What is New Adult Fiction?
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Have you heard of New Adult fiction?
New Adult is an emerging market that brings readers in their late teens and early twenties, who are all too often missing from the pages of both Young Adult and Adult books, to the forefront.
This may seem like cause for celebration—and it is—but in the 10 years since it first emerged, New Adult books have struggled to overcome heavy stigma. It's this stigma, and how we can push past it to make the most of this fantastic new emerging market, that we're going to talk about today.
A big thanks to one of my lovely Patreon supporters, who wished to remain unnamed, for suggesting this topic. I'm so excited to explore it! Let's dive in, shall we?
The New Adult Stigma
New Adult (NA) books are obviously written with new adults in mind, specifically readers that fall between the ages of 18 and 25, though some consider the market to range as far as age 30.
Suddenly thrust into a wealth of new responsibilities and their own legal agency, it’s no wonder that new adults face struggles that both their underage peers and older adults with well-established careers, families, and lifestyles don't.
Everything that takes place in the life of a new adult is, indeed, new; it can be difficult for them to find their footing in many aspects of their new adult life, which is exactly what NA books address...or rather, what you'd think NA books would address.
Unfortunately, when NA books emerged roughly ten years ago, they did so almost exclusively with plots that can rather unanimously be summed up as “Young Adult fiction with explicit sex.”
In other words, NA mainly consisted of erotica set most often within universities where Greek life clichés reigned and no one actually matured into adulthood.
And while I’m in no way here to judge this kind of story (please write and read what you most enjoy!), I can confidently say that this is not the kind of storyline that most new adults want, need, or experience for themselves.
Breaking Through Stigma
So how do we move past the NA stigma? How do we bring this emerging market to its fullest potential? By writing the stories we'd like to read, of course!
New adult readers need diverse NA stories. They need to see themselves and their own experiences represented in fiction just as much as any other age or people group. And fortunately, there is a market for this kind of NA fiction.
Over the past few years, NA has been pushing against its boundaries, and while it still may not have its own section in bookstores, it's increasingly sought by agents, acquisitions editors, and readers alike. So write into existence the change you want to see in the industry. I know I am!
What makes NA different from YA or Adult?
Believe it or not, there is some push-back against NA fiction.
Usually, this push-back involves garbled grumblings in which only the words “immature”, “millennial”, and “entitlement” can be discerned, but I still think it’s important to reiterate why I believe NA to be so critical…and what separates it from its neighboring markets, especially as I'm a new adult myself.
Whether we like or not, our current political, social, and economic climates in the Western world (or at least here in the US) mean that there's no smooth transition from underage teen to successful adult.
New situations and responsibilities bring with them new challenges and emotional hurdles, some of which teens and adults may also encounter but that certainly stand as hallmarks of the new adult experience.
And these elements—these new situations and introspective challenges—serve as the most common themes in New Adult fiction, including:
• The Coming-Of-Age Experience
• Mental Health
• Physical, Verbal, and/or Mental Abuse
• Social Issues
• Sex and Sexuality
• Emotional Growth
And other such topics. Again, I would like to reiterate that these themes often appear in Young Adult and Adult fiction as well. So what truly separates New Adult fiction from its neighboring markets?
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.
The media we consume invariably has a large effect on our lifestyles and mindsets. Diverse New Adult fiction has the potential to help facilitate new adults through the immensely stressful and emotional experiences they face in their day-to-day lives, which is why championing NA fiction beyond its stigma is so important to me.
I’m currently working on my own NA book, a medieval fantasy novel called Lady Legacy about 24-year-old Claire Godtric, who sets out to become the greatest physician in history and discovers a world much darker and more complex than she’d ever imagined.
So tell me, writer. What New Adult story will you write?