Nature abhors a vacuum. Cliché but, like the best clichés, it’s undeniably true. For the past few years, the young adult market has been expanding at a prodigious rate. The shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with stories dealing with everything from misunderstood vampire boyfriends to drug abuse.
There’s just one catch: young adult books seem to top out at age eighteen. Write a character out of high school and you find yourself in a strange no-man’s land. Your themes, pacing and general “feel” might be similar to those found in YA but no one seems to know how or where to place your book. With Twilight readers getting older and more adults reading YA, it’s logical that there should be a demand for slightly older characters. It’s just that no one seems to be filling it.
Those of us with characters in their late teens and early twenties have been left with an awful question: Do we try change the age of our characters (changing college settings to high school if need be) or do we simply cross our fingers and hope for the best?
The latest endeavor from St. Martin’s Press—the notion of a new category called “New Adult” * has had some of us anxiously watching and waiting over the past few months. (Actually, we held hands and skipped in circles crying “POSSIBLE SALVATION”; we’re not exactly a subtle bunch.)
The road ahead for those of us with 18+ year-old protagonists is still long (and still seems to be slopping slightly uphill) but it is a much more exciting journey than it was just a few months ago. Why? Because people are actually paying attention to the gap in a way that they weren’t a year ago.
We’re still veering off the map but if the endeavor for SMP pays off, it may serve as a reminder that taking the road less traveled isn’t always a bad thing.
* Please note that there isn’t currently a “New Adult” category (outside of SMP). If you query, you’re better off sticking to established categories.
Disclaimer: A version of this post appeared on Kathleen’s blog on November 11, 2009.
Reposted on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Kathleen. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.