What the New Adult Genre Could Learn from Mr. Magorium

Several people have talked about what they would like to see in the “New Adult” genre that is gaining in popularity, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I’m 27 years old. I don’t have a problem with reading about teens who are 10+ years younger than me, clearly, but sometimes I want to read about people closer to my age. But I don’t want to read about people’s sex lives, which is what most New Adult seems to be primarily focused on. I love a lot of things about YA literature, but if a book is about a whiny 14 year old I’m not as interested. I like books I can relate to, and I can relate to a 22 year old trying to figure out her life, because 5 short years ago (seriously, it feels like it was yesterday), that was me. Sometimes that’s still me, just older.

molly-mahoney

This was me.

I love the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and I think it’s grossly underrated and under-appreciated. When I first saw it, it was just pure fun, a fantastical story about a magical toy store and the people affected by it. But at some point when I rewatched it, I came upon a realization: I was Molly Mahoney. Molly Mahoney is the character played by Natalie Portman, who I would argue is the center of the story even if it is called Mr. Magorium‘s Wonder Emporium. She’s 23 and has graduated from college, but is still working at a toy store while she dreams of becoming a great composer. Mr. Magorium, played by Dustin Hoffman, encourages her dream by always asking how her masterpiece is coming along.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium movie image Dustin Hoffman and Natalie PortmanThen he announces that he’s leaving, essentially, that he’s about to die and leave the Earth. Since he’s in perfectly good health this leads Molly to believe that he has gone delusional in some way and is determined to convince him that he is not dying. But the truth of the matter is that, by some magical way that Mr. Magorium is capable of doing, he is choosing to leave the Earth after a good, long life, and he wants to leave his store to Molly. He hires an accountant (who ends up being referred to as “the counting mutant”) to get everything in order before he leaves the store to Molly. She is overwhelmed and quite insistent that she can’t run his store, because she’s not magical like him.

magorium-molly-hugI want to switch gears for a minute to talk about Henry, “The Mutant,” but I’ll get back to Molly. I’m married to an accountant, and my husband and Henry are pretty much one in the same. They are realistic and like having all their ducks in a row. Henry needs Molly to grow, because he struggles to see past numbers and order. Molly needs Henry to grow because she needs the perspective of someone who is practical but can also see the “spark” in her, that she is capable of more than she realizes. I love it when he tells Molly, “You know, some people… send flowers, or cards, or… give people hugs. I… make sure their paperwork’s all in order. I thought I’d try something different,” as he sees her struggle with Mr. Magorium leaving.

henry-toyshopAt the end of the movie, Molly has grown and changed, closer to fully realizing what all she is capable of. For most of us, it’s not quite as magical and exciting, and we may never feel quite as fulfilled as Molly seems to at the end of the movie, but it’s a fictional story and perhaps somewhat glamorized version of what many of us go through as twenty-somethings. I may not feel like Molly Mahoney at the end of the movie now, but I can certainly see change from the past five years, change towards something more positive and fulfilling as I work towards my goal to became an author. And even if I reach that goal it doesn’t mean everything will fall into place and be perfect, because it won’t. Life is a continuous struggle. But there’s also a lot of beauty in the journey, and we discover it with others around us with different gifts, like Molly and Henry.

I haven’t actually read any books labeled as New Adult yet, so I might be off base in assuming they’re not like Molly’s story, but I have been lead to believe they’re not. It doesn’t have to be so fantastical and “rated G” like Mr. Magorium, but something that focuses on the struggle you face as a young adult of trying out who you are, not who you are in bed, but what your strengths are, which friends in your life are your true friends, etc.

Perhaps the young adult genre could merely expand to include stories of the slightly older young adults, rather than breaking off into this whole other genre. I don’t know what the best way to market all this would be. But I think a lot of people would be able to relate to this sort of story. I know the not-too-much-younger me craved it. I would have written if I had any clue how to at the time. Maybe that’s part of the problem, is not knowing how it’ll end realistically. Because in real life, the process never truly ends.

If you’re interested in someone’s thoughts about what might be wrong with the New Adult genre, check out this article from The Huffington Post, “The Problem with New Adult Books.”

What do you think about stories about struggling twenty-somethings? Is this something you would like to see? Or have you seen it before and I’ve missed it? 

Advertisements

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is my Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

Seeing as I do write, while compiling this list I wondered: Why aren’t I writing these stories? And the answer is, I haven’t been so particularly inspired to yet. But who knows, maybe one day I will! But in the meantime, if someone else wants to write on of these stories, that’s be great because I would love to read them! This week’s list is in no particular order, and all these are YA story ideas unless otherwise specified.

1. WWII Historical Fiction Set in America

There’s been a fair share of WWII historical fiction lately, set in other countries: The Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray, Code Name Verity, etc. And I’m grateful for these, because for those of us who do live in America, sometimes we need to get outside of our USA bubble and see how the rest of the world sees things. But remember Molly from American Girl?

meet-mollyI’ve been interested in WWII history for a long time, so even as a girl I was fascinated by the story of a girl my age and how she coped with the war at home in America. I would absolutely love to see a YA story like this!

2. Story Set in Monaco

monte_carlo_casino_monacoOnce upon a time, I saw something about the country of Monaco on TV, and since then, I’ve been mildly curious about it. We see books set in France, Italy, Australia, etc., but what about Monaco? How’s life look like there? I actually wrote a short story about a teen American girl visiting Monaco when I was in high school, but I haven’t been able to find it and quite frankly, I knew very little about the country. I’d love to read the story from someone who knew what they were talking about.

3. A Little Women Retelling

little-women-retellIt’s no secret that I love Little Women. Because of this, I have attempted a couple different retellings, but neither of them have stuck for me yet, but we’ll see… maybe one day something will. (BTW, I will finish my Little Women movie dreamcast posts one day…). I love this story and want to see a truly justifiable retelling of it, either in a contemporary or futuristic setting. Also, bonus points if Jo and Laurie hook up this time. 🙂

4. Jane Austen Contemporary Retellings, a la Lizzie Bennet and Emma Approved

ja-retellingsBasically, I want to see stories very similar to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved as novels, and obviously more suited for that than the video format. I suppose they would be more New Adult, but I would want them to not be too focused on sexytimes, but rather stay true to the nature of Jane Austen’s stories. And I know there are Jane Austen retellings out there, but I would love for the same author to write six books based on Jane Austen’s six books and that would be in the same universe, and be as awesome as these Pemberley Digital videos. I would DEVOUR these books, so someone give them to me!

5. Retelling of Alice in Wonderland that Involves Traveling to Other Worlds/Dimensions

I came up with this one very randomly. I have nothing else to add, but I think it sounds awesome.

6. Set in Well-Known Cities That Aren’t LA/NYC/Chicago

I love big cities, but it seems the same ones get all the love. Why not more books in Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Nashville (though I think this one is rising in popularity… I just wish we could see more Nashville stories NOT involving country music), etc.? I’ll admit I don’t think much about where the story is set when I seek out a book, probably largely because I’m usually reading things set in the future, but if a book was set in Houston or Nashville (the two areas where I have spent the vast majority of my life) my interest would be at least piqued.

 7. Teens Who Work in a Comic Book Store and Go on Geeky Adventures

geek-costumesI think this one is self-explanatory, and would be so fun!

8. Teen Science Geniuses a la Fitz-Simmons

fitz-simmons2Fitz and Simmons are the two scientists on the show Agents of SHIELD, and they’re also my favorite characters from the show. They totally play off each other with their science facts and geeky quips and I want a book with a duo like them! But since I fail at science, I will not be writing it.

9. Teen Olympian Athlete

Eiskunstlauf: Tara Lipinski zeigt ihr WM-Gold

Was anyone else totally into Tara Lipinski, 1998 Olympic gold medalist?

As someone who has never been particularly good at sports, I have long been fascinated by the ability of Olympian athletes, and would love to read a YA book about a teen playing in the games, particularly a gymnast, a swimmer, or an ice skater. I would love to read a realistic look of what it takes to train for, qualify for, and be in the Olympics as a teen athlete.

10. Teens/Young Adults Flying in Space, a la the Red Squad from Star Trek

Red_SquadIn the Star Trek franchise, there are references to an elite group of cadets from Starfleet Academy called Red Squad who receive special and advanced training flying in space. In an episode of Deep Space Nine called “Valiant,” the Red Squad cadets were aboard the U.S.S. Valiant with an adult crew, when all the adult crew were killed in enemy fire and the cadets were forced to step up and take charge of the ship. It was a very interesting look on how a spaceship run by young people would work, how they would respond to having to answer to one another as officers, etc. Basically, I would love to see some of the ideas from this episode expounded on and explored in a book (something other than a Star Trek book). And I would love to hear the perspective of the specially trained teens about flying in space and their hopes for their future in a space career.

So what’s on your reading wishlist?