If you walk into any Barnes and Noble, or preferably, an independently owned bookstore, you might be surprised to see that if you take a close look there might be a book on display among the hundreds that are there already. You might look inside a shiny, new and embossed cover to see a description. When you begin to read that description, you may see a quick summary about a protagonist in their early to late twenties dealing with the dramatic changes of adulthood. You might look a little bit closer at the cover, turn it in your hands and notice that it is categorized and labeled New Adult. You might think, well what exactly is this? There’s no designated section for it, but here it is.
You might be familiar with Young Adult (primarily for the age group of 12-18, although that can vary) and Adult fiction. New Adult, however, is a relatively new and emerging genre within the literary world.
New Adult is an emerging book market specifically for those in the roughly in age group from 18 years old to 25 years old. Some consider it to even go up to 30 years old. The genre was essentially created to capture the experiences of those emerging into adulthood who are thrusted into a life with a plethora of new responsibilities different than those experiences during teen years, as well as older adults who seem to have themselves a little more together with families, stable jobs etc. New Adult as a genre aims to capture the experience of those in between the stages of Young Adult and Adult.
It seems like a good idea (and it still is), however when the genre was established a decade or so ago, the plots were deemed as “Young Adult fiction with explicit sex” according to author, Kristen Kieffer. At the time, NA was filled with cliche greek life university plots and sometimes unnecessary explicit scenes where none of the characters became fully developed, failing to capture the essence of what it is like for those actually trying to adapt to adulthood in their turbulent twenties.
Although the genre started off rocky about a decade ago, it is striving in the right direction today, but it still faces a stigma for how it started, as well as push back from people who think it is too similar to YA or they think it’s an ‘entitled genre’ and too ‘millennial’. However, despite this, there is a need and a market for this type of book. Do you personally know anyone who had a very smooth transition into adulthood? Probably not. While YA does deal with similar themes as NA, the key difference in the storytelling is the perspective.
“How these themes are explored and presented from both a teen’s perspective and the perspective of someone with a well-established adult life will vastly differ from that of someone newly thrust into the responsibility of adulthood,” Author Kristen Kieffer writes on well-storied. She is personally working on a NA novel of her own, Lady Legacy, that focuses on a 24-year-old who is trying to become a physician.
Kieffer makes a point in her article, “What is New Adult Fiction?”, that this group of people also need to be able to see themselves and stories similar to theirs. NA has come a long way since its conception, and although it may not have sections for itself in every bookstore, it is sought after. She argues that diverse New Adult fiction has the opportunity to help new adults navigate their own emerging adulthoods. This fact alone is just one reason why New Adult should be appreciated more because these experiences definitely matter and are revelant to many people today.
Next time you’re in a bookstore, ask your bookseller if they have any New Adult on their shelves. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a book that speaks to you as you try to navigate your own adulthood while showing support for a genre that is struggling to lift itself up into the spotlight.