A small group of twenty-year-old, world-hardened wizards. They've seen their friends, family, and beloved former school destroyed by a regime of evil. Now, they've struck out on their own to wage a guerrilla war on the dark forces who took all they held dear from them.
Kill or be killed.
Leave nothing but ashes for the enemy to collect in your wake.
These are the fundamental philosophies that govern them now. Indeed, they've strayed a long a way from the teachings of their old headmaster. They are no longer agents of light in a dark world, they are instruments destruction.
Once regarded as heroes, they are now branded as terrorists. They are the haunted shadows that send children scurrying indoors on moonless nights. They are the whispered names slipping from the mouths of frightened townsfolk.
Fear, not love, is the seed they plant in the hearts of others, all in hopes of someday tipping the scales back in their favor. Only then will they have the revenge they seek.
That was, of course, a play off of the beloved Harry Potter series. If you're a fan of those books (as I am), it's not hard to imagine how that world might have changed or evolved had things not gone Harry's way. In fact, the grim picture I painted above wasn't too far from becoming a reality.
The fact we can take such imaginative leaps so easily is a testament to the lush world author J.K. Rowling created. Simple concepts of courage and love were used to build a profoundly deep story experience.
Yes, woven in were more mature themes, like that of redemption, death, and the perils of political power unchecked. But ultimately, unbreakable friendships won the day. Therein also lies the distinction between Harry Potter being a YA tale instead of NA.
We're fond of saying here at the Alley: If young adult fiction is like walking a tightrope, new adult is akin to walking that same tightrope with the safety nets removed. The individual stakes are higher, the consequences for action--or inaction--more dire.
In NA, getting fired doesn't mean facing the wrath of the parents, it means not eating and losing your car. You don't get a lecture or detention for ditching too many classes, you fail your midterm and lose your scholarship. The pregnancy scares become pregnancies, and you buy your own condoms instead of stealing them out of dad's sock drawer.
The characters in NA aren't so much wrestling with the notion of who they will become, but rather reckoning with who they are. They are adults, experiencing adult pleasures and pains--often for the very first time. Yet, they aren't so far removed from youth to not fall into the traps of innocence, nor are they so far along into adulthood to be without hope and defiance.
Writers are beginning to imagine how their young adult story ideas might translate to new adult. And many authors are considering 'aging up' their existing YA work for the NA market. Readers are also curious, as evidenced by the volume of fan fiction that exists. All of which makes a lot of sense.
Sadly, we don't stay the same age forever and neither do our readers. So staying relevant for the ever changing age and maturity level of the readership is a good thing. However, just as in real life, the step from young adulthood to new adulthood in fiction is a subtle one.
In the example I gave above, there's a tonal shift. Not that all NA has to be 'darker' or grittier than the comparable YA genre, but it definitely goes beyond adding a few detailed sex scenes.
One thing that helps me conceptualize the shift is doing exercises like the introductory piece I did for this post. I take my favorite YA stories and put them in a NA world.
Katniss isn't learning how to become the Mockingjay, she is the Mockingjay. Soldiers die or live every day under her command, she no longer has the luxury of making up her mind. Bella Swan isn't waiting until her 18th birthday to become a vampire, she is one--now she's the one doing the seducing.
What are your favorite YA books? Can you imagine them as NA? How would you alter the narratives to make them so? Do you think it would be as compelling? Let us know in the comments!