If Young Adult (YA) features characters up to 18 years of age, and New Adult (NA) covers 19-25, one would figure that the logical next step is “adult” (or “Contemporary”, when it comes to romance) in categorisation. But agent Marisa Corvisiero thinks differently.
Though not really a fan of NA as a genre/subgenre (it’s fine as a metadata category), I understand its place to mark the transition from teenager to adult. But when does that stage end? It varies from person to person, and I suppose you could assign a general age bracket to it, so that explains NA. But what is “Post-New Adult” (PNA)?
Ms. Corvisiero’s client, author Ashley Suzanne, describes PNA as “Too old for NA and too young for Contemporary”. So when is the process of adulting complete? Laws differ from country to country, and even other states. For some, it’s 18. Others, it’s 21. But even though you’re legally adult, full maturation may not yet have occurred.
Ms. Corvisiero’s blog explains that PNA is about characters aged 26-30, “maybe even 35”. As a 28-year-old I’m right in the middle, so these books should be relatable. But are they? Out of my former classmates, some are married, some have children, some have full-time jobs, and some continue to further their education. I don’t relate to their exact situations, but I definitely see them all as adults. Not Post-New Adults, but adults. Are they still “finding themselves?” That’s not my business, but they seem to have established their adult starting base. Their paths might change, but they have a place for now.
“I think that many of us don’t really come of age in a sense, or really truly find our calling, until we finish college and ‘start our lives in the real world’, meeting responsibilities, starting jobs, and really finally settling down.” –Marisa Corvisiero
This is rather assuming. Due to finances, ability, and various other circumstances, the percentage of people who’ve graduated secondary school and then move on to tertiary education is lower than it has been in the past. So those who don’t attend college are “start[ing] our lives in the real world” straight after twelfth grade. Maybe there’s a “gap year,” but there are also apprenticeships and full-time jobs, and children or marriage. By Ms. Corvisiero’s description, these are considered Post-New Adult events. But the age bracket of these people may actually be New Adult. Even people over 35 experience these things for the first time.
So while I accept that NA is for “college-aged” characters, even if they don’t necessarily attend college, the proposal of PNA is kind of offensive. According to Ms. Corvisiero’s proposal, attending college in the NA bracket (19-25) is the default norm for those in the PNA bracket (26-30). But for those who follow a different timeline; where does that leave us? My problem with Post-New Adult is the perhaps-unintentional classism. New Adult at least acknowledges that not everyone goes to college after high school. PNA’s premise is, “So you’re university-educated – now what?”
“I think that just in the same way we classify children’s books into age groups, and for the same reasons that we have distinguished Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult from other age groups, we now also should separate Post New Adult and perhaps even the next age groups (Mature Adult) to enable readers to better find what they are looking for, to avoid pigeon holding authors to the New Adult category, or get their work lost in the proverbial haystack when labeling them all Adult.” –Marisa Corvisiero
Ms. Corvisiero proposes that PNA targets a specific demographic who are having trouble finding exactly what they want to read. So PNA is unashamedly a marketing tool: all about characters who didn’t face “the real world” at an earlier age. That may not have been Ms. Corvisiero’s intention. I’m struggling to understand, but the more I think about PNA it bothers me.
The obvious argument for PNA-supporters is that these are CHARACTERS. Just because THEY are doing something at a certain age, it doesn’t mean that READERS’ experiences should follow that same timeline. But how we view characters says a lot about how we view people. Reading is not only for escapism – it’s also about meeting a variety of individuals and groups, some of which we may not encounter in person, and learning about all their different life experiences.
Whereas the theory of PNA is much smaller: only about characters who did a specific event (attending college) in a specific age bracket (19-25).
But perhaps marketing forgets what’s REALLY important about fiction: the STORIES. Not just the characters’ ages. The more you set the standard of certain events at certain times, the more you risk alienating readers who don’t follow that timeline – and the more you make it clear that those who differ are not “normal.”
Mind you, Post-New Adult is ONE agent’s opinion. It’s only a marketing tool. If only it was more class-diverse…