Lauren Graham's Someday, Someday Maybe & What 'New Adult' Could Be
I recently listened to the audiobook of Lauren Graham's debut novel, Someday, Someday Maybe and really enjoyed it. The Gilmore Girls and Parenthood actress penned a surprisingly fresh novel, which, while predictable and in need of a bit of smoothing out in terms of the prose, succeeded in charming me from beginning to end. Graham's voice is fresh, and infused with authentic comic moments.
Someday, Someday Maybe also gave me pause in that it represents the sort of story I'd love to read more of, the stories that I'd hoped the burgeoning "New Adult" thing would and could be.
Someday, Someday Maybe follows Franny Banks, struggling to create an acting career for herself in New York City in 1995. She's set a deadline for achieving undefined "success" and that deadline is rapidly approaching. She's had a few gigs and been accepted into a prestigious acting course, but as she's watching the clock tick on her future, she wonders if she's going to be another has-been who couldn't make her dreams become reality. Franny ponders the wisdom of her audacity to to wish for something special, since she doesn't think she's particularly exceptional.
Would Franny be better off getting a teaching certificate, like her father would like, going home and marrying her "backup plan"? Is all the rejection and instability worth it?
Franny's situation is far more universal and relatable than the novels being marketed as "New Adult," the ones tacking the college years and immediately post-college experiences.
Franny has to negotiate not only her career angst, but also a waitressing gig that barely pays the bills, living with two roommates in a lousy neighborhood and watching all of her old friends seemingly leave her behind as they find long-term relationships and stable careers.
One of the most compelling elements of Someday, Someday Maybe is simply Franny's relationships with her roommates, Dan and Jane. This is something that's often missing from "New Adult." Yes, these characters usually exist in the popular NA titles, but their day-to-day interactions aren't usually present. In Graham's book, Dan struggles with disappointment as his screenplay receives rejection after rejection, and his fiance doesn't really understand why he keeps trying. Jane makes sure all the bills are paid and is the wisest, most accomplished of the group. The dynamics are awkward and authentic, like real life.
And I think that's why I liked Someday, Someday Maybe so much, despite that it needed some polish and didn't exactly keep me guessing.
In our podcast about NA fiction with Suzie Townsend, Cora Carmack and Lisa Desrochers (a literary agent and NA authors, respectively), one of the guests remarked that the audience for the "New Adult" enjoys the "nostalgia factor," of the genre. For me, most of the books marketed as such don't resemble my own experiences whatsoever. These sorts of experiences are painful and exhausting, yes, but they're also funny and awkward, and Someday, Someday Maybe brought me back to that time and those feelings. Since I'd experienced those things, in the same era as Franny (1995), I got it--this was probably the first time that New Adult Nostalgia button was really pushed for me in a big way.
While I don't need books to reflect my own experiences (in fact, I generally enjoy those that depart more so than mirror own life), there is some magic in reading about that sticky, confused time when one's supposed to be an adult, but doesn't really have the experiences to draw on to be an adult.
After reading Someday, Someday Maybe, I wondered if, since this novel is what I would consider "New Adult," what resonated with me as representative of that time of life, if NA is limited in its potential as a full-blown thing with name recognition (keeping in mind that many, many mainstream readers are only vaguely familiar with "Young Adult" as a full-blown thing). Is there a limitation to the usefulness of "New Adult" as a label if it's so personal to the individual reader?
This book is simply marketed as adult contemporary fiction, and it's sold well thanks to Lauren Graham's popularity. But, without Graham, would the "New Adult" label have helped Someday, Someday Maybe reach the hands of the right readers? My gut says probably not. It's categorized as mainstream adult fiction, would have been placed on the "Chick Lit" (hate that term) shelves ten years ago when that genre exploded. And that feels like a natural fit for this novel's tone and subject.
For me, "New Adult" should deliver exactly what Graham's novel brought: humor, confusion, career-angst, questionable decisions, the transformation of relationships, of both the friendship and romantic variety.
What do you think? Am I making any sense at all? Have you read Someday, Someday Maybe? Does it have the "New Adult" vibe for you? Or do you prefer the way it's evolving, with a focus on contemporary romance? Or do you not really care at this point and just want to read something good?