How about “Old” Adult Fiction for a Change?
I want my “Old” Adult Fiction, please! Young Adult (YA) Fiction is a thing, but why can’t we have a more prevalent classification for the same kinds of themes, but happening to actual adults? Some musings about why my favorite comfort reading genres get close, but don’t always dial it in.
I love my cozy mysteries, from well-produced Agatha Christie teleplays to binge-watching “Murder, She Wrote”. And I love my paranormal romance (which, let’s be real, is often just another term for “shifter smut”), which I usually enjoy as cheap or free eBooks that I enjoy at brunch or on travel.
But they both sort of orbit around something that’s just been missing for me, which is “young adult fiction stories, but happening to older adults”.
I think when the two genres combine into the “paranormal cozy mystery (with optional romance)”, they tend to occupy this space a bit better. So many of the stories involve someone–usually a woman, let’s be real–who is at least late 20s if not older, and she has her own life, perhaps in a big city, but certainly not a small one, and then something happens–the flashpoint…
She discovers that she’s a witch, or that she can see ghosts, or that she’s the latest in a magical lineage of some kind, or that her cat just inexplicably starts talking to her. However, a talking cat seems to be pretty standard no matter what kind of ability the protagonist has, even if the cat only talks to the reader.
The flashpoint is usually accompanied by a summons, or an accidentally-cast spell gone wrong, or a distant relative passing away, and in the best Stardew Valley cozy game tradition, she must travel (or pick up her life and move entirely) to a smaller town or village where she’ll discover that she’s not only inherited or become the caretaker for a nice little cottage or home, but that she’s also inherited a bookstore, or a bakery, an interior design studio, or maybe it gets really direct and she now has to take care of a magical supplies shop.
There will then be a mystery, generally a murder. Which, in case of psychic protagonists, it’s usually the victim showing up and asking for help in solving their murder. With good odds that they stick around to be the supernatural sidekick for future stories. The mystery doesn’t always have to be a murder, but those seem to be the best trope for completely ramping up the already-present “fish out of water” feeling.
There may also be a love interest, generally it’s the town sheriff or village inspector (even though ACAB). Someone the protagonist can initially come to blows with since they’ll be named as the first suspect in the crime, but their relationship will soften as the protagonist proves themselves to be quite adept at crime-solving. This will establish the “will they, won’t they” that can be spun out over the series of books–because there’s never just one book, it’s always a series. I rarely read more than one in a series, unless the box set was on sale.
However… my point is the basic elements of adult fiction are covered, but because of the mystery aspect, there isn’t often enough wonder at the newly mystical and magical world they’ve found themselves in. So I want Older Adult Fiction that’s way more direct and to the point. The initial concept that sprang to mind was “Harry Potter” (ew, I know) meets “Back to School“.
Some average person in their 30s or 40s with a normal day job and a normal life, suddenly gets a “chosen one” style invitation or summons to another dimension, or the layer is peeled back on a whole other reality they never knew existed, but suddenly they’re the ones that have to acclimate themselves and fix a problem.
On stream, I joked that someone who might be in project management would bring aspects of problem-solving methodologies to their new role. Similar to “How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom” and other Isekai titles and shows where “the hero” shows up, but is either reluctant to embrace their new role, or starts applying knowledge and methods from their “real life” to their situation.
I know more books like this exist, but my cozy mystery/paranormal romance searches have generally been restricted to the discount section because I want something I can kinda pay attention to, but that I don’t mind vanishing from my mind after hours of travel (or hours of mimosas). So I’ll be on the hunt from here on out.
Because honestly, after my IT day job and sometimes streaming in the evenings. Worrying about chores, rent and bills. Trying not to catch the latest variant of pandemic virus. And all of the other mundanities of daily life…
I’d be hard pressed to say no if a magical being suddenly appeared in my living room, telling me that I was the only one who could help them and their people. It’s being told you’re a mutant. It’s the TARDIS appearing outside your office. It’s any number of fantasies that are generally aimed at a younger crowd today… that I wish had more room for those things to happen to older people as well.
So… Older Adult Fiction, let’s get on that! Without making the protagonists detectives or cops. And optioning several books that will eventually be made into movies starring actors of a certain age, played by actors actually of that age. Oh, and written by actual writers and performed by actual actors because we support our artists around here.