Monday, April 4, 2016

New Adult: Themes and Expansion

Let’s talk about the New Adult genre. This is one of my favorite genres to write in, so much so my debut novel, EDGE OF CHAOS, happens to be a contemporary NA romance.

When the genre first hit the book world I remember how much confusion surrounded it, as well as the excitement for a new age group of characters to follow. Confusion over what the rules were to the genre: did the characters have to be set in college? Did the characters have to have sex or could it just be hinted at like in some YA? Is there a certain age that the characters have to be to fit into the genre?

As with any genre, these “rules” can always be broken, but as I’ve watched the genre blossom over the years, these questions have started to work themselves out. The difference between young adult and new adult consists of many things, but one of them is the age of the characters. They can range anywhere between 18-26, and normally they are within a college setting, but this isn’t a hard-fast rule. Luckily, with the popularity of the genre, authors are now trying to expand the settings and roles and even sub-genres to include fantasy.

What I love about the age range is the new set of stakes that come with no longer being a teenager. The character has survived high school, finding themselves at least in part, and now, as they go out into the big wide world alone, they have a whole new set of conflicts to deal with. It’s no longer about pleasing the parents—though of course that can always be a goal for any aged character—but the focus is more on how the character can function in the world around them on their own. It is in these moments—whether that be in college far away from home, or in a trade-school in their hometown, or during an internship at a huge corporation—that they discover who they are at their core. The journey in this period of life will set up the reactions to certain difficult situations throughout the rest of their lives. The transition to adulthood is such an intense time, because it’s one of the last phases where they dig deep to find out who they are without question.

The discovery of one’s own self worth is a beautiful character arc, in my opinion, and I find it to be one of the most fun periods in life to write about.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore writing young adult too, but there are such different things at stake for teenagers as opposed to characters who are on their way to donning the “adult” title. Teenagers are intriguing to write because everything is a new experience. New Adult is interesting to write because after learning their likes and dislikes in high school, the characters are free to own their passion and go after what they really want—as for my main character, Blake, in Edge of Chaos, she’s reached the age where she can finally go after her dream of being a meteorologist and chasing storms.

I’m excited to see the genre expand into both newer sub-genres—like fantasy, thrillers, historical—and to see characters placed outside a college setting—like going straight from high school to a trade job, or a work source program. The possibilities are endless and I hope readers continue to respond to the genre in order to keep the spark alive.


  1. Does NA have to be contemporary / realistic? And does it have to have romance as one of the central plots? You mention expansion into sub-genres, but is there really a space for NA SFF? Or are we just not there yet? What do we do with SFF protags who are in that 18-26 age range and dealing with more "adult" things in their world? Can we still call that NA even if it doesn't have a central romance plot?

  2. Hi there!
    I absolutely think the genre can expand to include a wide variety of genres, including SFF. Cora Carmack's INSPIRE is an example of an amazing NA that isn't a contemporary. Romance is a driving theme in the NA of today for sure, but I think any book, if it is well written, sharp, and has the right stakes, will have the power garner the reader's attention. It simply depends on what readership you are trying to reach. While I desperately want to see more expansion in NA into other genres like SFF and Fantasy, etc, the readers are the ones who will decide if it is successful or not. Writing a compelling story is first, something that will make readers/editors think twice about saying New Adult can't expand further :) If enough authors do this right, then there will be no choice but to watch as new stories and genres explode onto the market :)