ChooseYAtrope: Just What Is New Adult Anyway?

Posted January 21, 2013 by chooseyabooks in chooseyatrope / 5 Comments

This post is about a trend more than trope but I think many of the elements of this trend apply to tropes and it can be a fine line between trope and genre. The latest literary trend for 2013, is according to several children’s publishers who spoke to the Bookseller* is NA; that is new adult literature. The concept of NA has been around for a few years but the genre has exploded with the rise of self-published phenomenons Abbi Glines, Tamarra Webber and Jamie McGuire. But what is NA?
From some of the most popular titles, it would seem to encompass older teenagers – graduated from high school, or close to in the case of Abbi Glines’ The Vincent Boys, and just in college. It also seems to involve more explicit sexual situations and in fact, this more explicit content seems to be the main difference between NA and YA.
The recent popularity of NA has been controversial, some people say it’s just YA+ with extra sex to capitalise on 50 shades, others say it’s filled a gap in the market for readers and is great.
The thing is, I’m not sure whether NA is actually as new as it is making out. Several popular YA novels include college/university aged protagonists or those having just finished high school.
The thing is, in YA there’s Someone Else’s Life which features an 18 year old narrator who has just finished school, and recent release From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas. That’s not forgetting Kristen Hubbard’s backpacking debut last year, Wanderlove. But most recently, the example that came to mind is a book I am currently reading, Very Lefreak by one of my favourite YA authors, Rachel Cohn. In this book the protagonist is in college.
However the books I’ve just mentioned are YA, not NA. Now is this because the term is a late 2012-3 manifestation? If they were published for the first time today would they be YA or NA?
So if age is not necessarily the marker of NA, what is? It could be intended age of the reader, after all it’s aimed at 18-25 year olds, but then again YA is being read by more and more non-YA aged readers, and how old is YA anyway?
Sex is present in YA, from the famous Forever by Judy Blume to Sarra Manning’s Adorkable and Let’s Get Lost. However NA can be more explicit and the popularity of the uncensored Vincent Boys by Hot Key Books certain infers that much of NA’s definition lies in the extra content.
However Easy by Tamarra Webber surprised me. It’s NA, but it’s not very explicit sexually. It’s more about trauma, recovery from trauma and coping in college. I loved this book and it is my favourite of the recent trend. It does have a healthy dose of sexual tension and those NA tells but it reads as something different than YA+sex. I guess, this is the sort of book I’m hoping comes out more in the wake of NA. Something with more mature protagonists that doesn’t just feel like the characters have been aged up so they can have sex, le gasp!
What do you think about NA? Do you think it’s offering something new, have you enjoyed reading it?

* according to the first two lines I could read as a non-subscriber her

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5 responses to “ChooseYAtrope: Just What Is New Adult Anyway?

  1. Books featuring college age protagonists have been around for a while but authors usually struggled to get them published untill the term NA started to be more widely used. I dont think these books are just YA with extra sex, they have more mature themes and they dont even all contain sex. What makes a book NA is if it is about a character who is becoming an adult eg. away from home at college for the first time, getting a job etc. hence the term “New” Adult. Its about people who have just become adults and are getting used to that.

    • chooseyabooks

      I’ve been looking forward to your feedback on this post as I know you love NA 🙂
      I agree they’re not all YA plus sex, definitely Easy wasn’t and I loved that, but I personally think a lot of the popular titles so far have been and are more romance orientated. This may be more down to marketing, given recent trends generally, though.
      I’m intrigued to see what will come out of NA as it develops as I’m closer in age to the protagonists and think there’s a lot of potential for interesting books out of it as it diversifies.
      Thanks for commenting, Laura 🙂

      • Im doing a guest post about NA in a few weeks that you might be interested in. I think one of the reasons that most NA so far is romance based is because that is the genre that is benifitting most from this catagory as it was previously much harder for them to get published. Fantasy books with new adult characters were already getting published. Already more genres are becoming available so i hope that by the end of the year other genres will be as equally dominating as contemporary romance in NA. I mainly love NA because I too am the same age of the characters, I think the reasons that YA is a much needed catagory is also why NA too is needed : )

        • I agree with both you and Laura around the idea of NA being about more mature subjects and characters as opposed to mainly being about “more sexy times”. I like reading about characters my age who are just finding their feet in the world without the constant security of parents. I feel this genre has SO much potential and I really do just hope that it manages to become bigger. I like the idea of reading topics with more mature subject matter that is dealt with in sensitivity – like Easy.

          Great post Lucy and great comments Laura! Will you link me when your guest post goes up please? 😀

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