I was composing a tweet about the fact that Thank You, Mrs. M is on sale at Amazon (I haven’t checked to see if it’s anywhere else) and I wasn’t sure how to describe it, since it’s kind of an unusual book. Then it hit me — the main character is newly in college, of course it’s New Adult. There are some other familiar elements in there too — a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks and a millionaire — just not in the roles we’re used to seeing them. The fact that it’s really nothing like most of the other books labeled New Adult is a feature, not a bug.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is another great New Adult book that probably never winds up on the New Adult lists.
Both are the kind of books I would have sold a limb to find when I was a new adult myself, and failing miserably at transitioning to adult books. I would never, ever have read what’s published now as New Adult. Which is why I tend to buy the argument that New Adult, despite its resemblance to Young Adult, is intended to describe a subgenre rather than appropriateness for an age group. (I’m not saying that less easily embarrassed young adults shouldn’t read them if they want to… and that just drives home how fakakta the whole naming system is, as evidenced by the fact that “young adults” are really 18-22 ish and Young Adult books are for ages 12-18.)
But if that subgenre is essentially coming of age stories, which is what the subgenre proponents argue, there is so much room for more interesting stories than what we’re seeing now. And there are plenty of terrific existing stories that could come under the umbrella. Maybe the way to make that happen is to name them. New Adult. It’s not just for virgins and billionaires any more.