Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Twenty-Four and There’s So Much More* - Guest Post by Margot Kinberg

Do you remember your twenties? Early adulthood is exciting. There’s newfound independence and so many possibilities. At the same time, those years can be anxious. Young adults aren’t teens anymore; they have to figure out things like paying rent, buying food, and making career and partner choices. They have to start using important life skills. It’s not an easy time, but it can be exhilarating. There’s so much ahead for a young adult, and so much to look forward to in life. It’s no wonder young adults have travel adventures or spend time trying out different jobs while they decide what they want. 

Those years between adolescence and what people used to call ‘settling down’ can be a special time, and it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s explored a lot in books, including crime fiction. It’s part of the reason I concentrate on characters in that age group in my forthcoming Joel Williams novel, Scene of the Crime. In the novel, ex-cop turned professor Joel Williams and his wife plan a relaxing Sunday brunch at a local diner. Instead, they discover that there’s been a murder at the restaurant, and a student Williams knows is one of the suspects. 

Many of the other characters in the novel are in those young adult years. A few are involved in political activism, another wants to start her own business, and one’s taking community college courses. All of them have dreams, fears, and plans. And that’s part of why Williams feels a special sense of urgency about this murder. The young people involved have everything ahead of them, and he feels both their hope and their vulnerability. 

Of course, Scene of the Crime isn’t the only crime novel that features young people at that crossroads in life. Owen Laukkanen’s The Professionals, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Last Rituals, and (as Barbara Vine) Ruth Rendell’s A Fatal Inversion all focus on young adults who are taking their first steps towards independent lives. Fans of Tana French will know that The Likeness features a similarly aged group of characters. I’m sure you can come up with many other examples. 

Why do so many crime novels feature young adults? One reason might be that young adults sometimes make hasty, even impetuous decisions; they don’t always have the maturity to hold back and think wisely. That lack of patience can lead to the sorts of things (like murder and other crimes) that we see in the genre. Another reason could be that young people don’t always think of the long-term consequences of what they do. They may make plans, but imagining how, say, a particular spending choice will impact them years from now can be difficult for them. What’s more, many young adults still have that sense of invulnerability that we often see in teens, so they don’t always see dangers for themselves. And their youth can be poignant. All of this can add up to a very effective context for a crime story. Which ones have stayed with you?

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s Old Man.


Margot Kinberg is a novelist and Associate Professor with many years of experience in K-12 and higher education. She is the author of the Joel Williams mystery series (Scene of the Crime comes out 1 July), and the Patricia Stanley series (the next in that series is planned for 2025). Her other fiction includes Streets of Gold; the charity anthology In a Word: Murder, which she edited; and Shots All Around, a collection of her own flash fiction stories. Since 2016, she has served on the judging panel for the Ngaio Marsh Awards for both Best First Novel and Best Novel. Originally from the East Coast, she currently lives in California.



HonoluLou said...

Let's see, hasty and impetuous decisions, no patients or looking at long term consequences, invulnerable...HEY, that's me! I feel so young. TXS, great post.

Margot Kinberg said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, HonoluLou. And you know what? I think we all get that way at times...

TracyK said...

Very nice post by Margot on her new book and other books featuring young adults. I am looking forward to reading Scene of the Crime. I only remember the anxiety part of being that age, although I probably didn't put a label on it at the time.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thank you, Tracy - on both counts. I think you're not alone when it comes to feeling anxious as a young adult. It can be a stressful time, even if it is exciting.