Over At the Horn Book

In this blog, I’ve had a several posts about “New Adult,” books aimed at readers over 18. And, at ALA last year, Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen, and I conducted a conversation starter about New Adult.

Sophie, Kelly, and I recently collaborated on an article about New Adult for the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book, What’s New About New Adult?

Here’s a peak: “New Adult — aimed at an adult audience but with strong appeal for teen readers — has recently garnered much buzz. Story lines tend to follow the contours of contemporary genre romance novels, but starring younger characters. NA initially took hold in the self-publishing world (the quality of writing varying wildly), and these books found an audience of dedicated, loyal, even ravenous readers. Authors could write stories that satisfied their fans and publish them quickly. With such a proven fan base, it didn’t take long for traditional publishing houses to take notice, seeking out and acquiring some of these high-performing books and trying their own hands at New Adult.

The full article is at The Horn Book website; go, read, let me know what you think.

 

Review: Wait For You

Wait For You by J. Lynn (who also writes as Jennifer L. Armentrout). William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins. 2013. Personal copy.

The Plot: Avery Morgansten is starting college away from home, away from family. Not just away; she’s also chosen a college in West Virginia that she knows will have no one from her home town. She’s leaving all that far behind her.

Late to her first class, she runs into Cameron Hamilton, sending pens and notebooks flying. He’s handsome, he’s flirty, he’s nice, so Avery does what anyone would do.

She runs away. “I moved over a thousand miles to start over and I already mucked it up in a matter of minutes.

Except Avery runs into Cam again. And again. Walking home, he’s there. Once back in her apartment building? He lives across the hall. They share a class. Cam likes her.

Starting over isn’t easy. She hadn’t planned on handsome Cam. She hadn’t planned on falling for him. Is she ready for something to happen? Will Cam wait for her?

The Good: As I explained in my review of The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden, as part of my preparation for the ALA Conversation Starter I’m doing with Sophie Brookover and Kelly Jensen, I’m reading a lot about what “New Adult” is or isn’t, what is or isn’t being published, and, of course, reading some of the books that have the “New Adult” designation. Briefly, New Adult is primarily for a readership of ages 18 to 25.

I liked Avery and Cam, even if at times Avery was erratic in what she did or didn’t do. As a character, she didn’t really work for me until the second half of the book. Cam — Cam had the patience of a saint. It’s not just that Avery sent mixed messages; it’s that Avery had secrets, some pretty significant, and those secrets really affected her ability to truly connect with those around her. While the timeline of recovery made sense from Avery’s point of view, how did Cam see it? Especially a Cam who had no idea that recovery was even going on?

Oh, spoilers, by the way. So if you’re like me, looking for a NA book to read? This was a nice quick read; and (as far as I can be a judge after just two books!) contains the emotional impact that readers are looking for. So many feelings! Being honest, even there were certain things with the plot and Avery’s characterization that had me eye-rolling, or didn’t work for the type of reader I am, I really liked Avery, Cam, and their friends; liked the plotting in the last third of the book; and am going to keep my eye out for the sequels that tell the story from Cam’s point of view, as well as a story for Cam’s sister and Avery’s best friend.

Spoilers. As with Callie and Kayden, this had a certain level of hurt/comfort to it, except it wasn’t quite as overblown soap opera. The past that Avery is running away from is that she was raped, wasn’t believed, became the town outcast, was emotionally neglected by her parents, and had a suicide attempt. Cam’s past hurt is more a secret than a hurt: he beat up his sister’s abusive boyfriend and was arrested. Cam is supposed to be a “player,” but in terms of what is in the book, that just seems to mean that he has had lots of sex before he meets Avery. He never appears to be in doubt about wanting a relationship with Avery (at least, not in a “but I’m a PLAYER” type way), and never cheats on her.

As with Callie and Kayden, I kept wanting to yell at Avery, “therapists! they have therapists in West Virginia!” What I liked is that Avery is doing her best without any type of outside counseling; she truly believed, I think, that new place meant new Avery. To a certain extent, yes, that is true. But, as Buckaroo Banzai said, “no matter where you go…. there you are.” Wait For You turns out not be about Cam waiting for Avery to be ready, as Avery waiting for herself to truly deal with and address the rape and the aftermath. Cam ends up being an important part of her support system in this happening, but this is not Cam “fixing” Avery.

Here’s another thing I tend to yell at books that include unreported crimes, especially the type of crime that tends to be repeated by the perpetrator. “Call the police,” I say, “so it doesn’t happen to someone else. This isn’t just about you.” I won’t say how, but Wait For You addresses this point in a way I found satisfying. (It would only be “very” satisfying if there were a fourth book. But that’s as spoilery as I’ll get on that point.)

Other reviews: Interview with the author at Digital Book World; Avery’s Book Nook; Dear Author; Under the Covers Book blog; Babbling About Books.

I know it’s impossible and hardly fair to judge New Adult on two books. With both books, I was struck by the emotional intensity; the desire for reinvention; and finding someone to trust after a lifetime of not being able to trust. Since I’m approaching New Adult not just as a reader, but as someone wondering whether New Adult is a thing and how to meet readers’ needs, I’m glad I read them (and may try a few more) to understand what readers are looking for and what other books may meet those needs.

With the low price point of many of these books, I think “eh, it’s cheap enough, so why not buy it and see whether or not I like it?” From what I understand, that’s not an uncommon approach to these books and is part of the explanation of the high sales. So what if I don’t like it, or don’t read it? It’s just a couple of dollars! For those of you who want to spend even less, that is, nothing, there’s a free ebook sampler of New Adult titles called Between The Covers: The Hottest New Adult Books.

If you have suggestions for other New Adult titles I should try (especially one that doesn’t include recovering from sexual assault), please let me know!

ALA: New Adult

And SexyTimes was had by all!

Um, no, not really, but based on the twitter stream for the New Adult Conversation Starter that Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen and myself did (Twitter hashtag #ALA13NA), I apparently used that term a lot.

As a recap, the three of us did a Conversation Starter on New Adult Fiction at ALA. I am so pleased to say that it was a packed house. (Thanks to Tiff Emerick for the photo of the session.)

From the start, we wanted this to be a true “conversation” so there was no PowerPoint; there was no formal talk; there wasn’t even any “answers,” rather just a lot of things to consider. We did a lot of conversing about it!

And, we had a song. The lovely and talented Julie Jurgens wrote and sang a song for our program! (You may know Julie from her blog, Hi Miss Julie, and on Twitter she is also @himissjulie).

As a reminder, out description for the conversation starter: New Adult Fiction (NA) has made waves in the New York Times, the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more. Depending on who you ask, NA either demands its own section of the library or is just a new name to describe books about twenty-somethings, which libraries have always carried. Maybe it’s “young adult books with sex.” Maybe it’s books about emerging adults trying to figure out the world before an uncertain future happens. Join a lively discussion on what NA may be, who’s reading it, where it’s shelved, how we catalog it, and how it fits into reader’s advisory.

Since we have all, at one time or another, been in sessions that didn’t do what they said they would, we wanted to include all these points and questions.

Our rough outline of what we spoke about:

— definitions of “New Adult”

— Some of the current NA books, touching a bit on self publishing and traditional publishing

— Who is reading it?

— Shelving: Are libraries buying it (with a side of if it’s self published, maybe not) and where is it being shelved

— How it fits Readers Advisory and reaching readers

We also spoke about various issues we have, such as whether it’s a genre or category; whether it’s something with it’s own shelf or area in the library; the problems with the term “New Adult’ when searching for information/collection information; library-land terms of art versus what readers or authors of NA use for terms; the NA books we’ve read; the interaction with Young Adult.

We compiled a list of New Adult Resources at our joint ReadAdv blog. Kelly at Stacked has used the “New Adult” tag on all her posts that discuss this. And Sophie put together a Storify of the Tweets that were going on during the session, to give you a bit of a flavor of how the conversation went.

Since we don’t have a PowerPoint, etc., I’ll link to posts I find about the panel; not so much to be “me me me” but in order to give you different perspectives and information about the program. I’ll edit this post to add more, as I find them.

My ALA: what I saw, did, and learned by Maureen at By Singing Light

Edited to add:

Cloud Unbound Heather’s write up is especially awesome because she didn’t even get to attend! But she participated in a lot of our conversations before ALA, and followed along with the panel thanks to the hashtag.

New Adult: It’s Not Just the Sexytimes at The Sassy Librarian

New Adult by Hannah Gomez at The Yalsa Hub

Brief Overview of the Past Week at Miss Tiff Reads

 

 

 

ALA may be over, but the conversation continues. It’s going to be interesting, to see how “New Adult” evolves (or not) over the coming years. And if you have any questions, or comments, or suggestions about New Adult, please share!

Review: The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden

The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen. Grand Central Publishing. 2013. Personal copy.

The Plot: Callie and Kayden grew up in the same small town, but weren’t what you’d call friends. Kayden was the popular football player; Callie was the outcast with no friends.

One early summer night, Callie sees Kayden’s father hit him. Rather than run away, she interrupts — and just by her presence, his father backs off.

Callie and Kayden don’t see each other again until four months later, when both are at the same Wyoming college.

Both are looking for new starts and to leave their pasts behind them. Kayden is not just grateful for what Callie did to help him; he’s impressed with her, because no one had ever stuck up to his father that way. He finds himself falling for her.

Callie has spent the last six years keeping the world at arm’s length, but being at college has given her a second chance. Things aren’t perfect; but they’re getting better. Part of that “getting better” is not just how attracted she is to Kayden; it’s also that she allows herself to be attracted, and to act on it.

Together, Callie and Kayden tell their story.

The Good: As part of my preparation for the ALA Conversation Starter I’m doing with Sophie Brookover and Kelly Jensen, I’m reading a lot about what “New Adult” is or isn’t, what is or isn’t being published, and, of course, reading some of the books that have the “New Adult” designation. Briefly, New Adult is primarily for a readership of ages 18 to 25.

One of the descriptions I’ve read of New Adult is, a young adult book with sexytimes. This meets that definition: the general plot of the story, and the age of the characters (while on the high end as college freshman), reminded me of young adult books. And yes, the physical relationship between Callie and Kayden is important and described. I’d say the sexytime scenes are more than what I’d see in a typical Young Adult book; but less than what I’ve read in most romance novels.

I’ve also seen that the setting — college or college age, or post college age — is part of what is essential to New Adult. Callie and Kayden are both  starting college. Callie actually began a few months early, because she had such a strong desire to leave high school behind and start reinventing herself. Yes, that is their age, that is the setting, but to be honest, if someone was looking for a “what will college be like” type of novel, this isn’t what I’d pick.

The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden had many elements of what I see in young adult books: fast paced and a page turner; absence, in one way or another, of parents or adults; emphasis on peers; growing independence of the main characters; and it was a quick read. What’s interesting to me is that the major traumas that both Callie and Kayden have suffered took place while both were still at home. So this isn’t, “the kids are in college and that’s why the adults are all gone”; even when they were 8, 12, 16, the adults in their lives (parents, teachers, coaches) let them down in various ways. For whatever reasons, it’s not until Callie and Kayden are no longer home that each begins to deal with their own painful pasts.

And now, the past and those reinventions. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that when she was in sixth grade, Callie was raped, causing her to withdraw from everything around her. Callie doesn’t admit it to the reader, or Kayden, until pretty far along in the book but it’s pretty obvious to the reader. At college, Callie makes her first new friend in ages, Seth. Seth is “safe” for her, because he is gay, so not a sexual threat; he is also a sympathetic ear because he has his own tragic backstory. He “knows” where she is coming from. Together, they offer each other support. Part of it is by creating “lists”, the small (and big) steps to, well, rejoining the world.

One thing I liked about Callie and Kayden is that this “recovery program” is something Callie does herself, by her own initiative; and that she is already in the process of “saving herself” so that Kayden is not saving her.

That said, I kept thinking throughout this whole book, are there no therapists or psychiatrists in Wyoming? It’s not just that Callie’s own obvious suffering has been ignored for six some years; it’s that the physical abuse suffered by Kayden and his brothers is likewise never noticed, or if noticed, ignored. I kept going back and forth in my head about this because I honestly found it a little unbelievable; then I told myself that it was Callie and Kayden telling their story, and it was their reality and that, yes, even today, abused children and teens don’t get the help they want or need. But then I’d think, Kayden was a football player and not one team mate or coach noticed the scars and bruises? So round and round in my head it went. And while therapists and counseling are not some magic band-aid, stepping back, Callie and Kayden are doing only a so-so job of saving themselves, because Callie forces herself to vomit as some type of mental defense mechanism (her list with Seth doesn’t include stopping that) and Kayden doesn’t cut the ties to his own abusive parents.

But. But. I had to remind myself what type of book this is: and at it’s heart, it’s a hurt/comfort romance book. In this instance, both Callie and Kayden are hurt, and both are comforting each other, and Callie and Kayden delivers this and more. Any type of professional counseling is totally at odds to what a hurt/comfort story does, so of course, it’s not here. Also, I personally saw this as not so much realistic as soap-opera; in other words, stop worrying about non-existent therapists but instead just go with the flow of emotions and will-they/won’t they for Callie and Kayden.

While Callie and Kayden are fully drawn, most of the other characters are not. Seth is basically the Sassy Gay Friend. Luke is supposed to have his own Issues but they never gelled together for me to make him real. As mentioned, the parents are either abusive or useless. Kayden has a girlfriend, Daisy, who relentlessly bullies Callie and Daisy’s motivation seems to be just that Daisy is a bitch. That the reader can still feel sympathetic to Kayden despite the fact that he’s stood by while Daisy tormented Callie is a credit to Sorensen’s ability to show us Kayden’s own tortured thoughts and defense mechanisms. It’s also a good truth: Kayden was so wrapped up in his own pain that he didn’t see Callie’s. The “bitchy girlfriend” is also a trope I remember well from all the Harlequin and similar romances I read in high school.

And this, perhaps, is one of the things that struck me about Callie and Kayden: it’s not my type of book now. (As you can tell, I was a bit too much ‘GET INTO THERAPY ALREADY’, in addition to a few other things.) But then? As a teenager or young twentysomething? In many ways, it was very much like the romance type of books I read back then, so of course I can see why people are reading then now. Except for that ending. ARGH. Not to get all spoilery, but I want my romances to have a happy ever after, thank you, and NOT a cliff hanger.

Final librarian thoughts? I’d put this in adult fiction, using booklists and cataloging to make sure the people looking for it found it. While I can see the style of young adult books being present here, ultimately, it felt more like an adult book to me.

Other reviews: Dear Author; Good Books, Good Wine; Good Choice Reading; Under the Covers.

ALA

ALA Annual is just around the corner, which means, OH NO SO MUCH TO DO.

The highlights of my schedule, so far:

Saturday, June 29th

All About ARCs: The Ins and Outs of Requesting, Using and Abusing Advanced Reading Copies, where I’m co-presenting with Kelly Jensen and Kristi Chadwick. 10:30 to 11:30, McCormick Place Convention Center, S103d.

From the program: “Librarians may have heard of Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), but do they actually know how to acquire or use them? Why do publishers create these unsaleable copies? Have you seen them at used bookstores, Friends book sales, and should they really be there? What about those “digital galleys” that are becoming available? Come explore these questions and more with a panel of librarians and publishing reps who use them every day in many ways. Discussion topics: What are ARCs?; Who is the intended audience of an ARC?; Why do publishers provide them?; How can you get them?; Digital vs. Print?; What you can/cannot do with an ARC.”

Kristi, Kelly and I are working on this right now. I have THOUGHTS and FEELINGS about ARCs, and libraries, and librarians, and all the things! Including not just what people do (or don’t do) with them, but in how people view them and their use as part of one’s whole professional tool kit.

Fabulous Films for Young Adults, 1:00 to 4:00, Hilton Chicago, Pullman Boardman. This is a committee meeting, but Fab Films is an open committee.

Sunday, June 30th

 YA Author Coffee Klatch, 9:00 to 10:00, McCormack Place Convention Center, S406b. Ticketed event.

From the program: “Enjoy coffee and meet with YALSA’s award winning authors! This informal coffee klatch will give you an opportunity to meet authors who have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. Librarians will sit at a table and every 3 or 4 minutes, a new author will arrive at your table to talk!
I’ve managed to go to almost all of these, and while one should bring their own bagel or pastry, what one really goes for is is the chance to talk with and meet the authors.

Monday, July 1st

Conversation Starters: New Adult Fiction: What is it and is it really happening? 9:15 – 10:00, McCormick Place Convention Center, S102d. I’m co-presenting with Sophie Brookover and Kelly Jensen.

From the program: “New Adult Fiction (NA) has made waves in the New York Times, the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more. Depending on who you ask, NA either demands its own section of the library or is just a new name to describe books about twenty-somethings, which libraries have always carried. Maybe it’s “young adult books with sex.” Maybe it’s books about emerging adults trying to figure out the world before an uncertain future happens. Join a lively discussion on what NA may be, who’s reading it, where it’s shelved, how we catalog it, and how it fits into reader’s advisory.

Part of the reason I’m enjoying putting together this Conversation Starter is that, while online New Adult has been talked about for a while, most people I talk with in libraryland haven’t heard about it. I think this is a great opportunity to connect with patrons who are twentysomething.

Michael L. Printz Program and Reception, 8:00 to 11:00, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand AB. Ticketed Event.

This is always so much fun! This year, though, I’ve only read 3 of the 5 books. I don’t have copies of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe or The White Bicycle, and I’ve been so busy with things that borrowing a library copy hasn’t worked out. Maybe I’ll have time in the next couple weeks.

So, those are some of things I’m doing and looking forward to!

What about you? What are you plans for ALA Annual?

Review: The Moon And More

The Moon And More by Sarah Dessen. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: It’s the summer after high school graduation, and everything in Emaline’s life is the same as it ever was. She’s working at her grandmother’s beach rental property business. She’s hanging out with Luke, her boyfriend since ninth grade. Even the arguments with her older sisters are familiar, even if they are about new things. Things in the beach town of Colby are always a certain way, and that’s how it’s always been and always will be.

Or will it? Emaline feels an edge of something, she’s not quite sure what. Dissatisfaction? Yearning? Wanting a change? And the knowledge that when summer ends, she’s going off to college (one of the first in her family to do so), doesn’t help. It’s East U, the same place her oldest sister went, the same place most of her classmates will go, so how will her life be anything different than it is now?

Emaline meets Theo, the assistant to documentary director Ivy, two New Yorkers in Colby for the summer to make a documentary about a local man who, years before, left Colby, became a well regarded artist, and then turned his back on it all to go back to the small beach town. Seeing herself, her town, through their eyes: what is it, really, that Emaline wants? To stay or go? What life does she want?

The Good: The main difficulty I had with writing about The Moon and More is that it’s not a simple book. It’s not so much about Emaline’s “coming of age” (whatever that means) as Emaline being on the cusp of something and not knowing what it is; it’s about Emaline not looking for answers because she is still trying to figure out the questions.

Emaline’s roots in Colby run deep. She works for Colby Realty in the summer, just like her mother and her sister Margo. Everyone knows the story of her mother and Emaline: how, while still in school, younger than Emaline is now, Emily fell in love with one of the tourists, one of the summer people who are down for a season, and ended up pregnant and alone and left. No, this isn’t that sort of book: Emily had a child to take care of and she got her act together and married a man from Colby with roots of his own, a widower with two young girls who adopted Emaline and has been as much a father to her as his own girls. It’s a blended family that is happy and loving and, yes, sometimes they fight because that’s what families do. One of the big things I loved about The Moon and More was Emaline’s family.

Another thing I loved? The portrait of a beach community, with the locals being mostly working class and the tourists being mostly rich. Emaline has always known better than to get involved with a tourist — look what happened to her mother. She sees it also in classmates, who date a boy in the summer and then the gradual disintegration of the relationship once summer ends. Yet, despite that, despite Luke, she finds herself drawn to Theo. He’s not like the local boys and she yearns, in a way, for that which is different from the life she knows. The tension that any about-to-leave-for-college teenager feels that summer before college is played out on a slightly bigger canvas, because of the tensions that exist between the locals and the tourists. What does it mean to be from someplace? What does it mean to want to leave? And can one really leave?

Another strength is Emaline’s friendships: her two best friends, Daisy and Morris, and Luke, her boyfriend. And this is the moment where I get a bit spoilerish — no, a lot spoilerish.

Here’s the thing: The Moon and More is classic Dessen, creating a girl so real the reader knows Emaline’s strengths and weaknesses and loves her anyway. Emaline has to learn a thing or two or three about people in this summer’s journey, and that I saw some truths before she did? Well, sometimes we all have things we have to learn the hard way.

So, stop reading now, if you don’t want a bit of an analysis on just why The Moon and More is, I think, one of Dessen’s best books.

First, it’s not a romance. Oh, there is a romance in it — Emaline and Luke break up and Emaline starts dating Theo. But, this is not a romance. I felt none of the “wowza” I’ve felt with past Dessen boys. Luke felt, well, like a familiar sweater, something nice enough and reliable enough but no spark. And Theo: Theo is a boy pretending to be a man, and what better way for an insecure out of towner to feel smarter and brighter than to date someone a few years younger? Emaline does not know this, as she drinks red wine because Theo likes it and goes to the restaurants Theo likes. Emaline has to figure it out for herself. Figuring it out, though? That’s part of the point of The Moon and More and it’s watching Emaline realize this that makes this book bittersweet.

The other point of The Moon and More is watching Emaline work out her relationship with her birth father (as opposed to her Dad, the man who raised her). Who her father is, who he wishes he were, who Emaline wishes he were, is as complicated and messy as you would expect it to be. I love that here, with Emaline’s father, Dessen gave no simple answers, no easy reunions, no miraculous changes of heart. Just, flawed people with weaknesses who do the best they can and make the best of what they have.

Usually I’m pretty good at thinking of the teen audience and intended audience when I read a book. Here, for example: reading it and loving it as a teen reader would; also thinking, hey, this may work for those readers wanting “New Adult,” whatever that is; but sometimes I cannot turn off my “but I’m an adult reading this” brain. Here, it means, I think, that I figured out certain truths about Theo and about Emaline’s father before she did. I wonder if teen readers will be following Emaline’s journey more than I was able to , or if it’s part of the intended reader experience to know things before Emaline. Also, to be honest — I find myself curious about Emaline’s mother, and her choices, and find myself, for the first time, wishing Sarah Dessen would consider writing a book or two for the grownups. Dessen does a great job of painting nuanced, flawed parents without making them “evil” and I wish there would be a book just about those grownups. Selfish, I know.

And of course — it’s a Favorite Book Read in 2013.

ALA 2013 Conversation Starters!

Dear ALA Members:

Now is the time to vote! To vote for what you want to have happen at ALA Annual!

As explained at this ALA News Press Release, voting is open until March 31, 2013 for Conversation Starters and Ignite Sessions.

“Conversation Starters” are “fast-paced 45-minute sessions intended to jumpstart conversations and highlight emerging topics and trends.”  Go here to read the proposals and vote for them.

“Ignite Sessions” “give presenters five minutes to share what they’re most passionate about in the library world and inspire an audience to join them. Ignite speakers present for exactly five minutes, accompanied by 20 slides. Each slide is displayed for 15 seconds, with slides advancing automatically.” Go here to read the proposals and vote for them.

You can vote for as many as you want.

These votes will count towards 30 percent of the selection process. Staff votes and an advisory group count for the remaining 70 percent of the decision.

Kelly Jensen of Stacked and my co-author Sophie Brookover and I have submitted a Conversation Starter, New Adult Fiction: What Is It and Is It Really Happening? “New Adult Fiction (NA) has made waves in the New York Times, the Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more. Depending on who you ask, NA either demands its own section of the library or is just a new name to describe books about twenty-somethings, which libraries have always carried. Maybe it’s “young adult books with sex.” Maybe it’s books about emerging adults trying to figure out the world before an uncertain future happens. Join a lively discussion on what NA may be, who’s reading it, where it’s shelved, how we catalog it, and how it fits into reader’s advisory.”

Please go and consider voting for our Starter!

And, if you have a Conversation Starter or Ignite Session, please share details in the comments.

And remember, you have to be an ALA member; and voting is open until the end of March.

Review: Come See About Me

Come See About Me by C.K. Kelly Martin. Smashwords. 2012.

The Plot: Leah’s boyfriend, Bastien, is dead. Since the police knocked on their apartment door, telling her about the accident, Leah has barely been able to function. University classes, her part time job, her friends, all fall by the wayside as she tries to live with her loss.

Bastien’s Aunt Abigail, a widow, understands Leah’s all consuming grief and offers Leah a retreat: to live rent-free in a house she owns. It offers Leah a type of vacation, a break from having to think about anything other than herself and her hamster — and what she’s lost.

Leah, who still hears Bastien’s voice in her head even though it’s been months since his death, is shocked and surprised when she finds herself physically attracted to and wanting someone new, a young man named Liam. Liam, like Leah, is taking a vacation from his “real life”. Neither is looking for a “relationship” but both need companionship.

The Good: Leah’s grief over her loss is intense; so intense that even though Come See About Me starts months after Bastien’s death, it is still as fresh and raw as if it was that day, that hour, that she found out Bastien, her first love, her first lover, was dead. I confess, I was relieved about when Come See About Me started; it would have been too much, I think, to experience Leah’s loss in anything other than flashback.

Bastien is dead and Leah can barely function or concentrate. The offer of Aunt Abigail’s unused house is an escape from Leah having to make decisions about her future or to return home; it’s an oasis, allowing her Leah to just be. Little is required of her except taking care of herself, keeping the house in good enough order so if Abigail visits she is not overly concerned, and taking care of her hamster, Armstrong. Leah is lucky to have a rent-free place, and watches her bank account, wondering what to do.

Come See About Me is not so much about Leah getting over or past Bastien’s death, but about Leah trying to figure out a new life without him, without being part of a couple. Her steps into a Bastienless future are small, but significant because of how long it takes her to get there: friendship with neighbors, a part-time job.

And Liam. Liam begins as just a young man Leah sees around the town of Oakville. And then, one night — not love. Leah looks at Liam and wants him: physically wants. The jolt of desire, desire not for love but to be touched and touch, rocks her. Like Leah, Liam is in Oakville to escaping his past; like Leah, he is looking for nothing more than a connection without commitment.

Leah isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for sex. Bastien was her first and only lover, and Leah’s wanting Liam shocks her in its intensity. The words used to describe her interactions with Bastien are blunt and matter of fact, just as her wanting him is blunt. Leah has shut herself away from life and people, yes, and it’s her body that first reaches out to another and is ready for another, before she can emotionally or mentally acknowledge her need for another.

Other things I liked about Come See About Me:

The setting, Oakville. It’s as important to Come See About Me as any character or event; by the end of the book, I knew its lakes and pubs and stores. When I went to the book website, I found that Oakville is an actual place outside of Toronto! Part of me wants to go visit, to see the places Leah saw.

The casual diversity throughout the book. Bastien is black; Leah’s best friend is Korean-Canadian. The older couple next door are lesbians (amusingly, Leah doesn’t at first realize their relationship).

The writing: “the future felt both distance and so certain that it didn’t seem to require any consideration.”

The author writes about how Come See About Me is New Adult in a terrific post explaining the background of the novel, the decision not to make Leah either a teen or a thirty-something. (If New Adult is new to you, check out my posts on New Adult).

Other Reviews: Clear Eyes, Full Shelves; Stacked; Early Nerd Special; Book Overdose.

 

The Latest on New Adult and a Question

As you may remember, I did a poll about New Adult Readership.

The results? Well, I think it has more to do with my readership. No one under 18 responded; and since I used the free version of SurveyMonkey, I only have access to the first 100 responses.

The data: 84 of the 100 said they either read, or would be interested in reading, “New Adult” titles. 16 said they would not.

Of those interested in reading, the age range in descending order: 39%, ages 23-29; 27%, ages 30-35; 26%, over 36; and 18-22, 6%.

Of those not interested in reading, the age range in descending order: 59%, ages 23-29; 18%, ages 30-35; 18%, over 36; and 18-22, 6%.

While I think this shows more about my readership, I take some bigger things away from this. First, readers are interested in reading beyond “the ages I am,” if New Adult = college aged. At that same point, one cannot assume that college aged means someone wants to read about college aged.

As a reminder, the other posts I’ve done about New Adult: What is New Adult?New Adult, Where Does It Go?; Books That May Or May Not Be New Adult.

ABC News has an article out, Emerging “New Adult” Book Genre Puts Smut Fiction on Bestseller List. I’ll be honest: as a reader (not a New Adult reader, but a reader) I find this offensive as well as inaccurate. I also believe the use of “smut” is about shaming the reading choices of young women, which is a way to shame them about their sexuality. I also believe that it’s being used to create unnecessary “oh noes” by attempting to make it seem like this is a teen-reader phenomena: “Now there is a new genre merging the “young adult” fan base with “erotic fiction” fans. It’s being called “new adult.” The implication, of course, is that fan base is teens, but as that article and most articles show, the readership is of people in their twenties; and yes, they read “young adult” books but guess what? If you’re a twentysomething reader, chances are you read young adult as a teen. Because you were a teen. As some studies have shown, favorite authors and genres have created reader loyalty so that non-teens read and continue to read young adult books. Still, that does not make “smut fiction” (please) a “thing” amongst teen readers or being driven by teen readers.

ABC Nightline also did a program: ‘New Adult’: Sexy New Book Genre for Young Adult Readers. It begins, and has some reporter questions, as annoying as the article. Note how the books described are not the “smut” of the article title (hello, Twilight is now “smut” according to Nightline — one of the most famous works championing abstinence is now “smut”). Still, watch it — because what is excellent and terrific are the actual interviews with the authors and readers (none, by the way, who are young teens). (I’m not sure how stable the link to that article will be; try the ABC Nightline website if it doesn’t work.)

What bothers me most about the sensationalism about those two articles is that there are real things to discuss: self-publishing meeting needs that weren’t recognized by publishers; what readers want influencing what is being published; what these books actually are; whether this is indeed a thing or a passing fancy.

Last month, The Christian Science Monitor ran an article, Is a ‘new adult’ genre the step between YA and adult books? This held the interesting, and a bit disturbing, statement: “many agree that it’s a group title for books that are more mature than young adult titles – a literary category that may serve as a stepping-stone for readers moving beyond the young adult fold.” While it’s nice to see the books being talked about in a non-sexytimes way, I don’t agree that readers need a “stepping stone” between young adult and adult books.

Meanwhile, over at The Telegraph there is Sex in Young Adult fiction – a rising trend?, making this seem (like other articles) like a teen-reader trend. I guess “grown women like to read books about grown ups” doesn’t quite grab the attention, does it? (Also, I’ll share something else: most teen readers I know are well aware where the romance books are in bookstores and libraries and yes, they read them. It’s not new…. teens have been reading adult books since, well, we’ve had teens and books. But, really, that’s beside the point because “New Adult” is about readers who aren’t teens.)

Over at the YALSA Blog, they have a series on Trendspotting and a recent post was on New Adult. One of the things that Sarah does with that post that I really like is puts the genre within the context of all media, mentioning TV shows that may fit the genre/reader need.

One last thing: a general poll to you, dear readers. I’m going to read and review and least one New Adult book for this blog: what book do you suggest?

 

New Adult Readers

As you know from my blog series about New Adult books (What is New Adult?New Adult, Where Does It Go?; Books That May Or May Not Be New Adult), I am interested in what “New Adult” books are. Part of the reason: yes, when I was in high school and college I wanted to read books about people in college so totally get that. But is that true for everyone?

So, quite simple: how old is the readership/prospective readership for New Adult?

I tried to make the question as basic as possible, and set up a quick survey at SurveyMonkeyhttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FY9JLC5

As I said, basic, asking the ages of those who do and don’t read New Adult.

If you want to add more to your answer, please do so in the comments here!

Edited to add: I’m using the free survey option and it looks like it’s filling up. If you cannot answer there or prefer to answer here, simply: do you read or want to read New Adult? And, what is your age? At the survey I’ve used these age groupings: under 18; 18 to 22; 23 to 29; 30 to 35; and over 36.