Thursday, May 5, 2011

TNC (2): Crossover Books a New Genre for College-age Kids?

There's a serious lack of books that are meant for college kids.  Why is that?  I read somewhere that they believe that there isn't a market for college kids because they have to read so much for class anyways that they won't read other books.  That... is a bullshit excuse.  I read...all the time.  I have seen plenty of book bloggers also in college.  Yeah, we're not the majority, but I can tell you that if I've read a really good book, I recommend it to my friends, and my friends put aside their work to read it too.  College kids love to procrastinate.  Give them a good reason to and they will.  (Just like everybody else, right?)

I searched on amazon to see what kind of books had been published about college.  More than half were about sex--people sharing their experiences from freshman year, their first time, etc.  And a lot of the others were how-to guides.  That's not the whole college experience... But the only other non-sex or how-to oriented book I've come across about college is Lev Grossman's The Magicians; I bought it immediately.

People also say that college kids can find what they want in either YA or Adult novels.  YA novels tend to focus on characters who don't really know who they are yet.  Adult novels seem to focus on the types of choices the characters have to make.  Neither exactly fits college students.

So I came up with a theory--that crossover books will become a new genre geared towards the absence of books for college students.  Why?  Here are my reasons:

By definition, crossover books are those which bridge the gap between YA and adult novels; that is to say, they are YA novels that also attract an adult audience.  And what better way to reach college students than to bridge that gap?  Technically college students are adults so they do fit within that definition.  But then that also means that college students fit more within adult-oriented things than YA, which is not necessarily true and depends on the person.

I think a great example of a crossover book is Matched by Ally Condie.  I could see the message of this dystopian society passing every age boundary, and I can especially see college students enjoying this novel.  We're free to make our choices and challenge ourselves, and this society erases that notion, makes us look back and appreciate the small things we do have.

Crossover is a combination of what a reader can get from YA and from adult novels.  As a college student, I feel like I already know who I am in that my core is still the same.  I figure out more and more exactly what I don't like and actually do like and whatnot, but I'm still the same person.  And I think that with YA, the protagonist is often discovering what his/her core actually is.  But in adult novels, the protagonist already knows that--that the novels are more focused towards sacrifice and tough decisions that make the protagonist what's most important to them.  But if you take a crossover book like Nightshade, for example, Calla knows who she is as a Guardian.  Yet, she makes the same sort of sacrifices that adult novels might require while still questioning the ideals that are prevalent in YA lit.  She is also trying to figure out her future, something most college students are as well.

Mature themes like sex are dealt with.  Some YA novels avoid dealing with sex, because publishers or editors tell the author that it's too mature of a topic.  It's taboo so only kissing scenes are featured.  Yet, I've also felt that some sex scenes in adult novels serve no purpose; they're just gratuitous.  In crossover novels like the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, however, sex is dealt with in a fragile but beautiful way, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks rather than writing detailed descriptions (adult novels).  Even further, the Wicked Lovely series has characters that are seriously flawed... and seriously realistic.  The book is nitty and gritty in a way that most YA novels aren't; some adult novels are that way, but the focus, again, is different.  And remember what I said about questioning the future?  Definitely happening in this book.

It even seems like more crossover books are being released.  (Unless that's just me who thinks that?).  Maybe it won't be a new "genre," but I do wonder whether or not others have noticed the current gap in publishing.  And I dislike the prejudice I've endured from people like my brother (who said, "Aren't you a little too old to be reading that?" [that meaning a YA novel]).  Yet, sometimes I agree; some YA books I can't get into because their protagonists are too immature.  I could have a few years ago but not anymore.  I had to avoid some contemporary YA because I was out of high school and didn't particularly want to revisit it.  College students can identify more so with crossover books than regular adult or YA novels.

At any rate, I really hope that publication of crossover books increases.  I'd love to see it become a new genre.  What do you guys think?

*Note: this is a giant generalization.  I know there are older people who read YA and vice versa.  With college students, I am also referencing people aged 18ish (right when you're technically an "adult") and above, especially since I know that not everybody goes to college.  I just think that crossover covers the lack of books with college-aged protagonists.

**More sad evidence of lack of books for college students: my library at school only had the Twilight series and scant adult novels for casual reading.

5 comments:

  1. This is a really interesting and important question I keep thinking about lately as well. Why are there so few fiction books marketed towards college aged people? I think that makes sense that they have so many other things to read. Also, I think when you are in college you are pushed to read more of the classics and literary fiction because you are supposed to be reading. I know when I was in college I had so much to read (I didn't take English, but my major involved a ton of individual non-fiction narratives). But the lack of novels for my age (I had an extremely hard time finding anything "fun" that appealed to me) actually put me off reading fiction for fun for a long time.

    I like the idea of cross-over novels. Nightshade and Matched are really good examples of what you are talking about. I'd add that there are also lots of adult books that have teen-aged protaganists (sometimes these are marked on GR as YA even though they aren't marketed as YA). And I think those work well as cross-overs too. And then there are even the ALA Alex Awards which are adult books appealing to teens.

    I'm still lacking books with main characters in their 20s (or 18-30ish). It would be nice to see more of those! College kids in general seem to be way overlooked as protaganists.

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  2. "Also, I think when you are in college you are pushed to read more of the classics and literary fiction because you are supposed to be reading."

    Oh no! I meant "you are supposed to be learning". I should learn to proof-read my comments better...lol :D

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  3. I agree with your point about the classics. At a recent interview with an independent publisher, she asked me my opinions on those and experimental fiction and (I'm pretty sure that) she didn't like that I read YA instead.

    Exactly though! The fact that there are hardly any books at the college-age level, I think, fuels the notion that there isn't a market for that age group. People just don't expect to find anything there. It seems that it can't be fixed unless someone takes a risk, and nowadays I don't think publishers would dare do that so crossover novels and the adult novels you've mentioned have to take their place.

    I didn't know about the ALA Alex Awards-- I will have to check that out. Thanks for that!

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  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been wondering this for quite awhile and is the main reason why I stipulate in my review policy that for me YA also includes people in their 20s.

    I think that's part of the main reason why there are some books that I like but can't really love because I can't really relate to the characters that last little bit that would bring the book to brilliance for me.

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  5. There is a genre for this. It's called New Adult.

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