I read far too many “new adult” romances. I say “too many” because most follow the same script and employ the same characters. They’re formulaic: sexy bad boy + scrappy or doormat heroine. Multiply melodrama with angst.
A fairly recent trend–and one that just lit my fuse, which is why I’m ranting here–is a heroine’s rush to lose her V-card. When did that first time become a nuisance rather than a gift? That burden of ridding oneself of one’s virginity ties into the whole unrealistic concept of sex without consequences.
It just ain’t true, folks. Whether one inserts himself inside another person’s body or takes another person’s body inside hers, no act of such physical intimacy can be performed without some lingering effect either in one’s body or in one’s mind and/or emotions.
I offer no moral argument here, just a simple statement of realism that, curiously, is often missing from “new adult” romance.
We used to call it coming-of-age fiction, which showed the emotional, intellectual, and perhaps physical maturation of a character growing out of adolescence into adulthood. A boy becomes a man and accepts a man’s responsibilities and obligations. A girl becomes a woman and accepts a woman’s responsibilities and obligations. Over the last 30 years, adolescence has been extended to the point where even the federal government recognizes it by allowing children to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until the age of 26.
In “new adult” fiction, the early twenties are merely an extension of adolescence, a time of careless self-discovery, hedonism, and shallow giddiness because Mommy and Daddy will pay for everything. Likewise, the maturity of adulthood which entails the assumption of adult responsibility and mature behavior has been delayed. Romantic heroes, apart from their all-too-common billionaire status, display a deplorable postponement of maturity. The descent into doing what feels good regardless of potential consequences demonstrates a disturbing lack of self-respect, both in fiction and in real life.
Yes, I understand that “new adult” romance is fantasy, but even the most outrageous fantasy requires some realism to anchor it so readers can relate to it.
Maturity and adulthood don’t mean forsaking all pleasure; it means judging the value of that pleasure and acting in accordance with the consequences.
Giddy, shallow, squealing, irresponsible. Those words don’t describe the heroes or heroines in my books. They may not wait until marriage to fall into bed; but neither do they hop from bed to bed like kids playing musical chairs. There’s a time and a place for everything, or so the saying goes. The years following adolescence should be a time for growing up and maturing.
To those characters who hit nineteen or twenty-five and live like dependent teenagers: Grow up. To those authors who write such characters: You do your readers no favors.