There’s a not-so-new emerging genre out there on the market these days called New Adult fiction. Wikipedia states that this genre was coined by St. Martins Press in 2009 when they held a contest. In the contest description, it says:
“Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult — a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.”’
When I heard about NA, I had hope. This described what I was writing. New Adult covers the age range of 18 – 26, or in more vague terms (since I think 26 might be too strict of a cut-off age), the age in which a person is no longer in high school, but has not yet established a career or a family. But sometimes NA covers teens in the later years of high school, like Colleen Hoover’s CRASH and HOPELESS series. We’ll get to why down below.
You know? That limbo stage. The party stage. The WHO THE HECK AM I? stage. The newfound I’M INDEPENDENT stage. That’s what I write and it finally has a specific genre publishers seem to be embracing (at least beginning to). The themes of New Adult tend to be structured around living on your own for the first time (or preparing to), learning how to make ends meet, establishing a career, entering or preparing for marriage and maybe even pregnancy, going to college, experiencing sex, experimenting with drinking and drugs (more so than in high school), entering more adult peer groups, and generally exploring any other adult experience that is new to that character.
3. IS NA ONLY ABOUT OVERSEXED/UNDERSEXED TEENS ENTERING ADULTHOOD?
I’ve noticed New Adult is starting to pair up with descriptions like “YA-like stories, but with more sex, and more detailed sex, at that.” When I go on Amazon, I see countless New Adult books that are selling big, especially ones with descriptions that say “For Mature Audiences Only”. You see, this is such a developing genre, and I have a feeling that it will go through some pretty big mood swings and phases before/if it lands into a more solid place.
BUT NO, NA IS NOT JUST ABOUT SEX. Like any other genre, NA can be about many, many, many different things. Story lines featuring a lot of sex or virgins looking for sex or someone recovering from rape, or anything along those lines, seem to be the popular thing at the moment. But there are other NA genres, ranging from urban fantasy to paranormal to dystopian to historical to literary, etc. Take your pick.
I’ve found that Romantic New Adult fiction is fiction that uses the romantic relationships in the story to further the main character’s self-discovery and complete his/her character arc.
I also want to point out that New Adult might have a fancy schmancy name now, but I think some books that neatly fall into its category are still being marketed as YA. Here’s a few.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman — It’s a sequel to a YA novel, sure, but it’s 100% New Adult, in my opinion. Two main characters living separately on their own, establishing their careers, not married yet, looking for who they are. By the way, I adore this book. It’s heavy on the romantic themes, but I wouldn’t call it romance.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman — Can you tell I love Gayle Forman? I think if anyone writes anything close to what I write, it’s her. This book strikes me as NA as well. It’s about a girl who just graduated and is on a trip in Europe. This one felt more romance to me.
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard — This is about an 18-year old who travels to Central America looking for independence and no-strings-attached hookups. It felt borderline YA/NA to me, but could easily be NA, I think. It has romantic themes, but I wouldn’t call it romance.
So why are these not NA? I’m not exactly sure, but I think it has to do with many factors. Maybe that author mostly writes YA and the publisher wants to keep all of his/her books in that category. Maybe the book, in its general feel, appeals more to a YA audience despite the age of the characters. Maybe the publisher hasn’t embraced NA yet and they prefer to market to a YA readership. There are a lot of different reasons. Either way, I think NA will probably always be a somewhat blurry category, just like in some areas YA is blurry.
5. WRITING STYLE
I’ve read 32 YA books since January of this year. Most of those 32 books were written in first person. Many of them were first person present. I haven’t read that many NA books so far, but I’ve heard that like YA, they are also mainly written in first person present. As many of you may know, I tried to write my current NA novel in first person present. It didn’t work. This taught me that despite popular trends, you shouldn’t write a book according to what everyone else is doing. Duh. So my NA novel will now be in the apparently unpopular third person past tense. Like any other genre, NA can be written in whatever tense and POV the author wishes and it will still be NA.
6. SHOULD YOU BE READING NA?
That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I’ll say this — like covers, sometimes books shouldn’t be judged by their genre. I think if a book’s description appeals to you, even if it’s in a genre you normally don’t read, give it a try. Like a friend of mine says, don’t be a genre snob.
I’d like to know how many of you have read anything you might think is New Adult? Have you heard the term before? What do you think of it?