New Adult Fiction: Filling in the Gap

There are children’s books, young adult novels, and adult books. Now, there’s a new genre on the rise: New Adult.

Though new adult fiction has been around for a number of years, it’s only recently that it’s becoming a more common term.

New adult fiction is aimed at readers who are typically between the ages of 18 and 30. It’s a genre for those who enjoy young adult but are looking for more mature topics, without jumping into characters nearing middle age.

These books bridge the gap between young adult and adult populations. They reach to both older teenagers and adults, and tend to focus on the transition from innocence into complicated adult issues. These issues could be living on one’s own for the first time, losing one’s virginity, the trials of one’s first professional job, preparing for a wedding, etc.

In young adult books, sexual interactions and more gruesome or socially unacceptable acts of violence tend to be alluded to instead of shown in any sort of detail. New adult books include more graphic scenes, both violent and romantic.

However, there has been some hesitation about new adult fiction. Books falling into this genre find themselves in the in-between territory. Stuck between adult and children’s literature (children’s and young adult), there is some difficulty finding the genre its own bookshelf.

Here’s a short breakdown of genres to help with differentiating new adult from already established genres:

Young Adult

  • Age appropriate for 13 to 18 year olds (the high school age or those about to attend)
  • Coming of age, but not in a hugely graphic manner and usually without losing all of one’s innocence
  • Easy to comprehend tone (aka fast reads)

Young adult books are stories with language that is easy to read and to the point. They are the PG-13 rating of movies.

Sample Books: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Lightning Thief, Delirium, A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Golden Compass

New Adult

  • Age appropriate for 17 and older (undergraduate, graduate school age)
  • Main character typically 18-25 years old (instead of 13-17, like in YA)
  • Contains both straightforward writing and adult situations
  • Deals with life between the end of high school and full-fledged adulthood (i.e.- you’re legally an adult but you’re not quite ready to be completely on your own)

New Adult books contain some of the same aspects that young adult books do, but with adult situations added in (i.e.- steamier physical interactions) or situations that are harder for younger teens to relate to (i.e.- getting engaged, first professional job, college, having a baby, etc.)

Sample books: Easy, Losing It, Beautiful Disaster, Slammed

Adult Fiction

  • Adult audience, so technically ages 18 and up. However, many adult books include main characters and situations that teenagers won’t relate to and that 18-25 year olds may have difficulty relating to.
  • Can have either straightforward or more complex writing that takes longer to digest
  • Typically includes sexual scenes, sometimes cursing
  • Erotica is considered adult

Sample books: A Game of Thrones, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Da Vinci Code, Jane Eyre, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Notebook

The new adult genre is in the midst of development. This can make it difficult for them to find homes among traditional agents and editors. Therefore, some new adult books have been self-published instead of going the traditional route. For example, Beautiful Disaster was self-published in June 2011 by Jamie McGuire. It was picked up by Atria Books and published through them in August 2012.

Literary agents and publishers are starting to pick up on the new adult genre as a potential moneymaking category (it certainly has a large enough audience). However, this genre is still budding and isn’t seen in traditional bookstores.

Without support it will not grow to the likes of young adult and adult.

What do you think about new adult as an emerging genre?

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One thought on “New Adult Fiction: Filling in the Gap

  1. Barbara Sharkey

    You continue to impress me with your ability to write! Clear, concise, interesting, and so professional!

    Reply

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