#NAAugust #Discussion: What is New Adult?

Posted August 5, 2016 by Dani in Discussions, New Adult August // 0 Comments

Welcome to another day of New Adult August! We’re talking about all things New Adult throughout this month, and you can find out what we’ve shared so far and what to expect right here!

For our first discussion post, what better place to start than defining NA? New Adult is relatively new to the scene, and it’s not well-defined. Different people have different ideas about it, as demonstrated by the results of our NA survey. There’s also a lot of prejudice regarding the category, such as that it’s effectively just poorly written trashy romance, a notion we’re hoping to knock down this month!


What is New Adult?

We think of NA as anything with characters between 18 and 29, experiencing the awkwardness of being “adults” and all that entails: jobs, relationships, laundry, etc. The reason we think it’s up to 29 and not just 25 is because, through our own experience and talking to other people in their 20s, there’s still a lot of figuring out happening once you leave university. I (Dani) have just turned 25 and still don’t really feel like a grownup, not enough to gravitate to Adult novels at the very least.

But let’s go to other sources.

Goodreads defines NA as the following:

New Adult fiction bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 30.

The genre tends to focus on issues prevalent in the young adult genre as well as focusing on issues experienced by individuals between the area of childhood and adulthood, such as leaving home for university and getting a job.

New adult is typically considered a subcategory of adult literature rather than young adult literature.

The knower of all things, Wikipedia, echoes this definition and expands on the types of issues often explored in NA, “such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices”.

In fact, the term originates from an open call for submissions from St. Martin’s Press in 2009, when they asked for “fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult”. Their requirements included protagonists in their twenties, though 18+ was allowed.

But what do other readers think? Well, here’s where things get interesting.

Some people didn’t specify and age range but stuck to the defining NA as a pertaining to the phase where people leave home and tackle adulthood. Others said that NA had main characters in college, or between the ages of 18 and 25. Yet others agreed with Goodreads and Wikipedia, saying NA characters could be as old as 30.

Catia of The Girl Who Read Too Much said:

This is a really difficult thing to explain. NA is that weird stage of growing up where the person doesn’t know what to do with their lives. It’s a stage to figure out who the person really is, what they want to do with their life and a stage of learning.

While this one doesn’t specify an age range, it did resonate with me personally and touches on one of the reasons I read NA. I’m looking for characters just as clueless as I am!

Writer Sara Mariah clarified further by saying that NA characters usually knew who they were at that point, so now they had to figure out how they could fit themselves into the world.

Some people said NA was defined not just by age, but also by the tone and content of the book. For example, Chelsea from Books for Thought said:

I see NA as the age of the main characters in addition to the maturity level of the book. I think NA means people in their 20s which could also be seen as YA except in NA books there’s usually more violence and sex. Basically a NA book is a more mature version of YA.

A lot of people also mentioned that NA was a transition category, there to bridge readers between Young Adult and Adult literature.

One of the more detailed responses was from writer Jamie Stewart, who said:

As a whole, I think you can make the argument that NA is YA for the 18-25 year old audience. There is energy, there is drama, there is passion. The stakes are high. The tension is real. But the characters have a slightly larger worldview this time around. They’ve been through the trials of high school (or your fantasy world rite of passage equivalent!) and now their story tells what happens next. College. Employment. Moving Out. Maybe even marriage. Where teachers and parents were the authority figures in YA, bosses and landlords present new, unforeseen obstacles in NA. First dates and lip-gloss kisses give way to weekend trips and bathroom make out sessions. But it doesn’t have to be smutty. Not at all. I think the key word to remember is maturity.

Author Zoraida Cordova also had an excellent quote:

For me, NA covers in-between years, even though there is not an age limit for self-discovery.



While not everyone agrees, the general consensus is that New Adult fiction has the following qualities:

  • Main characters between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Themes similar to YA (growing up, building relationships, etc.) OR themes surrounding entering adulthood (education, careers, moving out, etc.)
  • Often but not always involving exploring sexuality

What do you think NA is? Do you agree or disagree with the summary? Did you change your mind after reading this?

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