YA vs. NA: The Dividing Line

lets-talk-about-sexOnly in the literary world are 13-17 year olds considered young adults. To the rest of the world, young adults are those people in their twenties. However, the literary world has decided to create a category for these young adults. They’ve titled this age group New Adult.

In video games, you have E for everyone, T for teen, and A for adult. That division makes more sense than delineating novels into children’s vs. adult books, where children’s books encompass picture books to YA.

All the young adults I know are not children. They are those individuals in college, starting out with their first professional jobs, balancing graduate school and work, etc. They are not freshmen in high school or working on getting their first kiss.

Would you consider a fifteen year old to be a young adult? I think of a fifteen year old as a teenager, a young one at that.

Some of the YA books I’ve recently read I was surprised at the sexual content in them. Just because you call something “adult” doesn’t mean you can get graphic. I won’t name any specific books, but there were some YA novels that detailed a guy going down on a girl or a girl experiencing an orgasm.

I don’t know about you, but when I was fifteen, I was naïve, hadn’t been kissed, or had a boyfriend (I don’t count preschool and elementary school where relationships last about two hours).

Now that I’m older – a true young adult – I would be uncomfortable with teenagers reading some of the YA books out there. I’ve got a thirteen-year-old cousin and I don’t like thinking about her reading some of the YA books I have.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that YA books and NA books don’t have a clear dividing line. Sure, people will tell you that NA characters are eighteen to mid twenties, that they deal with losing their virginity, falling in love – true love, not infatuation – for the first or second time, and the like.

But it seems nearly every YA book has the two main characters falling in love, making out, having sex, and more. The main difference I see is that YA protagonists must be 13-17 years old.

Maybe my issue is more with YA books being called YA. Ask agents, writers, publishers, editors, etc. about what makes a YA book effective. Most will tell you one of the big proponents is an authentic teen voice. So, why aren’t YA books called Teen books? Is it because that would limit marketing capability? Would older individuals be dissuaded from reading a group of books labeled Teen instead of Young Adult?

As for NA books having a more adult voice, the few NA books I’ve read dealt with sex, drugs, and abuse, but I’ve seen all of that in YA books. More so, the NA books I’ve read each had a voice that sounded suspiciously like a teenager. I will say that many YA books don’t go into as great of detail as NA, but the same issues are still there.

What do you guys think?

(Photo courtesy of Utopyacon: http://utopyacon.com/categorize-this/)

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2 thoughts on “YA vs. NA: The Dividing Line

  1. John Guillen

    You know, you’re spot on. No one thinks of teens as young adults or new adults or whatever. I know I don’t. I call them kids. I don’t think I’ve read a new adult book, but I’m not sure how “adult” they really are. Hmm. I might have to write about this at some point.

    Reply
    1. brittanyekrueger Post author

      John. I think that’s a great idea. I’ve always been a bit confounded at how the literary industry came up with YA as a label for teens. As for New Adult, that started mostly with self-publishing. People wanted to have characters in their early twenties, but the established age groups didn’t have a niche for college age protagonists or the experiences they faced.

      Reply

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