In between my panicking that my MS isn’t actually the genre I say it is, and vlogging about such things too, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia page for New Adult fiction (turns out that Wikipedia lists it as ‘New-Adult’ with the hyphen), which I had been looking for at the beginning of my foray into understanding the genre.
Now, I don’t trust Wikipedia, but, for the same reason that it takes the knowledge of everyone across the world, I appreciate its simple opinion influenced by the readers more than the writers. Plebeian wisdom, one might remark.
One paragraph under the ‘themes and issues’ section of the page remarks that, whilst there is an overlap with YA themes such as bullying in NA (I’m looking at you, page one of manuscript), there are NA themes that are entirely separate from YA:
“Some common examples of issues include: first jobs, starting college, wedding engagements and marriage, starting new families, friendships post-high school, military enlistment, financial independence, living away from home for the first time, empowerment, loss of innocence, fear of failure.”
Wedding engagement and starting new families is at the core and stakes of my novel. I asked one Beta what she thought one of the themes was, and, instead of ‘love’ as I myself expected, she said ‘family and loyalty,’ which is, in fact, totally true of the book. Financial independence and living away from home for the first time – check, on both Aidelle and Phillip’s sides, but especially Phillip’s, since he protests that he doesn’t want to rely on his inheritance, but yet struggles to get away from it when Rion uses it as blackmail. I’m not going to tell you whether or not Phillip decides on financial independence at the end.
I’m also going to argue for ‘empowerment’ and ‘fear of failure’ as being checked off, too, this time from Aidelle’s perspective.
I don’t write powerful women. I believe that they have become an expected and overdone trope in writing, making them unrealistic of real life. I’m not a strong woman, nor, I bet, would many of my female friends say they were if I asked them. A lot of women are going to break down when they hear their pacifist fiancé is going to war instead of marrying (‘military enlistment’ – check). I can’t find the blog at the moment, but I recall to mind a blogger who argued that Bella’s depression when Edward leaves her is totally justified. I say that maybe it’s not compatible with how she’s acted before (or maybe it is. I hated Twilight from the start.), but it makes sense. Emotionally.
Some NA women are weak. Some can’t control their temper and do burst into tears at love’s loss (yes, I fall into this category). However, this doesn’t make them bad characters unless they’re badly written. For instance, over at the Notebook sisters blog, Mime talks about how Disney women are not the pink-dress-wearing damsels about which many complain. She points out that, although, in the first movies, the princesses needed men to rescue them, this didn’t make them weak. They had other qualities, as shared by most women, be they modern-day, Victorian, or a combination of the two in my alternate universe.
Yes, Aidelle is the younger of the MCs at 20, but, because of the nature of the class system in The Continent, she’s been sheltered by her middle-class parents, who want only for her to enter into a good marriage. She’s stubborn, but not strong. She agrees to meet the man who has chosen her for marriage – and little do either realise that their temperaments are a perfect match, even if Aidelle was Phillip’s ‘worst’ wife-card out of his second Selection.
Aidelle says she’d rather not marry – and, yet, as soon as she falls for Phillip, she wants to be his bride. So much so, that one might call her a flighty fawner when we meet her in chapter one.
“Oh, to be wed at the age of twenty!”
At that point in time, failure for Aidelle is the failure to achieve her biggest dream of being Mrs. Costello. I don’t think Aidelle was ever afraid of being a failure to conform to her family’s ideals, even if she did agree to them. Sometimes, one has to say yes to the demands and protestations of family.
One of the arcs I hope is clear in the novel is that Aidelle has got to learn to separate her desires from her fear of failure, to learn empowerment as her own, unique person, rather than being a) the daughter of an Oil Physicist or b) Phillip’s wife. Pretty much her only options in 2010. Through meeting and experiencing the future in the character of Zara (who, whilst not entirely at the dreadful level of real-life feminism, lives in a more balanced society), Aidelle must realise that she has more to herself than what she looks like or who she aspires to be in mente.
Her current self, regardless of weaknesses, should be a state of empowerment. Full stop.
Moving topic, I was day-dreaming about Pride and Prejudice’s take on the way the absence of love can physically affect the body (as a Philosophical Psychologist would, right? :P) and it occurred to me that Lizzy is, after all,
23 at the beginning of the novel Just looked this up, and she’s actually 20. My MC is the same age as Lizzy Bennett and she shares her regency attitude and overbearing girls-must-marry mother (and her loss of love…), though maybe not so much her wit or patience!
*cough* Anyway, I was about to remark that, along with many classical books, one could consider Pride and Prejudice as being New Adult because of the age-range of the sisters, the ideas of friendship within society and that of independence versus the requirement of a husband for success.
Lastly, I do not believe NA is a marketing scheme. Many of us had been writing NA for years before it became a ‘thing’. I was 5 years younger than Aidelle and Lizzy when I started writing, but it’s taken me a good three years to understand that their story/ies are not YA, even if the themes of moving out and moving on may be like those ideas of YA. When I queried when my MS wasn’t ready, I didn’t know about NA so I queried as YA – though, in my heart, I knew it didn’t fit.
Whilst some NA has been recognised by the industry now, I still argue that it needs more attention and importance as a category. Its themes are difficult to really encapsulate in YA and some degrees of adult fiction. The biggest problem, however, is the subjectivity, and I suspect it will be this way for a while.