New Adult: An Introduction

When I first joined NetGalley, an online site where bloggers can request digital ARCs, I immediately began browsing the genres of books. My intent was to go straight to YA books because that’s the genre I was most familiar with. However one genre stopped my cursor in its tracks. Nestled between Mystery & Thrillers and Nonfiction (Adult) was a genre I had never heard of, New Adult. Little did I know I had discovered a gold mine of new books and authors to fall in love with.

Goodreads defines New Adult books as “fiction [that] bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 26.” I almost died of happiness when I realized exactly who the New Adult genre was directed towards; I was at an age where I was beginning to have trouble relating to the teenage woes of 14-year-old protagonists in Young Adult books, but I also wasn’t ready to read about the many trials and troubles that come with being a soccer mom (as is often found in Adult Fictions). I wanted to read about protagonists who were dealing with the experiences and challenges that college and post-grad life brings because that’s the point I’m at in life. Once I found New Adult books, I couldn’t get enough of them. I even started a whole new blog dedicated strictly to New Adult books since at the time this was primarily a YA book blog (however I soon realized it was really hard and pointless to run two book blogs at once, so I condensed them back into one).

The Origins 

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press publisher at large Dan Weiss had an idea that would forever change the literary world and the success of many indie and self-published authors. He recognized that many of the readers of YA novels where beyond the age range YA novels were aimed at- 12 to 18-  and they craved something more. He realized there was entire demographic out there that books were failing to cater to. So St. Martin’s Press announced a contest in which they called for submissions of books that would appeal to an audience of readers in their early-mid twenties. They used the term “new adult” to describe this audience, and the name stuck. While St. Martin’s Press had little success with the idea, and published nothing within the genre until 2011, it was a different story for indie and self-published authors. The contest had sparked interest in the reading community, and indie authors saw an opportunity and ran with it.

In 2012, Cora Carmack’s new-adult novel Losing It garnered the New Adult genre its first headline in the New York Times. Carmack then went on to sign a six-figure, three-book deal with publishing powerhouse Harper Collins, that included Losing It. Prominent publishing houses began to recognize this hidden gold mine, and popular indie authors like Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire began to acquire book deals from Big Six publishing houses.

Reasons you should give it a try

If you’re a college student like me, or a twenty-something struggling with finding love in the real world while failing miserably at finding a job and stressing about student loans, the New Adult genre might just be perfect for you.

College is rough

Got a crush on the cute hipster in your English Lit class? Do you absolutely despise the frat boy player that seems to rule the campus? Are you struggling to juggle a full-time job and life as a student? Or are you simply thrilled to be on your own for the first time, finding  yourself both exhilarated and terrified? All of these topics (and more), are addressed in New Adult books. Sometimes, when college life was really dragging me down or I wanted to believe that my crush on that super cute guy in my cinema class would turn into a romance (ps, it never did), it was really nice to turn to a book written by someone that seemed to understand exactly how I was feeling. Reading can be a therapeutic and cathartic experience…New Adult is essentially chicken soup for the college student’s soul.

It delves deeper

YA books, for the most part, shy away from topics such as rape, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and the deep psychological scars that these ordeals leave. The basic formula for a New Adult book is broken boy meets broken girl and together they begin to heal from the trauma of their pasts. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but I’m not writing an exposé here. While some complain that it’s tiring that every single character in New Adult fiction has baggage of some sort, the reality is, who doesn’t have baggage? Life is hard, and New Adult authors recognize this. Name one person in your life that isn’t struggling with something pretty significant. It’s nearly impossible isn’t it? While you may have been able to name multiple people, you also have to take into consideration that many people hide their scars and struggles. Mental illness is frowned upon by society, rape victims are often shamed, and victims of abuse feel as if they’re permanently damaged. The New Adult genre offers an outlet for them, a chance to read about others who’ve been through what they have and who have managed to overcome the odds. To them the New Adult genre offers both inspiration and solace (with a dash of romance).

Sexier and Steamier

I don’t know about you, but as I entered college I was beginning to get slightly bored of the romance in YA books. There was often an extremely slow build, and then the climax of the story was a simple kiss, that often was described with terms like “fireworks”. Exciting to a fifteen-year-old, but yawn-inducing to a twenty-year-old. There is so much to be explored when you enter college, and the added element of sex in relationships is one of those things. College experiences add a whole new level of complexity to relationships, which have the possibility of much more emotional damage caused by a break-up. You also have to acknowledge that the college culture is one of hook-ups, which the New Adult genre does a good job of exploring. And while I did want something I bit more steamier, I was quite ready for 50 Shades of Grey level-steaminess (although there are many reasons I will never read that book). New Adult provides a good balance of romance between YA and Adult.

The issues

That being said, there are still a few issues with the New Adult Genre. For the most part, the genre is largely dominated by self-published authors. This can lead to books that read like  amateur fan fiction (there are some eARCs that I’ve received where I couldn’t even make it past the first two pages), or are just plain horrible. However, there are many stand-out authors, though at this point they seem to be few and far between. As a result of the surplus of amateur writing, many of New Adult books are simply “sexed-up YA books”, as some critics accuse the genre of being. Often, the “damaged” characters are blown out of proportion–you get a female character who is a foster kid, was raped, witnessed the murder of both her parents, was abused by every single one of her boyfriends, and now she’s being stalked, etc (you get the point). This can lead to many New Adult books having so much angst and brooding that the book is overwhelming to read, and readers quickly give up.

Then there’s the whole issues of actually getting your hands on a New Adult book. Book stores still don’t recognize it as an official genre. New Adult books often aren’t carried in stores or libraries, and if they are they’re scattered among the Romance, Fiction, and Young Adult section. To this date, I have found five New Adult books in my local bookstore. Five. The digital world is a bit of a different story, though. Ebook versions of New Adult novels are flourishing, and online sellers like Amazon have given New Adult it’s own section in the Kindle store (your move iBooks).

You should still give it a chance

While the issues above are pretty prevalent, they shouldn’t keep you from taking a chance on a New Adult book. There are so many incredible books out there, waiting to teach you a very valuable lesson, or allow you an escape from your overwhelmingly stressful college schedule. Online, it’s relatively easy to find new New Adult books to read. Goodreads has a section dedicated to the genre. I’ve given New Adult books their own category on my blog. Prominent authors such as Colleen Hoover, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Jamie McGuire, and Cora Carmack have found success in the genre, for good reason. Below is a gallery of my favorite New Adult books that I feel best represent the genre. Give them a chance, and tell me what you thought in the comments! Happy Reading!

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