What Is New Adult Literature?



I’m not sure if you have noticed, but there is a new book genre in town and it is making waves! It’s called “New Adult.” But how many of you actually know what that means?

Last week I posted a freebie over on the Facebook page with the tag line: “Not bad if you are into NA, read it last week.” To me the sentence seemed pretty self explanatory, but like I so often am, I was wrong. Turns out the majority of my followers had absolutely NO IDEA what my blogger short-hand NA even stood for let alone what it entailed. So I started answering questions. Lots and lots of questions until I realized a) I was starting to sound like a broken record and b) maybe so many of my followers are in the dark because no one has ever taken the time to explain it. As a reader (and blogger I guess) I often take for granted what my audience knows. In short…I assume a LOT. Doing this is not only neglectful on my part, but can be rather frustrating to up and coming book junkies. So I decided to write an article. This article actually, to answer a few questions. Give a few thoughts. And explain on a “bigger scale” what exactly New Adult fiction is and why it’s taking the literary world by storm.


What is New Adult Fiction?


Well…according to Wikipedia:

“New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin’s Press in 2009.[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.[2]” Read more HERE 

Or, as Deirdre Donahue (of USA Today) describes it:

“Navigating the exhilarating, sometimes dangerous chasm between adolescence and adulthood, these novels — aimed at readers out of high school — are roaring up the best-seller list. The setting often is a college campus and the vibe is intense as only young love can be. It’s sex, bad boys, too much drama and, if you consulted the characters’ parents, not nearly enough library time!”

I have to say, Ms. Donahue pretty much hit the nail on the head. When asked by Wartooth Ebooks on the FB page, this is what I had to say:

NA usually involves characters in their 20’s right out of HS (college age) and generally follow a contemporary romance theme. It has recently been established as a new genre because it bridges the gap between YA (no adult responsibility/limited sexual content) and Adult (family obligations/jobs…etc + sexual content) — in NA the characters are out of the house but don’t have thriving careers yet. The author is also open to limited familial obligations and can openly include mature/sexual content.

In short: That really awkward time when you like to pretend you are an adult but still do your laundry at your Mom’s house and ask for a $20 bill before you head back out into the “real world.”


So Does “New Adult” Mean “Romance?”


That is a good question! And one that I wish I had the perfect answer for, but first…let’s get the WHOLE question, because that title is a little generalized.

Kristelle Reed James wrote:

“I’d be interested in your thoughts on NA following the YA trend of being seen as applying not just to an age group, but to a certain genre. Or perhaps a genre of its own. I hear “YA” and I think, “YA what? Romance? Fantasy? Post-apocalyptic? Paranormal horror?” But not everyone does.

I’m noticing the same trend with NA. The vast majority of authors I’ve seen identifying themselves as NA authors write romance. It seems there is an unintentional closing of the door to other genres at this early stage in NA’s existence. As an author of NA epic fantasy, I feel dwarfed by the outpouring of NA romance authors, while no other genre really steps out of the shadows to claim the NA title.


In all honesty…I don’t think NA will break the “romance” stigma until another author steps up and demands to be heard. With the introduction of books like “50 Shades of Grey” a new generation was born. The non-reading reader. Erotica, BDSM, even Romance were there, but not as publicly craved as they were after 50. Women and even men who had never really wanted to read before suddenly found themselves nose deep in a book. Which is not a bad thing, unless you are (as Liesl ala The Sound of Music would say) 16 going on 17. In which case the books were pretty much a whisper in the ears of parents. But older teenagers and blossoming college coeds understand lust/love and angst as well right? So why not give them something THEY can relate to that’s not so…graphic?

I love a good sword fight as much as the next girl, and believe me…I understand that fantasy novels are ALL ABOUT growing up in some epic fashion, but at the end of the day…they still feel like make-believe. (P.S. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that. I happen to enjoy fantastical reality.) The women that launched New Adult as a genre thrive on making the scenarios in their books feel real. We can all fall in love right? Get our hearts broken? Make bad decisions? Feel jealously or blinding happiness? These are the elements that sell the genre, and until someone steps up with the most righteous Fantasy/Paranormal (etc.) New Adult book known to man, the genre is going to be forever known as the love hump between today and tomorrow.

Is that unfair? Absolutely! I don’t think ANY BOOK deserves to be dwarfed based solely on its choice of topic/age of protagonist, but it happens. This being one of the most prominent examples out there.

Here is what a few others had to say:

Beth-ann Trudeau – “I liked Kristelle’s point. There should be different genres of YA literature. As an example, I list books under specific genres, and then also list the sub-genre (Did I coin a new term ?) Such as, Para-mys for paranormal-mystery. My question to you, is, what is the big deal with all these Erotic books? It seems like everyone and their Brother, is writing an Erotic book. Is this because “50 Shades ” was such a hit? Enough is enough. Give me a good old-fashioned romance or mystery any day.”

Jennifer Kalman – “I think because NA is so new it is mostly NA contemporary romance. I would personally love to see NA dystopia, since I am a huge fan of that genre yet most of the characters are 16-18.”


How Can I Find New Adult Books?


NA is still relatively new despite its recent success, so retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have yet to even establish it as a stand alone genre. Because of this you have a variety of options. Coming of Age. Contemporary Romance. Romance. Women’s Fiction.



The easiest way to dive into the wide new world of NA? Search for one of the New Adult bestsellers (for example: “Slammed” by Colleen Hoover or “Beautiful Disaster” by Jamie McGuire) and go from there. Searching just 1 of these books can introduce you to 100 more just like it.


What Does ABC Have To Say?


My Final Thoughts

New Adult is here to stay. It has proven it’s worth among the big boys and doesn’t seem to be losing any steam. But I ask you to do one thing when looking at or analyzing genres of fiction. Remember that no two people read the same book. Whether it’s YA, Romance, Mystery or even Horror that tickles your fancy, BOOKS are still BOOKS. That is and always will be the BIGGEST CATEGORY of all. Everything else is just semantics. Happy Reading my Fellow Kindle-ites!!

About Misty

Your friendly neighborhood narcissist. I'm sarcastic, cynical and a bit cranky. I own a soap box so big that sometimes I have difficulty stepping down off of it, and I'm about 94% certain I have multiple personalities. I don't sleep enough, and I read more than any person should ever consider normal. I have anger management issues, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and I have an unhealthy obsession with my Kindle. I am a vampire lovin', zombie obsessed, book-in-hand, iPod freak. You either love me or hate me. You be the judge.