~
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!


Post a Comment

  1. Nice and thought provoking! Well done. :D

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I was afraid the zombie apocalypse had happened while I slept last night and everyone had been eaten. :-P

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  2. Yes, the consequences are more serious. Instead of getting in trouble with your parents for malicious mischief, you could get arrested without your parents around to post bail. Instead of not getting invited to the cool parties, being on the outs with the in people at work could get you fired with the rent due. And if the New Adults are in the military, a whole world of hurt could come down.

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    1. Exactly! It's not just a matter of saving the world, etc., there's an adult burden of consequences for your actions that most teens don't yet have to face. Thanks for your comment, Mark!

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  3. Great point EJ! And I love the idea of exploring HP darker NA world. I think this is why I'm so much more suited for NA--I love those risks and real life consequences.

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    1. Thanks, PK! I really think the last HP book was NA. She kept a few things PG that would have probably gotten a little more "complex" as an NA story (Hermione and Ron sharing a tent with no adult supervision in a situation full of danger/excitement--I'd think some heavy petting might occur at the very least LOL). But overall, the series shifted seamlessly from MG to YA to NA. I think we all know JK was the real wizard. :)

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  4. I would love to see some of the YA novels updated with more adult themes. I loved your example!

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    1. Me, too! So many YA stories would really look and feel different with things aged up a notch. It's a fun exercise if nothing else.

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  5. Great article, EJ. Sorry to be so slow in getting here.

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    1. Hey there! I'm slow at everything lately, so no judgement here.:)

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