So…where is it?
|No NA over here, no NA over there...|
A lot of major publishers are uninterested in pursuing NA as an age category because they see it as a category without a reading base, and I get it, sort of. YA is incredibly lucrative, and it has readers of all ages (my own grandmother often read the same book that I was reading, or would suggest books for me, when I was in high school). Because of YA’s proven profitability, NA characters will often get “aged down” to YA with a simple find-replace in the manuscript. Bada-bing, bada-boom, YA-ified, Make Me Some Money.
The thing is, this ridiculous practice is as transparent as having 25-year-old actresses play high school students in movies (looking at you, Mean Girls). No high school junior looks like Rachel McAdams – and no 15-year-old acts like a 25-year-old, either. Believe me, I remember being 15, as much as I would like to forget how much of a dork I was. It’s misleading and irresponsible to age down characters who very much act like adults and pretend that they’re just “mature” teenagers. It’s an extraordinarily short-sighted move that’s pushing YA readers out of their own space.
|My face when I read YA high school students acting like my graduate school buddies.|
The other issue with this belief from publishers is that…ya know, people between the ages of 18 and 25 do, in fact, exist. I am one of them (gasp!), and as far as I can tell, I am very much alive and interested in reading books. Every time I head to the library to find something new to read, I’m faced with a dilemma: Should I head to the teen section and grab a book with a protagonist almost ten years younger than me and whose main concern is what they’re going to wear to prom, or should I go to the adult section and read something about a 35-year-old woman who’s struggling to take care of her aging parents in the wake of her messy divorce?
(Yeah, I know that’s not all there is to YA or A, but bear with me here.)
As someone in the NA age range, it’s frustrating. I want to read about other people going through the same struggles as me. It’s the same problem I had when I was growing up, never seeing LGBT characters in the literature written for my age. I thought we were past this already. The NA books that exist are 90% romance, mostly due to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, with some Sarah J. Maas thrown in because she has the reading base to be able to properly categorize her books. I want NA fantasy, NA mystery, NA thrillers. NA deserves its place on bookshelves because the reading base exists, the people who want these books exist, and I know the people writing these books exist.
NA writers and readers are a people without a genre. If you’re a NA writer, don’t give up. Fight for your manuscript and for the readers who want it. If you’re a reader, support your writing friends. I sincerely hope that this is something we can look back on and laugh about in the future, because the current lack of NA is truly sad and a loss for writers and readers as a whole.