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The “New Adult” Novel–Bridging the Gap Between Young Adult and Adult Fiction

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Those of you who write either Young Adult (YA) fiction or adult romance are probably aware of the new “trend” in town–the New Adult  (NA) novel.  In recent months, we’ve heard of several indie (self-published) New Adult novels hitting bestseller lists–and subsequently getting snatched up by major publishers–and of some established YA authors moving into New Adult (for instance, Firelight-series author Sophie Jordan and Luxe-series author Jennifer L. Armentrout).  There is clear evidence that New Adult books are going to take over a larger share of the market in the coming months, which leads many people to ask, just what is New Adult?

There are definitely some misconceptions out there.  Some people seem to think that New Adult simply means that you take a usual YA-type story, make your protagonist slightly older (say, college-aged) and add in some explicit sex.  I would disagree with this assessment–I think there’s way more to it than that.  I would say that, while YA is all about discovering “firsts” (first loves, first hurts, first self-discoveries), NA is more about that transition into adulthood–about finding your “adult” self as you separate from a childhood that was mostly “ruled” by  adults.  New Adult is about making your own way in the world–about taking those first steps into adulthood, discovering independence and self-sufficiency.

I know, that’s kind of vague.  There’s a more detailed definition HERE on the NA Alley blog–and I think this does a great job explaining what makes New Adult fiction so special.

What else do you need to know about New Adult fiction?  Protagonists are generally anywhere from 18 – 25 (or thereabouts).  Content can be more sexually explicit, but not necessarily so.  The themes vary widely–just as with any sort of fiction–as do settings.  You can write a paranormal NA, a realistic-fic NA, a fantasy NA.  There can be a strong romance element–or not.

These type books have been out there all along.  I would say that Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a NA novel, even though it wasn’t explicitly marketed as one.  I could probably make a case for Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook being NA, too–at least, if you took away the “modern day” chapters where the characters are elderly.  And yes, I’d say that Fifty Shades of Grey is NA (and possibly what sparked the “trend”).

The success of many recent NA novels–both indie and through major publishers–has proven that there is a market for these books.  Readers are hungry for them, clamoring for them. So why not consider writing one?

Kristi’s YA debut, HAVEN, was released by Simon Pulse in Feb. 2011. She also writes adult fiction (historical romance) as Kristina Cook and Kristi Astor. Visit her online at www.kristi-cook.com.
  1. When I wrote my novel ‘Heaven Knows This Time’ I had trouble placing it in any specific genre. The lead character is a 16 year old girl who finds love, faces tragedy and grows into an independent 18 year old woman.

    The story is about love but it wasn’t your typical romance, it was about teenagers but there was too much sex, swearing and drug use for it to be appropriate for YA audience. Then I stumbled across the NA Alley blog and suddenly I knew where my story fitted. New Adult!

    I’ve read some controversial views about the genre but I personally see New Adult more as a description of who the book is about rather than this genre is only suitable for 18-25 year olds. I’m 38 years old and I love reading and writing New Adult novels.

  2. fredrica parlett says:

    I’m excited about this new NA category. I’m just finishing a first novel and that’s exactly what it is — protagonist goes from 16 to about 24. Thanks for this tip.

  3. Even though I work for one of the busiest library systems in the country, I haven’t heard of this new sub-genre. My romances always feature women in their 20’s, usually 22 – 24 years old, since they are historical books and women older than that were likely to be considered “spinsters”. They all involve a woman discovering her identity, becoming aware of who she is. In the witch books, it’s all about discovering how to use their new powers. But, they are very sexually explicit. This is very interesting for those of us who probably write this, we just don’t know it. Now to figure out how to market the books.

  4. I agree with your assessment of NA, and I think it’s a long-overdue genre. I actually wrote one years ago, then discovered there wasn’t really a slot for it. I’m glad I can now label it NA & people will understand.

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