New Adult is a little known, emerging genre of fiction. As such, many older readers may be hesitant to pick up anything labelled as New Adult, for concern they don’t know what they’re getting into. So, let’s see if we can’t clear that up with some basic insight about it, and hopefully bring your attention to something new you didn’t know you could fall in love with.
Extended series’ such as Harry Potter, novels classified as the better-known Young Adult genre, stuck with readers as they grew up with the characters, creating a lifelong connection to the story that went beyond the original readership age. In large part due to this, Young Adult became a common genre for all ages to enjoy. Yet there remains some stigma. After all, why would anyone in their thirties want anything to do with a book about fourteen-year-olds doing fourteen-year-old things?
This, of course, is an unfair criticism. Readers should feel free to read anything they enjoy. Yet there is a sizeable readership that wants stories full of the kind of wonder, magic, and ‘newness of the world’ type of themes that they love in Young Adult, but with characters at a more appropriate age level for them to connect to. This is where New Adult comes in.
New Adult can run the gamut of everything from contemporary romance, to bizarre science fiction, to the most intense world-built fantasy. The focus of these novels, however, is much like Young Adult, wherein the conflict of the stories is typically centered around issues that young people face. This is doubly true for New Adult, where characters are often struggling with certain coming of age themes, such as sexuality or gender identity, but also facing the practical reality of being adults, often before they are ready.
What I personally love about writing New Adult is the freedom of it. With characters ranging from late teens to mid-twenties, there’s very little you can’t have these characters experience. Young Adult can often be restrictive, and sometimes inappropriately classified. For example, a book written for a thirteen-year-old is Young Adult, while a book written for a sixteen-or seventeen-year-old is also considered Young Adult. Yet the experiences of a thirteen-year-old are significantly different than those of a seventeen-year-old, and there is a marked difference in maturity as well.
With New Adult, you can retain the themes of Young Adult that are still relevant to people figuring out the messiness of life, within the context of freedoms that only adults have. This means that New Adult is not as restrictive or vulnerable to criticism as Young Adult is when it comes to more mature themes. They can be angsty, but still sexy. They can be fantastical, but still viscerally horrifying. They can be about the struggles of finding yourself, while also being about the challenges of married life. If these are themes or plot devices you are wanting in your writing or the books you read, then New Adult is the perfect genre for you.
New Adult as a genre is still coming into its own, and still not very well known, in part due to how popular Young Adult remains, and because much of New Adult is confused with Young Adult. Nevertheless, it continues to gain momentum. Enough so that Amazon’s KDP program, the largest self-publishing platform, has several specific categories just for New Adult books, such as New Adult romance. So, the next time you’re looking for your next read, and looking for something within your genre but with a fresh take, hopefully you’ll consider New Adult.
Kate Flemming is a queer Canadian author of sibling love and sapphic romance. With an honours degree in psychology, she draws on her studies in philosophy, law, and both creative and formal writing courses to inform her work. Kate has done extensive research in popular culture and media, as well as the scientific literature, which also informs the stories she writes. While many may find her stories uncomfortable, Kate believes that they deserve to be told as much as any other.
When she’s not writing, Kate is working on another degree in laboratory sciences. In her downtime, she likes to read fantasy, sci-fi, and similar types of romances. Just don’t ask her to read a romantic comedy. She also enjoys gaming with her wife, and spending time with her precious kitty.