New Adult is Not Necessarily Chick Lit

First, I want to say I received submissions from everyone (except Nicole Beattie for POE–please send when ready!) who won the St. Martin’s “New Adult” contest. Thank you for responding and I will try and get a head start on them over the holidays.

Second, I want to thank agent Kristin Nelson for her really kind comments about Boss and me. We try our best to impress, you know. :)

Third, I want to address an issue that seems to crop up a lot in discussions about New Adult: that it’s just chick lit and isn’t chick lit dead? Why try and revive a dead genre with a sexy new name?

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

I won’t deny that New Adult will absolutely encompass what is known as “chick lit”, but to say that will only encompass chick lit is too narrow. That’s like saying YA is only about high school. It is not. YA is about a certain time of life, when you are no longer a child but not quite an adult and one can write about this period of time through less literal genres like historical fiction or science-fiction and fantasy. Similarly, New Adult is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you).

Boss’s favourite example of something not contemporary we consider New Adult is GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier. Griet is a young woman who must serve as a maid in a rich household in order to support her parents. She finds a situation in the household of the artist Johannes Vermeer, cleaning his house by day, serving as his assistant by night. Griet finds herself in a relationship with her enigmatic master that is less than proper but no more than chaste, and must learn to navigate the complicated relationships with her master, his patrons, her mistress, her parents, and the handsome butcher’s son in the market.

Although Griet is young (she is 16), this is the story of a young woman in her first job away from home. She falls in love with her boss, must learn how to appease and fawn before her superiors–despite her greater intelligence–and stave off inappropriate advances from people in positions of power. Remove the historical element, and you’ll find a similar story in the works of many “chick lit” novels. And yet it is so much more than that.

I’m not much of a reader of “chick lit” myself–to date, I have only ever loved BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY by Helen Fielding. I find a lot of chick lit follows many romance novel conventions and while some people find the familiarity of the tropes comforting, I do not. But to each his/her own. Just as YA doesn’t necessarily have to reflect contemporary teenaged life, New Adult doesn’t necessarily have to be “chick lit”.

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3 Responses to New Adult is Not Necessarily Chick Lit

  1. Kristan 10 Dec 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Of course, New Adult doesn’t have to be about females either! :D

    (Psst, what is the guy version of “Chick Lit”? I can think of an obvious substitution for “chick” but it’s hardly appropriate enough to become a widespread term in a respected industry…)

    • JJ 10 Dec 2009 at 2:11 pm #

      …”Cock Lit”? ;) I’ve also heard “dick lit”. Nick Hornby is the writer I can think of off the top of my head, as well as Chuck Palahnuik.

  2. Laura Diamond 10 Dec 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    I must admit I really enjoyed The Snow Garden by Christopher Rice. It was about a group of college freshman navigating a world of deathly pleasures…or a garden of earthly delights. It depends on how you look at it. Either way, I think it encapsulates the idea of New Adult and though a main character is a girl, the other two MCs are guys.

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