Ah, new adult. A genre that isn’t a genre. A phrase that brings to mind romance books with scenes too explicit for the average YA reader, but too juvenile for the adult reader. However, I’m here today to present my defense of New Adult as a valid genre outside of the romance titles casually attributed to the label, and to actually encourage more people to start using it!
so…what exactly is new adult?
According to an article by Wikipedia, New Adult is “New adult fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–30 age bracket. St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “fiction similar to young adult fiction that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult'”.
Simply put: New Adult is literally just a genre for new adults. There’s no mention of romance, smut, or juvenile writing. And that leads me to my next point…
should books be marketed as New Adult?
LISTEN. If a book is marketed as YA, usually the characters are 13-18. If it’s categorized as adult, usually the characters are over 25. What happens to the age bracket in between? Are they left to flail in the waters of unacknowledged literature? Sometimes, a book doesn’t fit in either category. What happens then? Let me introduce:
Y’all know I had to bring this up. A Court of Thorns and Roses is famous for restarting the NA genre. If you don’t know anything about this book or what it’s done, let me give you a quick rundown. Basically, this is a fae series from an author who was firmly in the YA category with her other series Throne of Glass. And then she published this book, and all of her sweet, innocent, young teenage fans ran to pick up this book. Little did they know that this book has much more smut compared to her other series. All of a sudden, chaos ensued around the book world as everyone tried to figure out where to categorize it. The characters are in the YA age range and the writing reflects that, yet the actual content of the book is too mature for most YA readers (at least, part of the age group which YA is supposed to target aka 12-15 year olds). And thus, the NA genre was reborn. Except it hasn’t quite caught on, and I think that’s detrimental in a lot of ways. Let me show you more examples.
These are all “adult” books that have crossover YA appeal. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, these are great books for an older YA reader/younger adult reader who wants something more “mature” but doesn’t want an “adult” novel. For example, The Atlas Six has characters that fall into the 18-23 age range and has plenty of magic and violence. Some would argue that it’s more YA due to the tone of the writing, while others would argue that it’s more adult due to the subject matter. The book itself is most popular (from what I’ve seen) among people who are around the same ages as the characters. Therefore, calling it YA wouldn’t be correct at all. Calling it adult technically works, but it isn’t the same kind of adult book as say, Wheel of Time. That’s why I’m pushing for NA to be recognized as a genre: we need more books like these that have incredible crossover appeal but aren’t just “smutty romance with juvenile characters.”
to end, let’s make a small pro-con list shall we?
- CON (yes we’re starting negative let’s go): It pushes female authors into another box. This is a topic best left for another post but essentially, it’s very difficult for a female author to get an adult book firmly published in the adult sphere (specifically fantasy). Their books are often shoehorned into the YA or NA genres, even if the author doesn’t want them to.
- PRO: It becomes easier to recommend books! If you’re like me and slowly growing out of YA (not really but also sort of) then it becomes a lot easier to recommend and receive recommendations for books that are more “mature” than YA but still aren’t 100% adult. For example, if I want a book that’s considered NA like the ones listed above but get recommended Hush, Hush or The Books of Babel I’m gonna be mad. There’s a space for people who don’t want younger YA but also don’t necessarily want “older”, overly complex adult fantasy.
- CON: There’s still some misconceptions about the genre. Some people still consider NA to be full of smut with juvenile writing, as opposed to a book that features older characters and more mature situations. At this point, it might be more difficult to promote a book if it has those connotations attached to it unfortunately.
- PRO: NA helps distinguish some books better! Consider some of the fantasy books published last year: Empire of the Vampire, The Last Graduate, The Shadow of the Gods, Cloud Cuckoo Land, The Keeper of Night, and She Who Become The Sun. Some of these are considered firmly YA, while others are considered firmly adult. But what about the ones with crossover appeal? Where are they being categorized? Having NA as a genre could genuinely help with this issue of shelving and categorizing books!
So that’s it! Please let me know your thoughts on this topic!