that think it’s edgy to write the same think piece about why millennials are lazy over and over again) and popular culture makes you out to be lazy if you’re not living up to these artificial standards of success.
All of this culminates into a very troubling time for many. And there aren’t a lot of characters to relate to in this transition.
At least when I was an angsty teen in high school, I had a whole library of relatable characters to help me through any tough times. I didn’t have that in my early twenties.
One of the arguments that I see from the publishing community is that it’s harder to market to the NA age group than it is to market a book to teenagers or adults. But it seems to me that NA fiction can be marketed to a wider audience because it overlaps with those two big groups. A lot of adults I know shy away from YA lit because they find it too childish (which I totally disagree with, but that’s a whole other post), but I think a lot of those readers are my age and would probably pick up a NA book with experiences closer to their age range.
Not to mention, I think for many, having a character who is just stepping out into the world to relate to can be an incredibly positive influence in an especially difficult period in their life.
A bit of a personal story: When I graduated college, I felt completely lost. I majored in something I knew I wasn’t interested in pursuing anymore, and I knew that for a big chunk of my senior year of college. I jumped into the workforce as an administrative assistant and was constantly comparing myself to my friends who were getting high-paying internships and doing really cool things in their chosen field. And here I was, just doing someone else’s busy work while I tried to work through what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back, I had it pretty great, but at the time I felt like a bit of a failure as I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
I moved out of my mom’s house pretty much immediately after I graduated and moved over an hour away from all of my friends and family. There were days when I felt so lonely and just wished things could be the way they were for so much of my life.
It’s also a weird time because when you go from high school to college, there’s a good chance you lose touch with your high school friends and make new friends. But after college, if you lose touch with your college friends, it can be super hard to make friends as an adult. A lot of friend groups get split up all over the country after college, and even though technology can help with staying in touch, it doesn’t always work out and people drift apart.
All of these things led to a period of depression, and I can say pretty certainly that if I had books with relatable characters going through the same stuff as me, I would have had a much easier time.
My experience may not be the same as everyone’s. Maybe you know what you want out of life and somehow get it and keep all of your friends, and everything is great forever. But I’m willing to bet that at least part of my experience is similar to what others go through in that transition period.
And yes, I know that not everyone attends college. I recognize that my view on this may come from privilege. The fact that I was able to attend college makes me feel this way, but I think that transition still exists, whether its high school to adulthood or college to adulthood. Regardless of the path, I would like to see more of these characters out there, experiencing this part of life.
I don’t think that this transition from young adult to adult is even exclusive to those who took the same path I did and had the same struggles. Anyone who is going out on their own for the first time is going to experience these emotions, and I think we’d all be a lot better off if we had a fictional character to make that journey with.