You’d think I’m just a glutton for punishment reading all these New Adult books, but seriously, I do want to like one. I’ve felt like the mainstream media coverage of New Adult has been rather shallow, and it’s not something that seems to be going away, so I wanted to be more informed and have a better understanding of it. I figured the best way to do that was to read a sampling of titles. Of the 5 titles I’ve read so far, they’ve all been very similar.
I’m reviewing these books in preparation for writing a more thorough post on the subject as a whole. There will be spoilers, so if you actually are interested in reading these books, proceed with caution.
A Terrible Love by Marata Eros
Published: April 26th 2013 by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Source: ARC from publisher
Plot: “Jess” flees her family because her stepbrother is a crazy killer/son of Presidential candidate and goes into hiding at a college across the country, doing her best to stay under the radar, even though it means giving up ballet, her one true passion. When her friend convinces her to audition for a spot in a ballet company, she draws the attention of two men; one, who seems like a good guy, the other, dark and mysterious.
My thoughts: For me, the draw of this book was the ballet angle. I wanted to dance ballet until I hit puberty and realized I was terribly clumsy and never going to have a dancer’s body. I still have season tickets to KC ballet and love watching performances.
I also thought this might be a change from other New Adult titles, as it was also pitched as “romantic suspense.” All the NA I’ve read so far has been straight-up contemporary romance with a healthy dose of drama, so I was looking to branch out. I’m still only looking at titles published traditionally, so I haven’t been able to find any fantasy, sci-fi, etc. also marketed as NA.
Unfortunately, this one did not impress me.
“Jess” goes from keeping a very low profile to suddenly attracting the attention of everyone on campus. The two love interests are introduced at the same time, while she is auditioning for a ballet company, though there are very flimsy excuses for both of them to be there. The setup simply wasn’t believable (neither was her installing a ballet practice bar in her dorm room).
Not only are there allusions to previous abuse from her stepbrother, there are multiple incidents where Devin, the bad boy romantic interest, intervenes when other guys are making moves on her, touching her, etc. I have yet to read a NA novel without sexual assault and alpha male posturing, leading me to believe these are prerequisites for the genre/category. What made this one different is that it also had a few murders thrown into the mix.
The mystery is poorly executed. Even though I wasn’t expecting a tightly plotted story, I do appreciate some semblance of realism, but the entire set up was completely unbelievable. Of course, both love interests are not who they claim to be, and “Jess” is threatened by her past.
Not to my surprise, the title was taking from a cheesy bit of conversation about how they are a “terrible love” in the same way Beautiful Disaster took its title from a couple lines of dialogue. If all you’re looking for is a love triangle with a healthy dose of sex, this is a quick, short read that might be worth some escapist fun.
True by Erin McCarthy
Published: May 7th 2013 by Penguin Intermix (e-book only)
Source: ARC from publisher
Plot: When science nerd Rory’s friends find out she’s a virgin, they pay a friend (and fuck buddy) Tyler to hook up with her. But you know he already liked her and then she starts to like him, but that shit is complicated because family drama.
My thoughts: The concept of this one is ridiculous, and the opening scene had me cringing, but I did like Rory’s narration better than the other heroines from NA books I’ve read. Though this book contained a lot of elements that annoyed me, I did feel the need to keep reading. This has not been the case with the other books, which I’ve had to force myself to finish. So something about the writing was more compelling than the other books.
The book opens with Rory being assaulted at a party, and Tyler interrupts, roughs up the guy a bit, and then the only other time it’s mentioned is when Rory again finds herself alone with the guy. The way this incident is handled is terrible. The guy even uses the “but you kissed me back” excuse for his actions even when she said no several times when he tried to take it further. Furthermore, this incident added nothing to the plot. There was no reason that this incident had to prompt her friends to discover she was a virgin.
Despite the horrible set up, I did enjoy the way Rory and Tyler’s feelings developed for one another. Rory is level-headed, especially when compared with other NA heroines. She doesn’t rush into anything with Tyler and they do work on slowly getting to know one another and develop genuine interest in each other as people (and not just bodies). It isn’t all sexual chemistry and attraction, though they have that, too.
Tyler’s family situation is terrible, so that’s the main obstacle to their relationship beyond the usual “Does s/he really like me?” angst. Tyler’s mom is addicted to pain medication in addition to being abusive and neglectful. Tyler and his older brother are trying to hold the family together so the younger brothers don’t have to go into foster care. While I had a hard time buying that Tyler could not only attend school to become an EMT, hang out with friends and date, but also take care of two younger brothers, one who has special needs, it was a heart-breaking scenario that kept me reading. While Rory admires Tyler’s dedication to his family and wants to help, it also makes him feel as if he’s not good enough for her. Then his terrible luck gets him in a terrible situation, and it further impedes Tyler’s relationship with Rory.
There were some extraneous scenes that were just “cute” and really didn’t advance the plot, but this ended up being a fairly sweet romance and my favorite (if you can call it that) NA novel so far.
Eventually, I plan to write a discussion post about the themes and tropes emerging in New Adult fiction, but I want to write reviews of each book first and have a sample size of at least 10 before drawing any conclusions.
So far, the books I have read that have been marketed as New Adult (I’ve read many that could possibly fit the definition of NA but have been published as adult or young adult), include:
- Easy by Tammara Webber
- Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
- Faking It by Cora Carmack
- True by Erin McCarthy
- A Terrible Love by Marata Eros
I have access to these either as an ARC or through my library:
- The Vincent Boys (and companion novels) by Abbi Glines
- Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess
I’m going to continue to see what I can get ahold of that is marketed as New Adult as well as read and discuss books that I think could fit the current understanding of the genre/category. Let me know if you have any suggestions as to what I should check out (that is being published traditionally, whether after being originally self-published or not, and preferably available as a physical book and not only electronically).