I’ve seen and heard many people ask the question: what is the difference between young adult and new adult novels? A very understandable question since there are many aspects and topics addressed in the two genres that overlap. So, since I write and read both genres, I thought I write a post that explains the comparison based on my research and experience.
The term “new adult” was first introduced in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press to describe a new genre that bridges the gap between young adult (13 to 18 years of age) and adult audiences. I’ve also seen new adult be referred to as coming-of-age, though coming-of-age actually refers to young adult fiction. The confusion mostly likely stems from modern legal conventions. Especially when the age group portrayed in the new adult genre general ranges between 18 and 25.
Characters of new adult are generally exposed to new situations and challenges, such as the coming-of-age experience, mental health, abuse, politics, social issues, sex and sexuality, emotional growth, and relationships. Topics we often see in both young adult and adult fiction. The difference is the perspective the novel reflects—a mid-range between being a teen and a full adult. For example, unlike the teen characters portrayed in young adult, a new adult character is no longer experiencing the high school lifestyle nor are dependent on their parents. Yet, on the other hand, unlike an established adult character, the new adult character is at the point of their life where they are just being thrust into the responsibilities of adulthood. Common events—especially within contemporary new adult fiction—include leaving home, first job, college life, or a journey of self-discovery.
I also noticed many readers perceive new adult to be purely contemporary romance. Truth is, new adult fiction can be combined with all genres and subgenres, including science fiction, urban fiction, horror, paranormal, dystopia, historical, etc. It is also true new adult can contain mature content, since the age range is 18 years and older. However, in my personal opinion, how much mature content is up to the discretion of the author. Just as there is clean romance and steamy romance.
If I was going to categorize the first “new adult” novel I had ever read, it would be the Tempest by Julie Cross. However, this novel is considered young adult and shelved as such—which, to me, makes the novel feel very out of place. So, why do they categorize this novel as young adult? Because, Even though there are plenty new adult novels or novels that should be categorized in this genre (both published traditionally and indie) to justify the category, book sellers don’t recognize the new adult genre. When I’m categorizing my novels, I have to decide between categorizing the novel as young adult or adult. This causes major issues such as the new adult novel is not reaching their target audience or a mature new adult novel being read by a younger age group than the novel is intended for. Neither situation is good for the author or the reader. But until book sellers and companies embrace the new genre—as they eventually did with young adult after it first emerged back in the 1950’s—these will continue to be challenges new adult authors and publishers will have to face.
Personally, I enjoy new adult novels. I have found the older perspective more relatable in the past five years than many of the perspectives other authors portray in their young adult fiction. Also, in writing new adult, I feel I can challenge my characters even more, push them further, and give them more challenges with less limitations. Just remember: though new adult is still new territory in the reading and publishing world, it’s territory worth charting—whether you are a reader or a writer.
If you haven’t given new adult a try, here are a few of my favorite:
- Astarte’s Wrath by Trisha Wolfe
- Of Silver and Beasts by Trisha Wolfe
- Campus Crush by Ashelyn Drake
- Hunting by S.M. Hineline
- Heartbeat by Faith Sullivan
- The Darkest Part by Trisha Wolfe
- The Thirteenth Chime by Emma Michaels
- Wikipedia. (Unknown) New Adult Fiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_adult_fiction
- Wikipedia. (Unknown) Young Adult Fiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_adult_fiction
- Goodreads. (Unknown) New Adult Books. https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult
- Goodreads. (Unknown) Young Adult Books. https://www.goodreads.com/genres/young-adult
- Kristen Kieffer. (2017) What is New Adult Fiction? http://www.well-storied.com/blog/what-is-new-adult-fiction