When I was in college and shortly after, there was something I desperately needed. Books that represented my life. I yearned for books that had main characters that were my age and who were going through similar situations. I also looked to books to see how others my age were exploring their new-found freedom. How they were navigating the decisions that seemed so hard to make.
When I realized that there weren't many that existed - I was determined to write one of my own. It just happened to come right before the whole "New Adult" category craze. This category promised to be so much of what I was looking for. What I needed. And what so many other readers wanted. It promised to feature characters of "New Adult" age - 18ish to 25. It promised to touch on so many of the life choices a new adult has to face during that age range.
But then something weird happened (and to be honest, it was mostly due to the evolution happening in self-publishing) - the category seemed to shift radically from all of the above things to one thing: sex.
Now don't get me wrong - sex and finding your sexuality and exploring sexual relationships is a HUGE part of being a "new adult." But let's be honest here (I mean, REALLY honest), it's not ALL of what being that age is about. All of a sudden, the category I so desperatedly needed and wanted was tainted by sex, sex, and more sex. And there exceptions, for sure. And even some of those books that were sex, sex, sex were very good. But the truth remains: New Adult was doomed before it ever got off the ground. It was ruined with sex and angst and gave readers a very clear definition of the category so that when someone didn't write a sexy, angsty book with characters that age - it wasn't deemed a "New Adult" it was deemed another category featuring protagonists of that age. Which is a huge shame. And it leads to my next point.
The whole yearning and desire for relatable books with characters my age hasn't gone away. It's increased and per the usual, there are very few book out there to satiate my desire. Why? I don't know. Let's look at the facts here for a second.
There are Middle Grade books for Middle Grade age range (8-12) and they often explore themes/topics/issues that happen at that age.
There are Young Adult books for Young Adults (13-18) and they often explore themes/topics/issues that happen at that age.
In Adult books - it's very tricky because you can have a book that is definitely FOR an adult, with adult themes but features a young adult protagonist. There are many, many books out there with protagonists who are my age - but they NEVER deal with much of what I'm going through. They focus on a bit older topics/themes or the book is focused on plot centered issues.
Let me give you an example. At any one time - there are thousands of books about marriage, divorce, infertility, grief, cheating, etc. And those are great topics and many are great books. But what about this:
Where are the books about young women in a generation where marriage and babies CAN be less important than the career they are passionate about? What about when the time comes when society is telling that young woman that she is a selfish person for putting her desires ahead of what society thinks she should do?
Where are the books about couples who are starting their lives on a shoestring budget because they're both paying off student loans and can't seem to find jobs in their designated career fields and feel as if they are failures? About the blossoming adults that feel betrayed on the broken promises left by the previous generation.
What about the young man who busted his ass in college to get a degree he and his parents are proud of - just to end up living in their basement because the job market is impossible?
You may see those topics and think, "whoa, how boring is that?!" and maybe that's why people haven't been more forthcoming in writing them. But I don't find them boring. They are what some of us are living through every day. Why do all other age categories get to be explored and not this one little gap of time?
I realize that there are exceptions. There ALWAYS are. So for those that ARE writing about this age range and the topics and themes - I commend you.
But the truth of the publishing industry is this: it's not so much defined by what the authors are writing -- but by what the readers are buying. What they're asking for. Craving. It's true that authors that stand up and write what they believe in make a difference, but when authors, publishers and agents see what the readers are buying -- they will shift the market that way. So this is to say that a reader's voice MATTERS more than you think and when you start to talk loud enough - people start to listen. I encourage anyone who has passion for this age range and this category to raise your voice. Ask for what you want to read. WRITE what you want to read and put it out there. Champion it voraciously. Speak your mind. Support the limited authors who are writing FOR you.
Just like any great zombie apocalypse -- nothing dead has to STAY that way ;)