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A few years ago, several indie authors saw a large gap in the publishing world. The young adult market was flooded with Twilight wannabe’s and Hunger Games knockoffs while the adult market continued to produce tomes of literature geared toward the serious adult reader. Yet nobody was writing books for that crossover stage between the two.
In order to fill this gap, authors started writing New Adult, or NA, novels. New Adult started off being mostly contemporary romance novels with the fast pace and simpler writing style of Young Adult, but with explicit content often seen in adult novels.
Since these books didn’t belong in the YA category nor the adult category, authors faced an uphill battle to publication. Naturally, many authors turned to self-publication and we began to see their new work that way. After many runaway bestsellers published by indie authors, the big publishing houses started to take notice. Slowly, the New Adult category has gained recognition and a permanent slot in the publishing world.
NA is here to stay, there’s no doubt about that.
I love watching trends in young adult books and following the ebb and flow of different genres and themes. I’ve noticed a few things about New Adult books.
They’re infiltrating the Young Adult category
There’s been some debate over whether to shelve NA books in the teen section or the adult section. I’ve seen both, but with the popularity of NA, I’ve noticed content that used to be found exclusively in adult novels is now filtering down into young adult. YA has started dealing with heavier issues and allowing more explicit content in their books than ever before. F-bombs are perfectly acceptable now, as are detailed sex scenes. In fact, many books labeled as YA contain just as much “adult” content as adult books do. Take
YA has started dealing with heavier issues and allowing more explicit content in their books. In fact, many books labeled as YA contain just as much “adult” content as adult books do. For example, Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas contains a very long, very explicit love scene in it. I always categorized that series as Young Adult, but the detailed love scene placed it squarely in the New Adult category. Other books, like Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn, contain no sex but are heavy with f-bombs.
There’s not always a difference between NA and YA books
Many big publishing houses are spitting out sweeping, epic books (like The Glittering Court) geared toward adult YA readers—under their children’s imprints. Books like And I Darken by Kiersten White are lengthy and violent. By the time we get to Now I Rise, the second book in the series, the characters are well into adulthood, the violence is amped up, and there is a semi-descriptive love scene. Yet the series is published, marketed, and categorized as young adult.
Many adults read YA, so publishers gear books toward them
Young adult books are labeled as for ages 12-18. However, many adults (myself included) love reading YA. But adults can handle—and even want—more graphic content than the teens these books were originally intended for. Since most young adult books are being read, reviewed, and raved about by adults, it only makes sense that authors and publishers would start producing YA books for their adult fans.
YA readers don’t want “grown up” books
If adults want to read “grown up” content, why don’t they just read a book written for adults? That’s because adult books are too long, too slow, and have too many descriptions to keep YA readers interested. Young Adult and New Adult books are shorter, have a faster pace, and have a smaller cast of characters. Plots aren’t as complex, and everything that happens moves the story forward. Adult readers of YA books love these fast-paced, obsession-worthy, swoony books they grew to love as teenagers. As adults, they want similar stories—with more adult content.
NA books are not for children
It’s a weird thing, to see books for adults disguised as books for teenagers. Young adult books are for kids ages 12-18 and are published by imprints clearly labeled for children. But like I mentioned earlier, a growing number of books labeled as young adult may not be appropriate for teens. As a parent, I worry that adult love for YA is overshadowing the needs of teenagers and jeopardizing YA as we know it.
My concern is that kids don’t go from reading middle-grade books like The Land of Stories to reading A Court of Thorns and Roses overnight. We still need books to bridge the gap, books that offer kids who aren’t emotionally ready for (or are uncomfortable reading) graphic content something worthwhile. If kids don’t have good, age-appropriate material to read, they stop reading.
We need a way to distinguish NA from YA books
I’m not complaining about NA starting to leak into YA. There used to be a big gap that’s now getting filled. I’ve read and enjoyed many young adult books that I would never hand to a twelve-year-old. However, as my daughter gets closer to her teen years, I wish I had a way of knowing whether a book is age appropriate or not—other than reading it myself, first. If authors and publishers want to produce YA for adult readers, that’s perfectly fine with me. But we need a way of distinguishing if a book is truly intended for teen readers or the massive numbers of adults that read young adult books. I almost wish publishers would split their age recommendations for YA into 12-14 and 15-18, to help parents and their teens better navigate this new reading landscape.
What do you think? Have you noticed this trend in YA books?
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