Sunday, December 29, 2013

Everything old is new again. Gothic romance vs. New Adult romance

"New Adult" romance and "Gothic romance": Definitions

new adult
That’s the label that has been created for books in which the main characters transform from teenagers into adults and try to navigate the difficulties of post-adolescent life: first love, starting university, getting a job, and so on. The new genre is meant to be for readers aged 14-35.” Well, that’s a bit different! Readers from aged 14 to 35. Instead of “sex,” it’s about “post-adolescent life.” Of 14 and 35 year olds.

gothic romance
A typical Gothic romance revolved around conflict and mysteries. It made the heroine choose between two male characters for love. One is bright, sunny, cheerful and charming. The other was dark, mysterious, secretive, and brooding. Plotlines of cursed leads and daring adventures took place on wind-swept moors, and places that were haunted. The heroine would embark on a thrilling journey to discover if her hero was worthy of love. Her task usually boiled down to find out if the hero really murdered his first wife, brother, mother, insert other relation.

Well, is the "new adult" romance genre really new? Not really. If you take a good, deep gander at the definition of that old staple the "gothic romance", you'll find a lot of the same elements in "new adult." Face it: both genres have the damsel-in-distress motif. Gothic had the impoverished, brave, female orphan (of an age over 18) who was coming to her first job. It was usually a position at some dingy manor to teach the spawn of some widowed, brooding, tainted aristocrat. Heroes, alphas with shitty attitudes ruled this genre. The nice guy didn't stand a chance. The chick usually was virginal but spunky and came from a tragic background (family dead, pets dead). At the new job she encountered mystery and danger everywhere. And the possibility of marrying the Guy-with-the-Shitty atttitude and bratty kids. What joy!
From the definitions above, "new adult" has it all. At least the atmosphere of new, weird beginnings, a new job, a new life in a strange setting and having new experiences. "New adult" is just gothic romance without the virgin, with pre-marital sex, booze, drugs and snark. And for that touch of menace, even more alpha, misogynistic dudes. Voila, "new adult."
The "new adult" audience is growing and may be peaking but I predict its popularity will wane just like gothic romance's did as its readership's aged and its taste changed. Oh, gothic is still around. "New Adult" will survive but its authors will have to step up their game to keep the attention of its readers. Just like gothic.
This post has put me in the mood to re-read some Ann Radcliffe. 

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