What the Heck is A “New Adult”?

Humble reader, you may or may not know that we at the library spend much of our time thinking about you. Who are you, and what do you want? What can we do for individuals and the community at large to engage absolutely everyone in literacy and learning?  As we think about and research these things, we have, as you might imagine, the tendency to start to categorize you.  We can’t help it, the stereotype that insists librarians love to classify isn’t entirely off-base. Seniors, teens, families, kids, gardeners, sports fans, pet owners, video gamers, crafters, comics readers, romance readers, there are so many ways to look at you! While too much box-shoving-into can be trouble, just the right amount of study helps us work to offer the best possible library to everyone.

Other industries are also thinking about and categorizing you, including the book publishing industry.  They seem to be always on the lookout for the next potential genre or demographic.  And perhaps because my library career path had gone as follows: adult/teen librarian, then teen librarian, then adult librarian, I’ve been sent not one, not two, but three articles over the past week about “new adults.”  This term is arguably new, and has been all the buzz lately in book publishing and library services blogs.

Photo courtesy of UK Parliament.

So what the heck is a new adult? The age range has been defined as narrowly as 18-23, and as broadly as 14-35.  Journalists, bloggers and marketers have grouped these folks together by assuming some sometimes similar, sometimes disparate things like: they are more likely to live with their parents, they are struggling to find their place in the world, this age group/generation has it harder than the generation before them, they grew up on Harry Potter, and, on another note entirely, they want to read books  that are similar to teen fiction but with more sex and violence.  Hmmm.

Some of the titles I’ve read about lately that have defined as new adult or of interest to new adults:

http://www.syndetics.com/index.aspx?isbn=9781250002402/LC.JPG&client=einet&type=hw7   http://www.syndetics.com/index.aspx?isbn=9781469220475/LC.JPG&client=einet&type=hw7

http://www.syndetics.com/index.aspx?isbn=9780374129989/LC.JPG&client=einet&type=hw7 http://www.syndetics.com/index.aspx?isbn=9781476712048/LC.JPG&client=einet&type=hw7

What do you think, humble reader?  Are these fiction niche books part of sub-genre?  Do new adults really exist as a somewhat homogenous group?

At the library, we have been thinking about this age group, at least in terms of events offered, and have planned some programming to attract those folks too old for teen programs but not quite ready or willing to attend the more traditional “adult” programming.  (See my career trajectory above.) The Den at the Main Library is just such a program.  Activities offered include video games, board games, and easy crafts, presented in a low key, conversational atmosphere. We had a trial run last fall and will start up again in February.  So I hope to see all new adults, however you define yourself, there!

Holly

5 Comments

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5 responses to “What the Heck is A “New Adult”?

  1. speaking as a “new adult” myself at 23 i’d tend to see this more as a generation shift than anything else. perhaps it’s not so much that there is a new age group out there but, rather, that the newly emerging adult population is simply Generation Y or the Millenials (we’ve been called a few things so far). just my take! and i also agree that your book suggestions are great for this emerging population of readers! i am a fan of franzen’s “freedom” myself and j.k.rowling’s “casual vacancy” is holding my attention thus far (harry potter fan turned adult, i suppose!)

  2. It sounds like the industry giving a name to something that was always there: generations of people. There have always been books that appealed more to one generation or age group than another. And there will always be people who don’t fit into those bubbles. New name, old group.

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  4. Tim

    I’ve been using the term “new adult” probably twice a month for the past six months or so just because it’s such a buzz word and I feel hip using it. “Oh, I believe it’s… ‘…new … adult…’

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