new adult books as a genre: should they exist?

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!

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23 thoughts on “new adult books as a genre: should they exist?

  1. i think of NA as more of an age category rather than a genre! and i 100% agree with what you’re saying, establishing NA as a different category could really help certain books thrive & also battle the misconceptions.

    is Moon Goddess NA? i read it today and thought it had YA vibes 👀😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great way to think about it! It would really help people who fall into that age range possibly find more books that appeal to them.

      It’s absolutely crazy (and another reason why I made this post lol) but this book was sort of marketed as adult but with YA crossover themes? The author herself says in the top review on the Goodreads page for Moon Goddess that she envisions this book as being a cross between adult and older YA. I feel like so many books fit into that category, and it confuses people who are expecting either straight-up YA or adult!

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  2. I definitely feel like the New Adult bracket has to come back because there are numerous books which definitely fit this category better than YA or Adult. Also it would just make life a little bit easier for all of us ‘new adults’ who are 18-30 to find books with characters where we may see ourselves more. Whether it’s down to the character themselves and the situation they’re in, in the book or the overall vibe of the book. (idk if that makes sense but sometimes I want to read something more YA and other times I’m down to read something more Adult…then I have moments of wanting to read the thing in the middle but finding New Adult books is hard when they don’t always use that term).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. New Adult can also capture those awkward transition years between teen and adulthood that often falls through the cracks between YA and Adult. Those early 20-something years when you’re just getting your independence but are still flailing about (okay, a lot of us are still flailing). But with some YA books being marketed towards the 30-somethings that still read YA, it could be helpful to have that NA category, something that has YA feel but also some more mature content.

    Anyways, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES. Exactly! I totally agree with all of that! It’s such an important distinction not only to those who fall into the age bracket but for those who are a bit older and want something similar like you said!

      Thank you for participating!💜

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Super interesting discussion! I definitely really enjoy reading books with characters in the 18-25 age range, and so having NA around as a marketing category is helpful to me in finding those books! Plus, I do think there’s something to be said that the journey that a 20 year old protagonist is going to go on is going to be very different from what a 40 year old protagonist might experience. But I also agree that it makes it even harder for female authors, especially female fantasy authors, to break into the adult genre marketing-wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I agree, I think that it’s easier to define certain “themes” when the age bracket can be broken up a little bit better. That’s another great point! I didn’t realize it but you’re right, age does really impact the character. Yes, that’s something I would definitely be worried about! It’s so sad that female authors are constantly shoved into a corner :/ Thank you for your comment, I loved reading your thoughts!💜

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  5. I LOVE THIS POST KAYA! I 100% agree that I would love an official, respected NA age group, like you say those 18-23 are just there without any book group and it is weird but it is an age group that would do well in my mind. Plus it will help split up the YA age group, I find it weird how 12-18 is one age group like 12-year-olds and 18-year-olds have such different lifestyles… how are they meant to be reading the same characters all the time!!
    I will say I had never considered how NA could also put women writers in another box but you’re right. Like ‘the whole women can’t write adult’ fire is frustrating and disheartened. Why can’t women just publish what they want?!
    Such a thoughtful discussion and I loved it. I ultimately think it would be great to have a defined NA group to help people find/publish the books they want to. 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! YES I agree!! Like, I have an 11 year old sister and we don’t watch/read the same things at all (unless there’s something we specifically want to read together) so it really is crazy to me how YA is boxed into such a broad range!
      For sure, it’s so disheartening how women are consistently being opposed…IKR! Most of my favorite books are honestly by women!
      Thank you so much! I completely agree with you, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts💜

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it should definitely be used more to market books! YA readers are very often not actually in that age bracket — at least that I’ve seen — so giving readers a way to branch out from that age range would help them find more books! And that is ALWAYS a good thing! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is SUCH A GREAT POST, Kaya! (Yes, I’m back to blogging and I’m sorry I’m so sporadic haha… but I’m so happy to be back and speaking to you!) I think an issue that exists is that a lot of New Adult books seem to be marketed towards a YA audience? And a lot of YA readers end up misperceiving NA books to be YA – thus exposing them to way more mature content. Whilst I agree it is very important to distinguish between the age differences and content, I do think this needs to be advertised a lot more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU!! and YAYYY it’s so lovely to have you back Ruqs!! I 100% agree. It’s even worse when a YA author tries to write an adult book, because then all their YA readers just assume that there won’t be much of a difference but that’s just not the case lol. Thank you for participating, and it’s great to see you back!!💜

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great discussion post! I really agree that it’s difficult to find books where the protags are 18-25, which is the age range I’m in so it’s why I love the NA category. I never thought about the fact that female author’s Adult novels might then be incorrectly categorised as NA, but that likely does happen since I’ve already seen sooo many books by female authors put in the YA (e.g acotar forever on display on the Teens section in my library. yikes). really good points! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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