DISCUSSION: NEW ADULT in an Adult and Young Adult World

Let me start this off by saying, first I am going to do my best to inform you exactly what new adult is.  After that, I am going to ask you what your opinion is on it, if there’s room for it, if you’ve read any of it, etcetera. Let’s do this!

New Adult is a sub-genre.

 These books have characters which are done with high school, or above high school age.  This starts at around age 18-19.  Now upon researching popular New Adult titles so I can give some examples, I encountered a dilemma.  

You see, I thought New Adult was not only characters that were above 18, and into their early twenties, but I thought it was books in which had more cursing and a bit more sexual content.  It seems though, that a lot of the New Adult books listed simply have college-aged characters.  Lets show you what I mean.

Where She Went [Gayle Forman]
Something Like Normal [Trish Doller]
Slammed [Colleen Hoover]

These books do not have much “explicit” content, but do have the correct aged characters to qualify as young adult.  Since this then confused me, I continued researching… (like I’m doing a legit paper or something, here!) 
::AHEM, insert Wikipidea here:: 

Here’s what good ol’ Wiki has to say.  
     “New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin’s Pressin 2011. [1] St. Martin’s Press editors wanted to address the coming-of-age that also happens in a young person’s twenties. They wanted to consider stories about young adults who were legally adults, but who were still finding their way in building a life and figuring out what it means to be an adult.” 

 So, I would really love to hear from some bloggers, as well as some New Adult authors on this.  I recently read Last Summer a New Adult Novel by Rebecca Rogers, and this novel had what I believed all New Adult was supposed to have.  Easy, by Tamara Webber is another example (strong sexual content) of what I thought New Adult would consist of. College-aged characters as well as more mature sexual content.  Perhaps I was wrong?  I mean, Wikipedia and Goodreads say I am.  

Regardless of the facts, I want to know, what do you guys think?  Is New Adult a necessary genre?  According to many, it is the “ultimate crossover genre” to go from Young Adult, to Adult.  Personally, I think it is wonderful as well as absolutely necessary to have New Adult.  Within the next few years I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see a New Adult section on Amazon, B&N and in some bookstores.  Its not like this is not possible,I mean come on!  

Check out some New Adult Authors here:
Alyssa Rose Ivy
Tamarra Webber
Rebecca Rogers
Jamie McGuire

Books Pictured Above:
Easy – Tammara Webber
Last Summer – Rebecca Rogers
Flat Out Love – Jessica Park
Beautiful Disaster – Jamie McGuire

Also Check Out:

Come See About Me – C.K. Kelly Martin

Now, sound off below! Let me know what you think New Adult really is, and if you think there’s room for it!


31 comments on “DISCUSSION: NEW ADULT in an Adult and Young Adult World

  1. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller can be classified as New Adult (in my opinion, anyway). Check out my review here. 🙂

    I'm checking out Last Summer now – the blurb looks promising!

  2. Hey Lyra! I am currently reading Something Like Normal. And Last Summer was really good! I read it 😀 We're having a giveaway for some ebook copies, check it out!

  3. I don't think New Adult HAS to have more mature content at all – it definitely can, but I don't see it as necessary. To me, New Adult simply refers to the age/stage in life. And often, I see it as very closely related to YA. Another series that kind of straddles the line here is Bloodlines by Richelle Mead, since the MC and many of the other important characters (like the love interest..) are slightly older.

    I'd say the majority of people have more “adult” situations as they get older, especially in a college situation, but it isn't a given. I hate to see it assumed that it is.

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  4. After the research (and quoted definition of New Adult) I totally agree. It seems to be based on just the phase of life the characters are in. And as you stated, this can come with complex issues, as it often does. However, it is not necessary to qualify as NA.

  5. When I had Come See About Me shopped in late 2010/early 2011 editors reactions that the book was too old to be YA but too young for adult readers convinced me there is a need for an NA label. I imagine in time traditional publishers will be forced to realize there should be room for characters college-age to mid-20s. They've created the need for new adult by having strict boundaries of what can be considered YA or adult fiction.

  6. OMG, WHY? This is so unnecessary. I'm actually at the point where I can't tell YA and adult books apart all of the time, so how on earth would I know whether something was young or new adult or actually adult. AAAHHHHHH.

    Recent books that have confused me: House of Shadows and Stormdancer. Both are being marketed YA, but they don't feel YA to me, and I JUST DON'T KNOW.

    I hope this does not catch on.

  7. I agree entirely! When you are telling people they can't write books with characters of a certain age, you need to make a GENRE or area where those books fit in! Without it, we'd be shorted a LOT of really wonderful books!

  8. Christina, it can get confusing! It really can! That, though is why I think NEW ADULT comes in handy! If it was more well-known, we would be able to shelve it as such and know where it belongs!

    Im going to look up House of Shadows and Stormdancer, see what I think they SHOULD be 😉

  9. I think New Adult is incredibly important, and I kind of wish we could just call it “post adolescent literature” all the time because that sounds fancy and I like fancy things. (I also actually prefer “adolescent literature” for YA but that's unrelated.)
    I'm always looking for NA titles that are set after college (or maybe during the traditional college years, but not with college students) that are about finding your place in a job that will finally last more than 4 years of life; that deal with “adult dating” that still has throwbacks to some adolescent dating blunders; that walk on the edge of adult fiction, but still taunt and tease it with a freshness and vitality that only ever seems to exist in the still young.
    As you said, most novels in NA right now are set during college — and I think that's great, but the branches need to continue to grow and the tree needs to get larger.

  10. Christina, I think this gets confusing because there are novels right now on YA shelves that almost no one understands as YA. Those books, if NA were to exist in a book store, would probably be shelved in NA.
    I think the other confusion is that people think a book MUST fit a category — it's the very reason why writers and St. Martin's thought up NA. So many books were being turned away because they didn't neatly fit a category, and that's just not OK. All the good books should be published, but we have this system in place that demands we categorize them.
    Which isn't inherently wrong and it's combated all the time because people happily read from all the shelves in a bookstore they like. I read adult and YA and non-fiction, and it wouldn't matter where those books were shelved, I'd still read them. The categories as the function in a bookstore serve to help us navigate a physical space and as a label on books help up understand a level of content.
    Once upon a time (a time few people seem to remember or want to remember), the YA section was just as awkward and new as NA is now. Except back then, there wasn't the internet or self-publishing or blogs and discussion forums to sort it all out. It was just handed down from publishers to bookstores to us. And so we learned it and went with it; here, we have an opportunity to held build it and create this new space — both as it may exist physically and what it will take on content-wise.

  11. Brenna — I totally agree NA shouldn't necessarily have more sexual situations, or necessarily have more exploration of things like alcohol (which becomes legal at 21), etc.
    As with anything, those scenarios fit certain stories & characters and don't fit others. I also think it's completely OK for those things to be implied and not An Issue, so to speak.
    I think with most categories the first (two-part) — and sometimes only asked question — is this: What is the age of the narrator, and what age-range did the author say s/he wrote this for?
    Which is where I think NA does become relevant because plenty of authors have anecdotes where they wrote a story about a college student (or first job or newlywed, etc) and it was turned down because a category for primarily 19 – 25yo readers doesn't technically exist and it has no physical shelf space. That is a problem.

  12. I am fascinated by the line, “too old for YA, too young for adult reader.” Goodness. I've never met a reader who defined her- or himself as a TYPE of readers. Readers tend to just say they're readers, and they read what they like. It's such an odd marketing response that defines readers in a peculiar way.

  13. I think that New Adult as a category can be viewed as “unnecessary” to adult readers. Because, to us, it's a subtle distinction (the difference between where it's shelved and the possibility of having more mature content). But those two things are major for younger readers. There are sixteen year olds who feel too old to read YA and want a next step. They want to know what comes next. As opposed to those of us who have already survived high school and college and want to revisit those ideas.

    In regards to the building of the genre, I think what we're seeing right now is a hesitance to re-categorize titles. Catcher In The Rye, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble books are New Adult books. They might not have been written with that in mind, but they fit the bill. We need new NA titles for sure, but we also need to examine the books we have that preceded the genre label.

  14. My New Adult romance Life on the Edge has a 19-year-old MC but is clean as far as sexual content goes. I wanted to write a story with college-age characters because they have more freedom than high schoolers but are still discovering new things about themselves. I think this can extend to characters in their early to mid twenties, also. I find the voices of characters in these age groups have the fun of YA voices but with an added bit of maturity that makes them even deeper.

  15. I agree that there is a need to grow the NA tree beyond just the college years (although I love to read and write about those years!). I think that might happen naturally as authors, readers, and publishers gain a better understanding of what New Adult encompasses. I know I was initially worried that the NA contemporary romance I am working on now wouldn't “fit” the New Adult label because the main character is in her first year of law school.

  16. I think your first paragraph sums up an aspect of this very well. We must consider all the readers, not just some of them — which is probably what makes the “there is no readership because 19 – 25 yo don't read as much” or “it's too young / too old for [blank]” so dumbfounding to me. It's an odd and limited portrait of readers.

    As to your second point, I am actually very leery of recategorizing already published books. I think that really violates authorial intent and authority; if an author wants to come out and say, “Hey, if NA had existed when I published, this would have been a good fit” like Diana Peterfreund has done, I think that's great. Otherwise, I think authors choose to write and publish like they did for a reason, and just because the whole scope is changing doesn't mean everything that came before needs to be retroactively adjusted.
    I actually see CATCHER as strictly adult, despite the fact that is a book about adolescence with an adolescent narrator. I think it's fantastic that it has a wide & strong young readership — and yes, it changed my life at 14 — but I do think it should remain classified and shelved under “adult.” I think we should encourage young readers to read adult books and to adventure out of their section, just as much as I think we should encourage adults to pick up YA books because there is some fantastic literature on those shelves.

  17. I also think it's tricky and maybe detrimental to say, “These adult books are good examples of NA books” because that adds a level of confusion. That prompts someone to say, “So if those are good examples of NA, why does NA need to exist? Why don't you just publish as an adult novel?”
    I think we need to look at how NA is changing the scope and how books will be published & categorized & shelved (either in a physical bookstore or in an online database) in the future.
    That said, I also just think the whole discussion can be difficult and confusing because some older characters (19, 20, 21) do have important and major roles in YA books, and that's because the authors are established and can fill this content gap, but still only within established categories. And yet, I don't think it's for anyone else to say that those books are something else.

  18. This is why I think it's so important the writers and authors choose their category, instead of having it thrust upon them. In this way, I think self-publishing is doing so much the NA category. As are smaller publishers. However, I'm a person who writes early-twenties narrators and they rest of the cast is usually the full spectrum of 20, and I worry about if I “fit” into NA, as well. At the same time, I want to publish traditionally and I worry equally that (a) my story won't be “adult” enough (whatever that means), or (b) if I publish adult, I'm somehow turning my back on NA. Which is probably irrational.
    Also — college years rock! but expansion is totally good. In this. Not RISK style.

  19. I know your story is “clean” as far as sex is concerned, but it still deals with and considers sex in a more adult-like manner. And yet, there is still a hint a naivety involved that is true to a 19yo MC. I like it; it's developed and it's personal to her and I think that is still more “New Adult” fitting. The same sort of sexual concept in a YA would be handled differently, and while both would be clean, it's as you said: “an added bit of maturity.”

  20. I understand your point, but at the same time, at this moment we have less than 20 titles to hold up as examples of what NA is/can be. When Juv Lit came into its own it was on the shoulders of authors like Mark Twain and JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll who intended their books to delight adult audiences and happened to become the forefront of children's literature.

    We have to be able to point to existing titles and say, “We can do things like that. We can show this time of life in this way, but we can do it on purpose.”

  21. New Adult is basically the literary void between Adult and YA. Even though Young Adult should include 18-25 year olds…literary agents say that they find it hard to sell anything above 18 as YA because the characters aren't relatable to teens because they AREN'T teens. Problem is that they're not adults either since they haven't “established” themselves as adults. The amount of swear words and sexual content doesn't determine whether something is new adult. that's more of the author's preference of using profanity and such. It's the issues they discuss that affects people of that age that's important: new independence, finding who you are, what you plan to do after college, what;s college like and if you haven't gone, was that the right choice? will the next person you date be the person you spend the rest of your life with? hooking up or not? etc.

    The genre doesn't really exist since new adult isn't used by publishers and lit agents right now. it's just a term that's out there. I'm actually posting about on my blog either tonight or tomorrow. aaomer.wordpress.com

  22. Bailey, I was surprised by that too. And yet that was the majority of editors' reactions. It really hadn't occured to me that people would not want to read a book because the character was twenty instead of thirty or seventeen. And I still don't think that's true, but obviously that's been the perception in traditional publishing.

  23. I think we should have a New Adult category. If books are being turned down by publishers because they do not ‘fit’ into the YA genre than that is wrong. I am 19. I live the life of a college student (not American one though but similar) and I enjoy reading these books; Beautiful Disaster and Easy for example. I guess YA can be considered a very broad category. I know my 13 year old sister would not want to read about college life but older teens might. Categories are a part of publishing; it is not going to easily change. But if a new category will get more of these books published I am all for it.

  24. For me, writing a New Adult novel was almost a relief. I say that because I felt like I had more freedom to push the envelope with the mature content without being chastised for going too far. If I had plugged that same content into a YA novel, well, it probably wouldn’t have been a good reaction. I’m definitely not saying every single NA book to come along HAS to have mature content, but I think, in that stage of everyone’s lives (right after high school, or during college), the maturity level of a person increases, as does the intensity of real-life events. There’s a certain mindset of “this is it; this is the real world” that goes along with NA, and it’s just as fun experiencing everything for the first time in high school as it is after high school.

    I do believe we need more New Adult books. Young Adult is fun for a period of time, but then I get tired of reliving high school over and over, and I have to read Adult novels to pull myself out of a “book fog.” 😉

  25. New Adult is a new term to me. I guess now that it's been pointed out, I've read a few 'new adult' books, Something Like Normal included.

    I think it's a good idea to have it as a sub-genre. As many above have pointed out, the teens on the younger spectrum of YA don't want to read books about college kids, and vice versa. But, I also don't neccessarily think breaking everything up into smaller and smaller categories is a good idea. I mean, if you think about it, we have board books, children's books, MG, YA, NA, and adult. And then with each of those reading levels they're all broken up into even more genres and sub-genres.

    But ultimately, I think including NA could be a good thing. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how publishers take it from here.

  26. Lily I agree, we definitely need an example of what New Adult is. That way, it is distinct and different from YA and adult, and has its own image.

  27. Jennifer I think all those reasons are perfect for why you chose to write New Adult. I personally was proved wrong about what new adult consists of, but I still much enjoy it, and cant wait to read more.

  28. Rebecca (not surprisingly) I agree immensely. I think it is so necessary and so relevant. It also like several people have said, allows you some more freedom in writing, which I think is great as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s