Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Adult...Not So New?


After the phenomenal success of indie books marketed as “New Adult,” Random House recently launched a New Adult line as part of their ebook-only program…so apparently that means New Adult is now a “real thing.”  Some people hate this new category and consider it unnecessary, some people love it…personally, I’m less concerned about what categories books fit into and more concerned with whether they’re good books!  That said, I AM hoping to write a New Adult myself, and I’m reading and looking into a bunch of them as research…and I’ve started thinking about how many older books, marketed as YA or adult literature, would fit into this category.  So I decided to start this little blog feature…
NEW ADULT…NOT SO NEW?

'And for my first “old” new adult book, I’m featuring a classic that might make you scratch your head at first, but when you think about it, this book is a nearly perfect fit in NA!  And that book is…


Yup, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, first published in 1963--and I intentionally chose an older-looking cover.  In this book, Esther Greenwood (a stand-in for Plath herself) struggles with the feeling she just doesn’t fit in at college or at her prestigious NYC internship.  Some of the gender issues Esther deals with are outdated (not all of them, though!), but Esther’s struggle to find her place on the threshold of adulthood is very relevant to today.  And like most of today’s popular NA books, The Bell Jar is stuffed full of angst.  Esther has tragedy in her childhood, with a dead father and emotionally withdrawn mother; her ex-boyfriend cheated on her and is generally an insufferable jerk; during the course of the novel, she becomes clinically depressed, attempts suicide, and ends up in a mental hospital.  As in most modern NA models, The Bell Jar has SEX! and ALCOHOL! to a greater extent than your average YA.

And if you’re still not convinced The Bell Jar is NA, look at what Harper & Row had to say about the manuscript when they rejected it: “disappointing, juvenile, and overwrought.”  Sounds like exactly the kind of criticism a more “literary” finger might point at today’s NA best-sellers.  And Plath’s alternate titles for the novel?  Diary of a Suicide and The Girl in the Mirror.  Now I might just have to steal one of those for my own NA novel…

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