And that feeling of 'wow, this isn't for me' has carried on. There are, of course, exceptions. I absolutely adore Easy by Tammara Webber. I recently read Deeper by Robin York and really loved it. I enjoyed Denise Grover Swank's Off the Subject books. I really enjoyed Jessica Park's Flat Out Love and also some of Samantha Young's books (though they felt like adult romance as opposed to NA)
And based on the many, many New Adult books I've read over the past year or so, here are some of my thoughts. (To give you some context of my New Adult reading experience: out of the top 200 NA books on this list, I've read 53)
I don't think it's necessary as a genre
I really can't see the point of it as another genre. A lot of people argue about this time period of 18-23 as pivotal and that both YA and adult fiction isn't giving this age group enough exposure. Or whatever. And I don't agree at all. Which is partly why I've now seen books by authors like Katie McGarry and Gayle Forman trying to be included under a New Adult label even though (as far as I'm aware) they've only ever been marketed as young adult books. YA has always had a wide range of books aimed at a younger teen audience and an older teen audience and they've always covered more mature topics. And while I don't know very much about adult fiction, I'd think it would be similar. There are some great adult fiction writers who are writing for the 20-something reader. Like Sarra Manning.
As I'm reading New Adult books, I've never thought to myself 'wow, yes. This IS what we've been missing, these books that discuss what it means to live independently, or go off to university and cope with different changes or what it's like to apply for that first serious job' Because so many New Adult books aren't doing this. We might get a university setting but instead of focusing on the real life issues that do come up around this time period, we're instead seeing a great deal of sex and relationships. I'd really like to see less of this. Everyone who is a fan of New Adult fiction cries out on a regular basis that NA isn't YA + sex, but it's hard to make this argument successfully when there are so few exceptions.
I think there are far too many unhealthy relationships
There are far too many relationships in these books in which (usually) the male partner is controlling or there is some instance of a power imbalance. Of one person being in awe of the other person's appearance, wealth, power, charm, or whatever leaving one person in this 'relationship' with a feeling of inferiority that the other person can (and does) take advantage of. There also seems to be fairly common for the relationship to consume the main characters entirely. So while (sometimes) there is an interesting university setting or friendships that a reader might care about towards the beginning of the book once the ball gets rolling on a relationship, that seems to be the end of everything else. And it certainly isn't healthy at all for one person to become anyone's centre of the universe for which everything revolves. Let the main characters maintain their own sense of identity and independence, please.
I think there are far too many instances of gratuitous sex
I'm no prude. Sexytimes in books are welcome occasions ... up to a certain point. As long as there is something else to a story other than the sex. I don't want to read any more books in which the entire story line or set-up is in place in order to showcase the passion and heat and sex between two people. It gets nauseating.
I think many new adult novels show a skewed view of what it means to be a man or a woman
One of my biggest peeves when reading ANY sort of novel are the ideas that men have to act a certain way and women have to act another. I see too often NA books that continue to push these stereotypes. In particular the idea that men have to be macho and 'manly' and fight for a women's honour and so on. One popular NA book I read recently had the male main character and love interest immediately get a job as a mechanic and some 'manly' tattoos in order to balance out this hit his masculinity took after he did some modelling gigs. I nearly rolled my eyes out of my head.
There is also a great deal of slut-shaming going on and virgin-shaming by both men and women. I don't appreciate that some authors think that this is acceptable behaviour from their characters whatever gender they identify as. So many NA books I've read find it acceptable for the female characters to call other women 'whores' and 'sluts' and be really mean about other women's sexual preferences or clothing. And in a lot of cases this is (possibly) put into the narrative in order to highlight the 'perfection' or 'goodness' of the main character. But really? Tearing other women down in order to make your main character look 'good'? I don't see it that way.
I'm seeing far too many storylines that rely on an experienced man who is in a relationship with a virgin
This is a story line that I've come across far too frequently when I'm reading New Adult books. I'd like to ask the question, who is enjoying this story line, really? Who are the readers that are enjoying this chain of events? The thought of it really makes me queasy. It seems to continue these outdated ideas about women and sexuality. Why shouldn't women have sexual partners? Why shouldn't they have had and enjoyed sex before now?
And really, first time sex is something I would normally expect to come across in a YA novel as opposed to something supposedly more mature. Obviously with an older character and a NA label an author could get away with making it more explicit and racier, but why? And it goes back to the idea of giving a false sense of (first) sexual experiences. Too many of these first-time experiences are amazing and multi-orgasmic, I'm assuming because of the (ick!) great experience of the male partner but that's hardly realistic, isn't it? (I think it's gross.)
Too many New Adult books make light of serious topics
I've left this point to the last but really it is the thing I like the least about the New Adult books that I've read. I find it really abhorrent that so many New Adult books are using serious topics (like rape, attempted rape or childhood physical or sexual abuse) and they're using these topics that should be treated with understanding and compassion and instead these are the roadblocks in a relationship, or these are things that cause tension or drama or cliffhangers. And I hate how much detail is gone into exploring the trauma of these events on a character. Why is that even necessary? We don't need to hear every single gory detail. Rape and abuse victims should never be used for their supposed entertainment value.
What do you think of New Adult books?