I’ve recently taken a foray into New Adult fiction. I originally encountered this growing category four or five years ago at a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, and although it piqued my interest, I never looked more deeply until I added New Adult novels such as Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl to my to-be-read shelf.
Now I completely stand behind an evolution of New Adult fiction from slightly-more-erotic-YA to a full-blown category in itself.
New Adult fiction bridges the gap between the now solidified categories of Young Adult and Adult fiction. Various sources make different claims about the range of ages represented by New Adult, but on average I see 18-25 as the target audience age range. This age range puts New Adult past the high school phase represented in Young Adult fiction, but before the full-blown adult lives and responsibilities depicted in Adult fiction.
New Adult represents an opportunity to depict characters experiencing a crucial coming-of-age moment in our modern society—the moment when a teenager faces true independence as an adult. Whether this moment involves attending college, finding a serious job, traveling the world, or a plethora of other life decisions, it is a moment that many people have experienced or soon will.
For this reason, New Adult serves as an important link in modern fiction. Not only do people between the ages of 18-25 deserve representation in literature, but such an age range allows for so many story possibilities. If Young Adult reflects the trials and tribulations of teenagers discovering who they are, New Adult offers the chance to follow young people finding their place in the world—or another world entirely.
As someone who falls into the New Adult age range, I completely support and encourage the growth of this category. As much as I still love Young Adult, it’s hard not to want to read and write characters that reflect the changes in living situations, relationships, and maturity levels that come post-high school. Many obstacles must be overcome between high school graduation and the events depicted in most Adult novels, and these obstacles should be told, along with the relatable characters who face them.
If we look further than the contemporary genre and delve into speculative fiction, I would even argue that the New Adult age range is more enticing and believable than that of Young Adult when it comes to characters embarking on spectacular adventures.
In our current age, most high schoolers do not experience the sort of life-changing events depicted in Young Adult speculative fiction: adventure, lifelong love, and the struggle to survive.
That’s why it’s fiction, right?
But the next age group—when those teens move beyond high school—more often could experience these events and feelings. Regardless of where they choose to go, most high school graduates leave their parents’ homes in search of an independent life. The excitement, risk, and fear involved in this decision easily parallels that shown in the adventure and danger of speculative fiction. As for romance, I find it far more believable in this day and age that a twenty-two-year-old will find a partner for life than I do a sixteen or seventeen-year-old.
In other words, the concept of New Adult speculative fiction resonates with me because the feelings and experiences depicted more accurately represent my impressions of life post-high school than they do life during high school.
I certainly have no intention of knocking down the Young Adult category. I value Young Adult fiction as a reader and a writer, and it is a great source of entertainment and learning for a variety of ages. But I will do what I can to support the rise of New Adult as its own category, so it can play an important role as the bridge between Young Adult and Adult fiction.
What are your thoughts? If you’ve read New Adult books, which do you recommend? What do you like or dislike about the category? Is it a necessary category to have?
If you have interest in reading New Adult, check out Goodreads’ list of New Adult releases and favorites, and stay tuned for my series review of Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.