Pissed off rant time again, only this time, I haven’t been drinking anything stronger than Donut Shoppe blend coffee. I promise.
When the New Adult genre emerged, I was incredibly excited about it. Let me back up and tell you my issue that led me to love New Adult:
Twilight was stupid.
It wasn’t the sparkly vampires, which I actually thought was a pretty interesting take on the done-to-death legends about vampires coming out in the sun. It wasn’t the werewolf love triangle, since once again, the author’s expression of werewolves being a genetic trait passed down to the members of this tribe as a mechanism to defend people from vampires was pretty interesting and again, not done to death. And even though I was highly offended by the dumb-assed, gravity challenged, weakling of a girl as the main character, hey…she’s not the first dumb-assed weakling girl main character in literary history.
No, where I felt completely ripped off and lied to as a reader was the absolute refusal on the part of the author to address basic, normal sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I was waiting with my hands clutching the pages of the book, dying to be transported to an orgasmic land of fantasy while reading about Edward and Bella getting it on. No, it was the firm insistence in the series that Edward–the 109-year-old vampire who admittedly went through a rebellious few decades in which he feasted on human blood despite his creator’s doctrine of only drinking animals–HAD NEVER HAD SEX.
I’m gonna call bullshit on that one.
I’m sorry. He’s 109 years old. He’s drop dead gorgeous. He’s a murderer. And he’s never had sex. Not even during those years when he lived with the three hottie-and-promiscuous succubus women vampires. And his reason? He’d never met a woman who turned him on, until he met Bella, of course. Then, once they declare their undying love for each other, he still won’t have sex with her (even though she tries to undress him several times) because he’s saving himself for marriage. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
The author didn’t want to bring it up, so the best way to handle the sex scenes is to make up some really stupid reason as to why they weren’t any. The readers–besides being denied the romantic element–were judgmentally lied to. I always had to wonder how this book affected the die-hard fans who WERE outright sexually active at an inappropriate age. Did they feel cheated by the book, or worse, did they feel like the author was judging them, too?
The response by many YA authors was to evolve into what was dubbed the New Adult genre. These books feature teens and college-aged students in real world situations. Originally, the books may or may not have even included graphic depictions of sexual situations, but there would have been the knowledge that these characters were behaving like real-life people and that statistically speaking, at least some of them were having sex.
NOW for the pissed off part: Authors and publishers have completely hijacked the New Adult genre and turned it into the red-cover Harlequin of the teen world. If it doesn’t have sweaty, panting young people, we don’t want it.
Really? Why does it always have to be sex (says the woman who only paragraphs ago was bitching about the lack of sex in Twilight)? I’ve read some awesome titles that were part of the original books to be given that label. One in particular featured the near rape of a freshman on a college campus, and it was incredible. It was New Adult and not YA simply because we read a play-by-play of the attacker forcing her back into her car, pinning her body beneath his as he ripped at her skirt and got her panties off, and then the hysteria she succumbs to when a passerby saves her. THAT is a very serious, very real situation that far too many young women find themselves in, and the author handled it brilliantly.
No, I would not buy that book for my thirteen-year-old, which is why it is New Adult and not YA. But now, if it’s not teens ripping their clothes off, then it barely gets the New Adult tag at the end. Why are we so desperate to read about underaged children having sex? The New Adult genre has been turned from a realistic portrayal of characters’ lives into Erotica-R-Us. I feel like the Dateline “To Catch a Predator” team is monitoring my computer use every time I search for a book on Amazon. Basically, I went from feeling judged and ripped off, to feeling dirty, all because publishers know that sex sells, even when we’re talking about kids too young to rent a car.
As authors, we can bring the New Adult genre back to its originally intended function, which was to entertain readers while still acknowledging that teens have a reality, too. The stories about the characters can be compelling, and even sexy…but they are a lot deeper than that.