What’s Wrong with New Adult Romance?

I am a huge fan of young adult fiction. Therefore, that implies I am a huge New Adult fan too, right? Well…no not exactly. New Adult is part of that murky grey area which falls between young adult fiction and adult fiction, much the same way young adult fiction is close to middle grade but not exactly it. New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. Supposedly, it’s meant to be an ‘older’ YA ( I’d rather the world not insult YA with such a label).

New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

When it’s put like that, New Adult doesn’t actually sound bad. Actually, it sounds pretty good. It sounds like a coming of age tale, a figuring out of what you want to do with your life kind of story. Unfortunately, though that may be the intent- in practice it doesn’t often work out that way.

New Adult focuses extensively on love romance sex. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sex or embracing your sexuality or even exploring your sexuality, but I’m not exactly comfortable reading a book about sex and only sex. I’ve gotten to reading books about romance (yes, I even enjoy them) and I’ve come to understand that sex is often a part of them but I really, really dislike it when the sex is written really explicitly. If I do come across an explicit description of the act, I usually skip past it. This works well with YA books and even adult fiction because they usually have a plot that’s not dependent on long, detailed descriptions of what happens in bed (or in the shower, or the kitchen table, or the…I think you get the point). However, most new adult romances can’t claim that. A lot of people are blaming this new phenomenon  on the hugely popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L James (which I never plan to read, by the way). But we can’t completely blame this annoying PWP (porn without plot) on a single book.

Most New Adult romance books don’t deserve to have the title ‘romance’ in them. The romance in these books is sometimes so unhealthy, it’s almost funny. Sorry, that came out wrong; Unhealthy relationships are never funny- never. BUT what’s somewhat funny/awkward/annoying/sad is that people start idealizing these messed up relationships and the twisted characters in these relationships, saying they want those relationships too. But it won’t be funny anymore when people start emulating these relationships because these relationships are seriously twisted.
They often feature guys chasing girls who constantly refuse their attentions. But of course, the guys don’t listen and continue pursuing her, forcefully kissing her and afterwards saying something like ‘You know you wanted that.’ or ‘See, you liked that didn’t you?’. People, that is horrendous on so many levels. When a girl says no, she means it. She doesn’t mean ‘Oh! Go ahead and continue molesting me.’ That’s not sexy at all; that’s rape.
Another thing which isn’t sexy but is really creepy, is jealousy and all the things that come with it. Girls should be allowed to have other guy friends and guys are allowed to have other female friends without the say-so of their significant other. In real life, jealousy is not attractive- it’s painful, embarrassing and makes it tough to combine your social life with your love life (thus wasting time). Things which come with it include guys saying stuff like ‘You can’t wear that’. (Beautiful Disaster) ‘That’s too revealing.’ Girls, we’ve all complained when our dad’s don’t let us wear what we want. Why would we consider it romantic if a boyfriend did the same thing?
When the guys on the cover are all hot, shirtless and tattooed- it’s probably a NA book. And looking good may let you get away with a lot, but that’s not really a healthy message to spread. If you’re like me and want even your fiction reading to feature healthy relationships- a good test to keep in mind would be if someone clinically bad-looking did this, would you let them get away with it? Or would you scream bloody murder- or worse- rape?

Another thing that’s really distinctive about this genre is  the dramatic, soap-opera like plots, and  broken characters with “issues” ranging from history of abuse, anger management issues, and troubled family lives. Apparently their ‘issues’ give them a free pass when dealing with life. It allows them to be petty and insecure, it allows them to fake everything about themselves and it allows them to treat their significant others really badly. And anyone who disagrees with that is just plain unsympathetic and uncaring. An example of such a book would be Lovely Vicious where the fact that the protagonists were sexually abused allows them to play humiliating, childish pranks on each other.

These things are all pretty common across the genre. In fact it’s so bad that now, even when I like the author, I’m not able to read any of their books if they write a new adult book. When it comes to books, I’m so optimistic about authors I like, I give them the benefit of doubt and read their books even when I know it’s a NA book. And each time I do that, I set myself up for disappointment and disgust.  Considering the fact that a lot of YA authors are now dabbling in NA (and vice versa) this affects me a lot more than you would actually think. I’ve liked a couple of J. L Armentrout books (like Stone Cold Touch) but when she writes under her New Adult pseudonym as J Lynn, I’m not able to stomach her books. The same goes for Ann Aguirre and Sophie Jordan.