'New Adult' Fiction Is Now an Official Literary Genre Because Marketers Want Us to Buy Things

HarperCollins just signed Cora Carmack, the author of Losing It, a book about a 22-year-old who tries to lose her virginity during her senior year of college, to a three-book deal for a sum in the "high six figures." According to the New York Times, Carmack's book is in "an emerging area of the market that publishers think is under exploited: New Adult fiction."

Under exploited?? Fuck! I'm In My 20s blogger Emma Koenig already published a book and is now working on a TV show. Lena Dunham recently landed a $3.7 million dollar book deal. Thought Catalog just announced an upcoming line of e-books that we can only surmise will be geared toward the "New Adult" set. We're all for 20somethings writing about 20somethings. But is a new genre name really all that necessary?

This is how Carmack describes "New Adult" fiction on her blog:

There could not be a better way to describe the turbulent years between adolescence and adulthood, that terrifying in-between. Whether you're at college or moving out on your own or working your first full time job-your life seems to change radically overnight. And yet for most people in that age group (18-25ish), you're still not completely on your own. Your parents are still a large part of your life. You're not a child anymore, but you're also not quite an adult. You may call yourself an adult (as will others), but deep down in side you are petrified because you don't feel like one.

...



Young Adult books are about surviving adolescence and coming of age. New Adult is about how to live your life after that. New Adult is the "I'm officially an adult, now what?" phase. 
 Just like growing up, that life stage is different for everyone, but I do think there are some things that are constant.

Carmack thinks we're only just now hearing the term "New Adult" because:

...the world is a very different place than it was when YA first became an accepted genre. It used to be that many people got jobs straight out of high school, and only some people went on to college. And usually those who did go to college were more financially and emotionally dependent. Now, it has become the norm to go to college, and for young adults to remain in contact or even dependent upon their parents for years after graduating high school. College is the new high school, and as such that "growing up" phase has been stretched to include a few extra awkward years.

Eh, this 25-year-old isn't buying that explanation. People have been writing about 18 to 25-year-olds forever, from The Sorrows of Young Werther to Girl Interrupted. Let's be honest: marketers need "New Adult" fiction — which really just means books about millennials, right? — to be a stand-alone genre, not readers. It reminds me of the term "teenager," which, crazy as it seems now, didn't even exist until the mid-20th century. Today, teenagers are a $200 billion consumer group. We've already commodified youth. Will marketers be able to commodify kinda-youth as successfully? They're certainly going to try.