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Friday, June 7, 2013

What is NA?

As I said in my last post, I have been hanging around a lot of people who enjoy New Adult literature and I spent a good bit of that post talking about my New Adult plans. But I have also noticed, while talking to people, that many don't know what NA actually is. Today I am going to break it down for you as best I can.

First of all, to combat a pet peeve of mine, NA is not a genre. Let me repeat that. NA is NOT a genre. Just like MG, YA, and adult fictions are not genres. The New Adult category usually contains characters between the ages of 18 to 25, though if you ask different people they give different ages. THe main thing is the characters are around college and early-post-grad age. The characters don't have to be in college, but they are around college age. The other main component is that they should be discovering themselves. At this age, most people don't fully understand themselves, so these books explore that period of time for a person.

My second pet peeve with people's assumptions of NA is that it is just porn featuring younger characters. NA novels don't even have to have romance in them let alone being just porn. Yes, yes, there are a lot of people that cash in on the stereotype that NA is young porn and write exactly that, but those are not the defining books of NA. I can name several books that defy this stereotype and, in fact, I will name several NA novels, with and without sex, at the end of the article.

The themes of New Adult are something unique. YA is never going to deal with the full coming of age about being away from your parents for the first time and having to flounder about without support. This college/post-grad age is when we are not kids anymore, but not quiet adults yet and these books deal with that. Yes, as mentioned before, there are some mature themes such as dealing with sex, but that is a major part of growing up. For many people this is the age where, for the first time, we are free to do what we want and we have to figure out how to deal with making these decisions.

Another important aspect of NA is the voice. New Adult will generally probably be more edgy than YA, but not as world weary as adult. As Entangled's Embrace (their New Adult line) editor, Nicole Steinhaus said in a post for the NA Alley blog, "An authentic NA voice touches greatly upon the outlook of your character, how he/she sees things through the eyes of someone who's survived high school and now realizes the world will not crumble at their feet if their boyfriends break up with them or they argue with their best friends."

Just like NA is not a genre, it is not comprised of only one genre. NA is not only contemporary romance. I know for a fact that I am working on an NA mystery and have vague plans for another mystery and a paranormal. I know people who have NA science fiction, fantasy, historical, the list goes on and on. New Adult is a category, so it can encompass any genre the writer may feel like writing. Right now there are a lot of contemporary romances in the forefront, but I think this is because contemporary is generally so much easier for people to digest when it comes to something new. They don't want to be hit with a new category and have to deal with a different time period or society than their own.

Some people argue that we don't need a New Adult category, that new adults are just plain adults. But think about it. When you were in your twenties and searching for something to read in the adult section of the book store, how many of those characters could you relate to? How many were a twenty-something struggling with getting their first job or dealing with bills for the first time? Not many I would think, because even now, with New Adult becoming increasingly popular, it is not an easy thing to find. When looking for something about people like me, I never know whether I should be in the adult section (because I always have people telling me I'm an adult now) or in the Young Adult section (because people are also always telling me I'm just a kid).

It's a confusing period of life. Not knowing quiet where you stand and not having many literary characters to turn to that share the same problems. This age bracket was too often ignored before New Adult. No high schooler who reads YA would want to read about a twenty-something figuring out life and no adult wants to go back to thinking about the turbulent time of life, so we were left out to hang.

So what do you think about New Adult fiction? Do you love it? Hate it? Do you have a different opinion on what it is? Have any more questions? Discuss it in the comments!

Here are a few well known and lesser know NA novels:

Easy by Tammar Webber
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
The Dark Proposal by Megan Cashman
Girl Under Glass by Monica Enderle Pierce
State of Emergency by Summer Lane
A Summer to Remember by Elle Chardou
Stripped by Brooklyn Skye
Runaway Groom by Sally Clements


  1. I can see the market for writing about young independent adults, what I'm not sure about is why it needs a category. You don't have a category for the newly pregnant or the newly divorced, newly bereaved, newly homeless, newly unemployed. They are all just part of being an adult, each one is a milestone in the process of maturing. Can't we just have writing for grown ups and writing for children?

    1. I disagree, because children's books usually generally feature characters under 18 (some publishers won't allow YA characters to be over this age) and most adult books feature characters in their 30s in up. That is a very unique and important part of life being skipped over. But I guess people will always disagree about it. Like how some people think there isn't a need for MG books.

  2. My novel Boarding, will be releasing July 19, deals with a mid-20s heroine breaking free of her over-controlling boyfriend and pursuing her dreams as a fashion designer. Thanks for the clarification on this category. Nicely written.

  3. Thanks for the post. I definitely think it's good to have a book category for this stage of life. And I think the huge number of readers of NA would agree too :)

  4. My pet peev is the fact that NA was out after I released as YA. YA used to be ages over 15. Now it is categorised and so many people haven't quite gotten what NA is so it's easier to keep it as YA.
    Either way, same readers go to YA as NA so for now it is a blurred line.
    I love the fact you have cleared the air about genre. I must admit, I had called it that when in fact I guess it's a category-romance is the genre...well for me it is.
    So thanks for the post

  5. I see the points of arguments on both sides of the NA fence--that there is a legitimate reason why people would seek out this particular kind of book; that infinite splitting of the market into age categories is ridiculous.

    But love it or hate it as a concept, I'm glad it's getting traction, because everything I've written since I started writing fiction (about 4 years ago) is about main characters in this age range. For whatever reason, characters of this age, at this time of life, just jumped out and grabbed me.

    I've had a hard time describing or explaining my work for the reason that this niche had not been identified when I started. Now I can say "these are NA novels" and a larger percentage of publishing professionals will nod knowingly every day.

    None of mine are contemporary, by the way. I have three historicals and am currently working on a space opera that fit this category as far as the ages of the protagonists are concerned.

    They have sex in them--because people in this time of life are experiencing early sexual relationships and falling in "real" love for the first time. But they aren't porn.

    Except the ones that are porn, but that's a chat for another day, under a different name...hee hee.