If you’re even vaguely interested in books and reading, you’ve probably heard of the young adult genre. It’s booming at the moment, thanks to blockbuster bestsellers like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Fault in our Stars.
But there’s another genre that’s less known—one that many teens have discovered as well: new adult. Here’s a fact: teens tend to ‘read up’—all kids do actually. It means that they tend to read one age ‘level’ higher than they are themselves. Middle school kids love high school books, high school kids love books about young adults. That means that teens don’t just read young adult books (which are technically aimed at them), but also new adult.
Now here’s the thing. New adult books are aimed at an 18+ audience. That’s because they feature ‘mature content’, meaning language, sex, and violence. The whole genre is about more realistic fiction and let’s face it: many young adults do swear, drink, have sex, etc.
Most young adult books will have some mature content. The Fault in Our Stars for instance has some swearing and some sex. But it’s not described in detail—which it often is in new adult.
Let me give you an example. A popular author of young adult books is Jessica Sorensen. She writes gritty, realistic new adult fiction about young people who are damaged, trying to find their way in life. It appeals to many readers because they recognize themselves in these stories. Another example is Katie McGarry, who is also hugely popular.
I’ve read books from both authors and they’re good. I can understand why teens love these books, because they show ‘real life’. They’re about abuse, rape, drinking, violence, etc. Of course I have an issue with the language and the sex and other mature content, but I can see why these books appeal to teens.
What’s the message here then? First of all, I think that many Christian (young adult) books are too safe, predictable and unrealistic for teens. They’re looking for real life characters, not perfect girls whose biggest issue is whether or not to drink at a party. If Christian teens can’t find realistic Christian fiction that offers that, they will turn to new adult books and the like.
Secondly, it’s something to talk about with teens. If you see your students read new adult (and it’s not always that easy to separate young adult from new adult by the way), start a conversation about this. Why do they read these books? What appeals to them?
Thirdly, let’s not be hypocrites here. It’s easy to condemn new adult books, while at the same time loving series like Game of Thrones. We can kid ourselves that those are aimed at adults, but that doesn’t make their content any more Christian, now does it? Let’s be careful to not point out splinters and forget about that huge log…