Over the past few weeks, people have been going crazy about so-called “New Adult” fiction: YA for college students and young twenty-somethings. Personally, I’m all for this. As someone who devoured YA fiction as a teenager, I’m eager for books about female characters around my own age, going through the problems that I’m going through now. And if those things can’t be found in general fiction (possibly in “chick lit?” But that’s not really the vibe I’m looking for), then why not create a new genre for them instead?
The big, talked-about New Adult book is Easy by Tammara Webber, an originally self-published novel, recently picked up by Penguin, about an aspiring musician who follows her boyfriend to college and then is dumped by him at the start of Sophomore year. If, like me, you’re hungry for books about “new adult” protagonists, you could definitely do worse than this story. But hopefully, if the genre expands, you’ll also be able to do better.
Easy has the distinct feel of a kind of original-story fanfiction. It is addictive and easy to read, and I was more than happy to devour the whole thing in a few hours. And it has many great elements: an imperfect female protagonist and a close relationship with her best female friend, to name two things that are rarer than they should be. But the novel is also a little bit sloppy, in terms of structure, pacing and characterization. It throws in dark elements and character histories in place of actual depth, and although it deals with serious college issues, including rape and assault, it often takes on an unnatural, preachy tone. When characters are discussing another character’s rape, they seem to move through a checklist of victim-blaming approaches, before they are quickly corrected by the protagonist and other characters. Although I think the book’s approach to assault is well-intentioned, it is also a little wooden, forcing talking points into the story and then glossing over them rather than actually making them a natural part of the plot.
If the genre is picked up by traditional publishers, with their traditional editors, it might turn into something great. I’m certainly hoping that it does. For now, this is worth a look if you want some easy-to-read college fiction… just don’t let your expectations get too high on this one.