PN3443 → More Thoughts on New Adult & A Bit About the Vampire Academy Series

In my effort to get out of my reading comfort zone - that is, taking a step away from the romance novels every so often - I started to get back into young adult novels, with an expansion into new adult works as well. My original musings on the new adult genre can be found here, and to be quite honest, I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about it. Reading more YA novels (A Midsummer's Nightmare, by Kody Keplinger for example) has really led me to question the validity of publisher's defining the New Adult genre as YA-but-for-an-older-audience.

I use Keplinger's novel as an example here because it dealt with sexual themes with the added bonus of having a heroine who didn't care one bit for the slut-shaming that people were doing to her. She was a sexually active teenager who had multiple partners, one-night-stands, and simply did not let that define her as a person. It was, for one, very refreshing to read in a YA novel. And for another, it made me wonder if these were themes already incorporated into YA - why was the NA genre necessary? The more NA I read, the more I feel that the genre label is a marketing ploy to hit an audience too old for YA but not ready or willing - for whatever reason - to try romance. Another example is Stephanie Tyler's recent release Defiance - fully marketed as a New Adult book set in a post-apocalyptic motorcycle club. That sounds weird, I know, but I loved it. But outside of the main characters being in their early-to-mid twenties and a YA-type theme of a girl learning not to run from her problems, it read very much like a full-on romance to me, explicit sex scenes and all.

Again and again, I come to back to the point that the New Adult genre is still finding it's feet and making it's way in the world. It's going to take some time to find a clear-cut answer to how it will be defined. But for right now, in my mind, it's a marketing ploy. That doesn't mean I won't keep reading, though.

But speaking of keeping reading, I've got to vent a bit about the Vampire Academy series. Like I mentioned above, I wanted to branch out in my reading habits. I heard that this series is going to be a movie (producers were no doubt inspired by the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games to move into YA-films), so I thought I'd give it a try. I left some quick reviews of the first three books in the series over on my Tumblr, but I felt that I needed to go into a bit more detail. It's an interesting concept - the idea of there being specific groups (races?) of vampires and the guardians who protect them. While I finished reading the series, there's a bit about the books - especially the early ones - that have really bothered me. Spoilers, ahoy!

  • There is little explanation for what kind world-building is happening. The mythology of vampires have been interpreted many, many different ways over time and while Mead lays out the basics of Moroi vs. Strigoli there isn't much else. How is this different compared to Buffy and Twilight? How do the protectors factor in - what's the mythology behind that? Some of it was answered, but very little was fleshed out beyond that.
  • There's very little emotional examination by the main character. This was probably the most frustrating part to me, since there were so many opportunities and reasons for it. This is a character who literally died and was brought back to life - there should be some introspection about that. There should be some emotional resonance about her psychic-esque ties to her best friend. Heck, there should be some introspection about her friend, Lissa, cutting herself due to depression in the first book. But there's nothing outside of cutting=bad=Rose must stop her. There's so many ways that readers can be better attached to Rose, but it was left in favour of a rather mediocre plot.
  • On top of all that, the believability of the main romance between Rose and Dimitri just wasn't there, either. Maybe it's because I heavily read in the romance genre, but I didn't feel the tension or the yearning. No investment from me on this at all.
  • And finally, there's a distinct lack of female friendship and interaction in the early books. This was hard to come to grips with considering the plot of the first book relied on the friendship between Rose and Lissa. But outside of Rose making statements that she would always look out for her, and some basic jealousy of Lissa's boyfriend - there really isn't much in the way of a true representation of friendship. It was hard to see Lissa as a main character until the last book - and her storyline - while nice - was a little difficult to believe considering the "bond" between her and Rose, and how Rose would conveniently 'read' her at just the right time. This was more than a little frustrating - if the author wanted to show this, she probably should've worked in a third person narrative format - everything became predictable in the first-person narrative.

I want so badly to like this series - and in the end it was decent. The plot picked up enough in the third book that I felt compelled to go on, and the short length of each book meant it wasn't much hardship in reading them. But a lot of the issues were still there until the end - especially the lack of emotional introspection and contemplation.

So how about you, readers? Has there ever been a series you wish could be better?

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