Welcome to the Morris Finalist Blog Tour, featuring the outstanding 2015 debut authors and their books! In December, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association, of the American Library Association) announces the list of finalists, and we learn of the winner…
Labeled the sexed-up version of Young Adult literature, the New Adult genre currently carries the burden of proving to detractors that it can also be great literature containing significant and relevant themes. Earlier reviews called New Adult fiction a “hot new category” but “too sexy.” Headlines accused writers of the genre of putting “smut fiction” on the bestseller list.
However it’s perceived, the genre claims an amazingly large readership that translates into huge profits and, although New Adult themes often contain more sex and illicit behavior, most writers tackle their writing with the clear hope of telling a story that reflects the lives of college-aged teens in a way to help them explore the complexities and realities of life after high school. Lauren Myracle, whose most recent novel, The Infinite Moment of Us, falls into the category of New Adult, hopes this look into sexuality and independence reaches her older audiences in resonant ways. The author of such bestsellers as TTYL and L8R G8R, a series of novels told in instant messaging that contained frank discussions of emerging sexuality as well as the critically acclaimed Shine, a YA novel about a gender hate crime, Lauren is no stranger to controversy . So the New Adult genre seemed a perfect fit.
But Lauren’s work isn’t only about emerging sexuality and it certainly isn’t about kids gone wrong—another criticism of New Adult fiction—but it’s about trying to figure out who you wish to become and how you want to live your life as an adult. It’s about separating from the ideals your parents might have created so that you can imagine your life the way you might want to live. The Infinite Moment of Us conveys the push and pull of these moments even as it explores how high school senior Wren Gray’s first real love relationship plays into self-discovery.
Lauren answered a few questions about why she chose to tackle these elements:
Media has taken to labeling New Adult novels as “college romance” novels. While your novel is about romance, it also appears to contain social justice themes that add layers. Included in these layers are issues of economic disparity, volunteerism, and foster care. Did you consciously choose to take on serious issues while writing this?
Any good novel has to be about more than one thing, of course, but while writing Infinite Moment, I actually worried that its scope *wasn’t* wide enough. Two young people falling in love–was that enough for a story? And yet, when you’re falling in love, or in love, and you’re young…and it’s your first time…it feels like MORE than enough to take over your whole world. That said, thanks for seeing those different layers mixed in! I definitely wanted issues of class and background to come into play: Charlie and Wren seem to come from such different worlds–and they do–but none of the surface level issues matters when it comes to two humans reaching out and finding each other.
Would you classify this as a romance novel or would you classify it as coming of age? Or would you give it an all-together different label? Why or why not?
Aye-yai-yai. I would say, “Oh, I hate labels!”, but that would be a cop-out (even though I do). Love story. I would classify it as a love story.
You’ve tackled sex and sexuality in your middle grade and young adult novels. How was your focus on sexuality different for each age group?
None of my middle grade characters have had sex, so in that way, I was spared the challenge of deciding how in-depth to be or not be. In my middle grade novels, the focus is on more typically middle grade territory: crushes, kisses, the confusion and the delight that go along with trying out romance in baby steps. In my young adult novels, my credo has been: Don’t hold back. Tell the truth, dig in without fear, no bullshit and no fade-outs. I think it’s valuable for readers to have access, in books and elsewhere, to non-sugarcoated information about sex. I heard recently from a reader that she always thought that only boys were “allowed” to masturbate until she read ttyl. Another reader told me that Infinite Moment opened her eyes to the fact that girls can have orgasms and can enjoy sex without feeling ashamed. The good, the bad, the complicated–that’s what I try to represent as best I can for both age groups.
How would you define New Adult? And how is it different in your mind from Young Adult?
Oh dear. I honestly don’t know how to define New Adult! Does anyone? I didn’t even hear of the term until after I’d turned the first draft of Infinite Moment in to my editor. I gather that it’s about young adults who are out of high school and most likely in college. I gather that parents don’t play a big role. I gather that sex does! Obviously, I need to do more research–or maybe *you* can teach *me*. 🙂
What drew you to writing a New Adult novel?
Er…see above. I didn’t know I was. I *did* know that I was very consciously choosing to put it ALL on the page, and that I wasn’t going to let the fear of adult opinion or possible disapproval factor into my choices at all. I also knew that I respect my two main characters, Wren and Charlie, just as I respect my readers, whether teens or older. This is a story about eighteen-year-olds. I saw no reason to write it for fifteen-year-olds, if that makes sense. Younger readers can and hopefully will relate to the story, but I didn’t cover things up for their sake.
How do you hope to see the New Adult genre evolve?
I hope it builds a bigger profile for itself, I suppose, so that “how would you define New Adult” wouldn’t be such a tricky question to answer. I hope that the writing is excellent and the stories compelling. I hope it finds its audience and serves its readers well!