I’ve debated about writing about the genre of new adult for a time because I have a sense that there many writers and readers with strong opinions on this topic. I am not an industry expert and feared that if I wrote about this, I’d only expose what I didn’t know. But I am, as anyone must be who devotes hours a day to something, passionate about the genre. The bossy part of me wouldn’t let me get away without blogging about it. I set out in this entry to put down my personal observations about new adult based on my experiences as a reader and a writer of new adult.
First, I suggest reading this article from Publisher’s Weekly which, though a couple of years old, does a fabulous job of outlining a generally accepted understanding of the genre as well as its potential in the marketplace: click here.
NA features characters in their late teens and early twenties who are transitioning into the adult world. Whether we are talking about college experiences, a first career job, or a first big romance, these experiences present challenges to the characters. NA can be higher in intensity and emotion than adult since the stakes are often higher. Think about how many life-altering decisions are made in that short period of time. People choose careers. They choose where they will live. They make friends and connections that may last their entire lives.
NA is not a stepping stone from YA to adult. To assume so is insulting to the audience, whose ages range wider than the characters’ ages. It’s also missing the point of the NA genre which is to define this hot spot in the continuum of a character’s life. It’s the place storytellers so often revisit because it’s exciting to imagine oneself at that point of change. It is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is an okay-I’m-of-age…now-what? kind of story. NA characters are complex. They have a deep understanding of the world based on experiences, and that understanding will be challenged. Like most good fiction, there will be sacrifice and change.
NA has been breaking ground in the digital market, and I love my digital books! In print, it’s been tougher for NA authors to break through. As a consumer of fiction, if there was a clear place for NA in the bookstore aside from the occasional end cap, I’d gravitate there. But NA, for the most part, has been mixed up with YA or adult books. I was lucky enough to listen to a panel of editors at YARWA’s special event at RWA nationals a couple of years ago. The editors suggested that NA writers tailor their books so that they fit better on YA or adult shelves rather than writing NA. I am not opposed to tailoring a book–at least with the current market–as I understand consumers may be confused by the genre of NA. There is a point where a work ceases to be art and becomes a product, and it is easier to sell something that fits into a box. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for a day where this genre has a more distinctive place in the physical as well as digital markets.
There is a stigma that NA romance should have a high heat level, but I’ve seen as much range in NA in terms of spice as I’ve seen in adult romance. I think it’s important for NA romance authors to continue to write at the heat level that they feel is appropriate for their characters and their stories. I would consider my own NA projects to have a medium heat level. If I’m going to get on a soapbox through this blog, it would be to say this: heat level should not define NA. The voice (closer to YA) and themes surrounding first experiences as an adult should be what defines NA (in my opinion–please don’t burn me at the stake!).
Here’s a list of some NA books I’ve read and loved (in no particular order):
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover
A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas
UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder
SHE LAUGHS IN PINK by Jessica Calla
BEAUTY TOUCHED THE BEAST (BEAUTY SERIES) by Skye Warren
AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles
OBSIDIAN by Jennifer L. Armentrout
As always, I am adding books to my TBR list. Two NA books I’m excited to read next are THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES by Jeaniene Frost and DREAMS OF A WILD HEART by Danube Adele–both paranormal NAs.
Do you have a favorite NA book or a few? Let me know–I’d love to hear about them!
Michelle Joyce Bond