What the Heck is New Adult Fiction?


Maybe I’m in a foul mood because of the effects of Chicagoland’s roller coaster weather having clamped down on my head like a barometric pressure gauged vice. We’ve gone from the fifties to almost ninety the very next day. Curse you, global warming!

Recently, I discovered yet another new fiction genre. As if Young Adult, YA Paranormal, and YA Historical Fantasy were not enough, now there’s New Adult, which focuses on the years after college, through getting the first job and possibly finding one’s soul mate. Pardon me, but in our youth-obsessed society, don’t more than half of the books out today deal with those subjects anyway?

Is New Adult supposed to be more serious than Chick Lit or just an older form of YA? From what I can gather, NA is for those YA readers who have started to grow up.

My beef with the whole thing isn’t that these books exist. Many have interesting premises, and I’m sure are great reads. My problem is that this sort of marketing is pigeon-holing authors and their work. For example, just because there might be a small element of the occult in a novel doesn’t mean it’s automatically “paranormal.”

But back to this New Adult thing. These works used to be called “coming of age” novels.

Eons ago, back when I was young, I couldn’t wait to start reading what I thought was “real literature” — novels written for adults. Judy Blume was great, but I was chomping at the bit for a more grown-up experience. Now, it seems the reverse is true. A recent study found that fifty-five percent of YA fiction is purchased by readers over the age of eighteen.

It’s probably escapism — I get that — but at some point, don’t they want to read literature about older, more complex issues?

One of my favorite books is Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler. I first read it when I was a young mother dealing with all the daily struggles that entails. The protagonist was much older than I was then, much older even than I am today, yet I completely identified with her and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

What do you think? Why do so many adults read YA?

Photo courtesy of Breathing Fiction


Richard Bon said…
The entire YA, NA, etc. genre classification system baffles me. In trying to determine the genre of my own novel, I'm at a loss, so have referred to it in query letters as just "commercial fiction." Having to spend even a few minutes thinking about this kind of stuff is just so annoying.
I agree. Unfortunately, it's something we all have to deal with. Pegging your book for the wrong audience can be disastrous. I wish it were easier.
Beverly Diehl said…
I think that New Adult lets authors tells a coming of age story with sex. There's kind of a prohibition against teenagers having sex (in fiction, if not in Real Life), but coming to terms with sexuality is a BIG part of growing up.

Take Hunger Games. Unspeakable violence, okay, sex, heavens no!
You know, that makes a lot of sense, Beverly. Thanks for your insight.
Deborah said…
Couldn't agree more, Karen. It's identity politics for the book world - when, actually, books show us what we all have in common. Quite right about the pigeon-holing of authors, too.
Thanks for stopping by Deborah and for your erudite comments.

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