Monday, February 18, 2013

New Adult: What It Is and What It Isn’t

I was one of those kids who didn’t quite realize how cushy she had it until she moved out on her own. I found out the hard way that laundry doesn’t clean itself and the trash doesn’t magically grow legs and jump in the dumpster. Like a lot of young adults, there was a steep learning curve when I was first out in the world and on my own. Anything and everything that can go wrong with a kitchen appliance probably will. And not everyone you deal with is going to be kind or honest. But there’s another side to being a new adult. You get to make your own decisions (your own mistakes) with far less parental involvement than ever before. It’s new, it’s scary, it’s amazing, and it’s widely regarded as the most transformative time in a person’s life. It’s anyone’s guess why it’s taken so long for new adult to catch on as a literary category. But it has. New adult is here and it’s taking over bestseller lists and blogs. Writers are rethinking their characters’ ages and how they tell their stories.

Unfortunately, there’s also some confusion over what new adult is and what it isn’t. For starters, new adult isn’t a genre. That means that there isn’t a particular look of new adult books. New adult can cover science fiction to contemporary romance. As a category, the only defining quality to new adult books is that they encompass a particular time in a character’s life.

To hear some tell it, new adult is merely about taking edgy YA one step further by allowing graphic sexual situations-- as though sex is the absolute only thing new adults are faced with. I don’t know about you, but that was not my experience. In fact, it’s not the experience of many new adult characters. Aside from sex, characters are dealing with moving out, moving on, graduating college, and figuring out how to pay bills. The world is open and their future has yet to be written. New adult is all about that first time in their life where they’re on your own. Topics can range from falling in love to getting married or even to getting divorced. Characters are traveling, getting their first real job, and even sometimes having kids. They’re doing everything their older counterparts are doing, they just don’t have the experience to know how to do it right just yet. And just like the appeal of young adult, what draws so many of us to new adult is that it reminds us of a time in our lives when we were a little more naïve, more optimistic, less guarded, and open to a lifetime of possibilities.

For a fun and interactive discussion about new adult, tune in to twitter Thursdaynights at 9pm for #nalitchat!


  1. I really despise that idea that NA is just YA with steamy sex allowed. Sure, there is the opportunity for more on-page sexy times and less fade-to-black, but it is SO MUCH MORE than that. The New Adult years are the most interesting and dynamic of our lives. We have all the same changes and discoveries as we do as teenagers, but now we are doing it without the safety net of our families and (quite often) our longtime friends there to help us muddle through.

  2. My friends and I called this time the "quarter life crisis". And it gave such rich fodder for stories! This post was a great summary of those crazy years. Nice to meet you gals, I'm so glad you've started this site!