Lately I’ve noticed that I’m stuck in an awkward position. I’m too old to relate to young adult characters, but at the same time, I’m too young to connect with the middle aged characters that populate the majority of adult books. This isn’t always a bad thing, I believe a lot can be learned by reading about people of all ages, and middle grade novels will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’d like to, at least once in a while, read about people who are my age.
Problem is, the number of books that feature university aged protagonists that aren’t ‘New Adult’ romances or contemps is frustratingly low. Where are the fantasy and sci fi and historical fiction and mystery books featuring 18-25 year olds? I refuse to believe there is no market for them, as university and college students do read, and not all can be into romance. Besides, if the novel is good, people of all ages will read it regardless of the age of the protagonist, so there really is no excuse. I’m far from the first to comment on this, but for whatever reason, there has been no change in the publishing industry.
That’s why I was so happy when a book I recently read, The Fifth Avenue Artists Society had a 22 year old protagonist. It was so great to be able to truly connect with a character and understand their motivations, and it made me realize how much I missed being the same age and going through the same experiences as the characters I was reading about. Something that has been happening less and less lately.
But the 18-25 age group isn’t the only one missing. While there are a decent number of books with protagonists around the age of 60, there is a steep decline in options if you look for a book with a character whose even older. Retirees definitely read, so wouldn’t it make sense to have books aimed at them? And that’s just age groups. If you looked at cultural representation or mapped out countries where books are set there’s so much missing that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
The publishing industry is playing it too safe, only taking on books that are similar to the ones already published. Everyone reads and there should be books available that reflect that. Instead, books are all expected to fit into pre existing genre categories that are much too narrow to be of any use.