When most of us think of New Adult fiction, it oftentimes means Young Adult fiction + sex. I mean, sex isn’t a bad thing. Sex in novels can be great, especially if it is a means to explore and examine individuality, sexuality, and self-growth. (And, you know, because they’re fun to read.) But what about everything else that happens in that uncertain age? Though your teenage years are important, formative, and certainly tumultuous, your years between 18 and 30 years old are just as transformative, uncertain, and filled with obstacles. Where are these books? (Am I looking in the wrong place?)
In today’s Let’s Talk About, I list the things I’d love to see more of in NA fiction. Most of the items in the list will be strongly based on personal experience and my own observations, but if you have any ideas of your own, don’t forget to share in the comments!
BRIEF NOTE: ON NA
NA fiction, or New Adult fiction, is a genre that is still quite new to me – and the reading world for that matter; ‘New Adult’ was first coined in 2009. Wikipedia tells me that New Adult ‘tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices‘, and will have protagonists aged between 18 – 30 years old. I like the idea of NA fiction very much. As someone who is still within the New Adult age bracket, I would love to read books that illuminate the upcoming trials I will face now or later in my life.
There are so many books about teenagers and their trials, and also many books about adults who experience their midlife crisis (and thus need to find themselves). I would love to see books that explore what happens in between; the first time the world expands into something unrecognizable and feels like a black hole, those years of transition from youth to being an adult.
I’D LOVE TO SEE: LIFE/CAREER UNCERTAINTIES
There is this implicit idea that strong characters have their careers and lives planned out. And whilst I do not necessarily disagree with this, what about the people who don’t know what they want to do in their life? Who haven’t discovered what it is yet? What about their stories?
Real talk: Sometimes life doesn’t always go the way people imagine. They may have these dreams, goals, and ambitions, but what I feel is not talked about enough are the times when they feel lost in their life. Sometimes people get ‘stuck’ in their lives for a multitude of reasons — when a temporary job becomes six years, when waiting for an opportunity becomes years of waiting, when work and life leaves them too exhausted to seek new things, or when people lose their jobs. Or maybe even finishing a university/college degree and not knowing what to do thereafter.
In a society where having a career is important, it is a struggle when you’re in a place you do not want to be. Whilst the path may always seem simple and ‘perseverance’ may seem like the best solution (and it is), they are often complicated by a multitude of factors, such as monetary pressures or lack of opportunities. More so, it’s true: time passes differently for adults than it does for younger people. Regardless of what you think people ought to do or whether people ultimately reach that destination (or do not; people, namely parents, sometimes sacrifice their dreams for their children), the time you spend uncertain and lost can be a very emotional and difficult time. The struggles are multifaceted; they come from the alienation from work, pressures from other people and society, or dissatisfaction of one’s life at that moment of time, especially if one’s career is closely tied to their identity.
Though it is something that is not often talked about – probably because it is unpleasant and disconcerting to talk about – it is something that is prevalent. I would love to see books that explore this struggle.
I’D LOVE TO SEE: CHANGES IN FRIENDSHIPS
Growing up and becoming your own person can be a difficult but rewarding experience, but sometimes people grow apart. Are there people, potentially characters, who feel this deeply about these relationship changes? What is the impact of these changes on an individual and how they perceive relationships?
(Also, welcome to the age of networking – ‘symbiotic’ relationships but also typically quick relationships that have no essence but require time and emotional investment.)
I believe forming friendships when you’re in high school or university is one of the most exciting parts of your life. Being in an institution where you are surrounded by different people, some just as eager to form friendships as you, provided endless opportunities to meet new people and learn from them. But, two things can happen: a) whilst some friendships may endure, a majority of people you meet in school/university will be people you will hardly ever talk to again, and b) you will eventually take on responsibilities which create time pressures, making it difficult for you to maintain friendships.
Adult responsibilities, less time, moving away, career changes and significant life choices are several reasons why relationships may change. Though this is an accepted part of life and growing up, a loss of a friendship can be bittersweet, heartbreaking, or even devastating.
But as well as the bittersweet things, I also want to read more about friendships that come out or develop during adulthood; I want to see the intimacy of friendships, the importance of them in the face of life’s challenges. I want to see friends support each other in times of great transition and change. Friendships and how we maintain them change when we get older – and I’d love to see this explored more.
I’D LOVE MORE: MORE AND MORE SELF-GROWTH
I think there is an assumption that people find themselves after college, when they have found work, develop lasting relationships, or have security. But, I believe that self-growth doesn’t stop at any age. People and minds are fluid and always changing. Entering adulthood can be a tumultuous time; learning how to live by yourself, learning how to balance work, family, friendship and leisure, learning to do ‘adult’ things; in the meantime, learning about yourself in a time of change and about the world that has suddenly become so much bigger. (Oh, and throw in the dating game and romances that we were never taught how to navigate.)
Dreams change, goals change, everything in life changes. Who we thought we would become in your teenage years may be very different to who you are in adulthood. But, that isn’t a tragedy. Self-growth is a process of discovery, understanding, and patience. It can be a development, rejection, or adoption of new values, ideas, or parts that are important to someone’s identity. It may involve a deeper understanding of things, deeper than what is first formed at a young age. More importantly, the reality is that sometimes people still do not know who they are when they are an adult, or at least are still unsure.
I would love to see characters that face adult-related challenges. I would love to see them grow and develop after overcoming those challenges. I would love to see self-growth that never stops, and to be shown that it is okay to have not figured your life out at twenty-five years old, to still be learning more about yourself and the world in adulthood.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT
Before ending this post, I want to end it on a more positive, assuring note: this post is not intended to imply that your years between 18 – 30 are predetermined to be lonely, sad, negative, etc. It’s an exciting time filled with opportunities, but they are certainly filled with struggles unlike anything you may have experienced. And of course, everyone experiences life differently, but I hope that fact will make the discussions more exciting and interesting!
- What would you like to see portrayed in NA?
- If you’re in the NA age bracket, what struggles/experiences would you like to see portrayed and explored?
- If you’re not in the NA age bracket, what would you like to see portrayed to get a glimpse of what young adulthood may be like?
- Do you think such books are necessary?
Let me know in the comments below! Thank you for reading!