Goodreads Blog

Young Adult Gets Old

Posted by Elizabeth on December 02, 2012 5

Booksellers may want to make room for some new shelves; there’s a new genre in town. It’s called New Adult and the books are filled with young people, mostly college-age, who seem to have lots of sex and rarely see their parents (if they have any).

Publishers and readers are already embracing it, and here at Goodreads we’ve recognized the rapidly growing interest with our own genre page.

Editor Amy Tannenbaum at Atria Books, who recently scooped up the previously indie-published The Sea of Traquility by Katja Millay (which ended up as a Goodreads Choice write-in nominee), finds that one defining characteristic of a New Adult book is the degree of parental involvement. “New Adult generally features main characters between the ages of 18-23. That said, New Adult can skew a bit younger if the characters are particularly mature for their age. For example, although the main male and female characters in The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay are seniors in high school, this book is being published by Atria Books as New Adult. They seem older than their peers in part because they’ve survived traumatic pasts and do not live with their parents,” she says. She’s also noticed that as her publishing house has become involved with developing New Adult books, there’s been greater sharing of manuscripts between departments. "Since New Adult can appeal to both Young Adult and Adult readers we’re able to run promotions for these books in both worlds," she adds.

Other houses have taken notice too: St. Martins was the first to jump on the concept, running a contest for New Adult manuscripts. Carina Press put out a call for new adult manuscripts in October. Self-published author Corma Carmack recently signed a 3-book deal with HarperCollins. And last week, Random House announced that they are starting a digital-first imprint for the genre, appropriately called Flirt.

We see the positive signs of readers taking to the new genre on Goodreads. Beginning in 2011, there was a spike in the number of readers identifying books as New Adult through custom shelves and rating books in the category.



Two examples of recent New Adult success are Slammed by Colleen Hoover and Easy by Tammara Webber. Also, The Perfect Game by J. Sterling is a New Adult book that is trending well.

But the new genre is not without its share of controversy. There was flurry of debate on Jezebel about whether or not this new genre previously existed, just without a label. Some have said that New Adult is a byproduct the trend of 20-somethings staying at home longer and generally delaying the growing-up process, a feeling that Corma Carmack put eloquently, “Your parents are still a large part of your life. You’re not a child anymore, but you’re also not quite an adult. You may call yourself an adult (as will others), but deep down in side you are petrified because you don’t feel like one.”

Personally, I also suspect that it may be that writers feel more empowered to write about this period in their lives, thanks to the expansion of fan fiction and the rise of self publishing. When I was in college (and publishing a novel was a much more traditional process), I remember my creative writing professor John L'Heureux telling our class, “Don’t write about college, nobody wants to read that.”

The readers may have always been interested in these types of books about the 18-25 set, but now there’s a new abundance of material!

Do you like this genre? Why do you think it’s popular now?
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Comments (showing 1-49 of 49) (49 new)

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message 1: by Lauren (Sugar & Snark) (last edited Dec 03, 2012 10:55AM) (new)

Lauren (Sugar & Snark) I have enjoyed some of these "New Adult?" books but as with most genres some of the books have been a little hit or miss.

I think NA popularity might stem from the fact that your late teens and early 20's are usually a very transitional time in your life. So the setting is usually a mix of adult issue but with some residual "teenage angst" to add to the heightened drama.

Either that or YA audiences, both young and old alike are finally moving on from reading about the paranormal/virginal and have settled their interest on to something a little more relatable. Sex, the struggle for independence and "The College Experience."


message 2: by Lisa M (new)

Lisa M It’s called New Adult and the books are filled with young people, mostly college-age, who seem to have lots of sex and rarely see their parents (if they have any).

I laughed so hard at this.


message 3: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Darling I think we can credit J.K. Rowling for developing a generation of readers. The people who were kids when all the Potter books were coming out discovered that reading could be pleasant and are still on the prowl for books written with their tastes in mind. The people who used to imagine they were witches are now imagining they live exciting, enchanted lives in other ways. Now if only somebody could raise those tastes a bit.


message 4: by Syahira (new)

Syahira Sharif No. Just no. Just stick to Adult, please.


message 5: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Miller Does our society really need to encourage more teen pregnancy and more sexually transmitted disease through more false advertising?


message 6: by David (last edited Dec 03, 2012 05:46AM) (new)

David Swager One look at the GoodReads or other genre categories will tell you one thing: There are so many of them that they are meaningless. When a single title might have 30 diferrent tags associated, the tag itself becomes irrelevant.

I find it ironic that the most significant demograpic change of the last 10 years is that more 'new adults' than ever are staying or returning to live with their parents while this new categories is about rarely seeing their parents! These 'new adults' really are kids that live at home and WISH they were out on their own having more sex and not seeing their parents so much! LOL

A book might appeal to a specific demographic group, but an exceptional book crosses those lines either by plot, characters or meaning.


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim This genre isn't "adult" and "New Adult" makes the rest of us "Old Adults" Needs to be labeled something more transitional and original like "Purgatory" haha!


message 8: by GM (new)

GM Oreiro I think the main idea here is to be more genre-specific. It's like putting an "appropriate age" for a certain material that consents its readability. It's like saying "kids watch cartoons, young adults watch Disney/ Nick series (? do they?), new adults watch smart comedy, and adults pay for cable." Or something like that.


message 9: by Penny (new)

Penny Another sad step in the "dumbing down" of society in general, I'm afraid.


message 10: by Carolhaughton (new)

Carolhaughton Anyone would think this stuff was new...was boring, still is boring...rather read something a little more challenging I'm afraid...


message 11: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Bah, the name doesn't make any sense. Young Adult, I understand. But New Adult...makes no sense.

Should be like Mature or something...Although there are copious amounts of sex and over possesive boyfriends.


message 12: by Elaine (new)

Elaine I really just don't see why this genre is necessary.


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael Hawkes Maybe they should call it Post-Adolescent


message 14: by Nesrin (last edited Dec 03, 2012 09:26AM) (new)

Nesrin L. Well, personally I do not think there was a need for this genre, but if it makes people happy...

I ceetainly won't look out for these 'New Adult' books while buying a new book.


message 15: by Josephine (new)

Josephine (aurora lector) I think the main thing is, Adult can range wildly in character ages. I enjoy Jill Mansell, whose heroines are usually in their 30s and 40s, but might find next to her, books that are written about college kids. Whether the genre is necessary is irrelevant, it exists and putting a label on it just makes it easier to find. *shrug*


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Not all of these new adult books are created equally. It's a bad name, New Adult Books. What ever happened to the coming of age novel?My fave "new adult books" or coming of age novels of yore include Catcher in the Rye, the Great Gatsby, Less than Zero, Bright Lights Big CIty.... I've also been told my novel Who Town fits this category.


message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Hmmn... I wonder what Mary Gaitskill would think of this category, since so many of her characters are in the age range. I think she'd grimace. WIll have to ask her. I also prefer to think of Who Town as coming of age novel and NOT New Adult fiction. Even hipster lit is better than NA.


message 18: by James (last edited Dec 03, 2012 10:05AM) (new)

James Campbell I would resist any new genre simply on the grounds that genre divides, genre stigmatises. Young people growing up now are so used to niche marketing that as soon as they identify what genres they like, I fear they just sort stick to those ruts and never branch out much. You see it everywhere:

"I love reading YA Urban fantasy, horror, New Adult and romance."

It's like those tags are so easily marketable through Amazon that there are few external forces that might be able to pull them toward more challenging and rewarding reads.

That's the pessimistic side of coming out, anyway. Maybe I'm totally wrong. Who knows – maybe these types of books could be a 'gateway' into 'Adult' (ha) books.

But 'New Adult' just sounds like a marketing grab.


message 19: by Adam (new)

Adam Sparks “New Adult generally features main characters between the ages of 18-23."
So... it's YA?


message 20: by M.P. (new)

M.P. McDonald Interesting. If I had known this, I would have made the hero of my book ten years younger. ;-) Anyway, in response to the suggestion that YA is getting old, I have to agree. I'm not a huge fan of it anyway, but I've read The Hunger Games, Across the Universe, Divergent and a few others. In fact, I just finished Divergent the other day. While it was good, I'm just tired of reading about 16 year old girls who everyone else recognizes as having some kind of inner strength and power but they don't see it in themselves.I can see the appeal for actual sixteen year old girls reading it, but I prefer to read about adults. Maybe in ten years it will be popular for main characters to be over 30. ;-)


message 21: by M.P. (new)

M.P. McDonald James wrote: "I would resist any new genre simply on the grounds that genre divides, genre stigmatises. Young people growing up now are so used to niche marketing that as soon as they identify what genres they l..."

So true. When I was growing up, I don't recall YA being a genre, although I'm sure it was there--maybe it wasn't labeled. I'm thinking of books like The Outsiders, Mr& Mrs. Bojo Jones, and others like that. At home, we mostly had historical sagas like John Jakes, James Michener, and later, Clancy, so that is what I read in my teens. I had no clue what other teens were reading.


message 22: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum I was certainly not the prototype teen. I was reading the Scarlet Letter in sixth grade and then Dickens, Greek mythology. (ei: historically enamored geek) That said, there was a phase in my junior high book club where we did read Young Adult. I swept through Judy Blume that season. I'm sure the current "new adult fiction" would make that seem like DIsney G rated stuff now. If "new adult fiction" gets teens interested in reading, I'm all for it. If it means they'll buy Who Town, Concrete Fever (Nate Kressen) and other author friends w real writing chops, great! I'm not so keen on badly written young'un tales ei: Twilight, but hey....


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Any advice Goodreads? Should I add a category to Who Town, New Adult Fiction? Gotta say, I hate the title but if teens and twentysomethings are actually clicking into this as a genre, I'll add it. It does sound like a marketing catch phrase. :(


message 24: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Blakely I believe this genre is popular simply because readers want it. The demand is coming from readers discovering these books in digital forms and gobbling them up. This is an area traditional publishers have never served, but now that readers are saying they want this genre, it's becoming more popular. I think it's less about YA and more about post-YA readers wanting to reconnect with a time in their lives when they had more freedom in certain areas!


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Good point! This is such a jumping point to a much larger discussion about society feeling trapped. Seems a lot of voyeurism in the lit game these days, just look at all the women who went crazy for Eat, Pray, Love and now those awful shades of "Grey" books. I am a fan of neither, but even the Twilight series is about fantasy. And in this case "new adult," I believe you've hit it: those who've passed the first coming of age, looking back and reliving. post YA looking back....


message 26: by Andra (new)

Andra I really don't understand the need to make a drama or a romance with young protagonists something other than what it is - a drama, a romance, a bildungsroman, etc.. seriously - what is wrong with sticking to classical genres?


message 27: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea I will agree that there needs to be a genre between YA and Adult. I'm 21 years old, and it's hard to head to a specific genre that reflects my age - if I go to the YA section, I can find a few lingered in-between seas of books geared toward 14 year olds, just as I can go to the adult section and not know how to weed my way through hundreds of mid-life crisis and family-driven plots.

And I know sex sells, but I don't know how I feel about advertising New Adult as "all sex, no responsibility"; 20-somethings have more things to deal with than just which boy to take home from a party.


message 28: by M.P. (new)

M.P. McDonald When I was between 18 and 21, I discovered romance books. Maybe part of what drew me to them was they were the only books that I could find with a young woman my age at the time. However, I still read other genres too. I was on a thriller kick at the same time, reading stuff by Van Lustbader, Trevanian and Card.

It's not all about mid-life crises and family. ;-) I'm in my 40s and I can't recall any books I've read like that and even though I guess they would be geared towards me, I have no interest in them. In fact, the next book on my TBR list is a sci-fi book.


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Chelsea wrote: "I will agree that there needs to be a genre between YA and Adult. I'm 21 years old, and it's hard to head to a specific genre that reflects my age - if I go to the YA section, I can find a few ling..." I completely agree that 20-something have more things to deal with than which boy to take home from a party... Funny, I wrote Who Town once I passed 30, but part of the impetus was that I could not find a book that reflected my own twenties in NYC. And yes, a lot of the "adult" fiction is mid life crisis.


message 30: by Izandra (last edited Dec 03, 2012 05:56PM) (new)

Izandra Mascarenhas David wrote: "These 'new adults' really are kids that live at home and WISH they were out on their own having more sex and not seeing their parents so much! LOL "

I laughed too much with this... Probably because sounds right xD


message 31: by Kara (new)

Kara I find it a little odd that genres now indicate the age of its characters.

For kids, that generally makes sense, and I could understand why that might be so for teens as well. But I don't see how a book about characters 18 to 23 should be classified differently than a book about people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. Is the octogenarian genre next? The mid-life crisis genre? Sure, every age group has its own major life events, experiences, and trials, but that doesn't mean each needs its own GENRE.

The only way this distinction makes sense is if the writing style itself is different for this New Adult genre than it is for Adult, and if so, that's a discredit to 18 to 23 year olds everywhere. They should have no problems comprehending an Adult book.

This makes me sad.


message 32: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Publishing and business types need boxes to describe things whereas artists do not. In any case, it's a marketing tool, a new catch phrase to generate interest. I'm just going to call all of my novels "erotica" from now on, no mater what, and hope for the best. They do say "sex sells." LOL!


message 33: by Jennifer R (new)

Jennifer R  Ricketts Kim wrote: "This genre isn't "adult" and "New Adult" makes the rest of us "Old Adults" Needs to be labeled something more transitional and original like "Purgatory" haha!"

I agree--it would be cool to name it something else. Anytime someone will shorten New Adult to NA, it'll make me think of Narcotics Anonymous, lol.


message 34: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Blakely Susan wrote: "Publishing and business types need boxes to describe things whereas artists do not. In any case, it's a marketing tool, a new catch phrase to generate interest. I'm just going to call all of my nov..."

YES. Good idea!


message 35: by Cassey (new)

Cassey Hall I love this genre of books! They are sweet and romantic with a great twist of passion. Many show the struggles people face with love and live. Some great books that would fit perfect in this category include (but certainly not limited to) My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M Cameron, Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan, The Perfect Game by J. Sterling, The Secret of Ella & Micha but Jessica Sorenson, and Easy by Tammara Webber. Some of my favorites!


message 36: by Jennifer R (new)

Jennifer R  Ricketts I'm looking forward to reading Slammed and Easy. I haven't read any negative reviews for either of them.


message 37: by James (new)

James Campbell Kara wrote: "I find it a little odd that genres now indicate the age of its characters.

For kids, that generally makes sense, and I could understand why that might be so for teens as well. But I don't see h..."


+1


message 38: by Jassanja (new)

Jassanja So, basically, it's a new name for "chick-lit".


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum It depends if it is written on a fourth grade reading level with pat descriptions rather than sentences that tightly weave the story together. If it is lacking on these levels, it could be "chick lit."


message 40: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Jury Lauren, I agree with you. I think in general this age range is more relatable for adults. My favorite "NA" read is Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman. However, this book, in particular, really transcends any one genre.

Lauren (Sugar & Snark) wrote: "I have enjoyed some of these "New Adult?" books but as with most genres some of the books have been a little hit or miss.

I think NA popularity might stem from the fact that your late teens and e..."



message 41: by Andi Ruggles (new)

Andi Ruggles (Rywn) I'm really shocked with how out of touch a lot of these comments seem to be. Just because a book is New Adult, or heck, Young Adult does not mean that it is either poorly written or chick lit. Look at both Sea of Tranquility and Easy - both of these are books that I would consider to be New Adult, and both are covering 'adult' themes in a way that is actually relate-able for people who are "New Adult". It's not about the 20-something who can't "understand" adult novels, but the fact that s/he has nothing in common with the 30 year old woman working her full-salary job going through a similar situation, and that the easier access they have to it, the better.

Who cares what the genre is really called? The point is that it exists because there was a need to fill it, and that is actually amazing - that people in these age groups are in fact READING. That should be the most important thing that comes out of this.


message 42: by Kim (last edited Dec 07, 2012 08:54AM) (new)

Kim Speaking as a jaded "Gen-Xer," I'm not terribly surprised that Millennials may not connect to the coming-of-age novels that many of us remember reading. I think we read them largely because we had so few alternatives (as opposed to a natural gravitation towards superior literature). After all, how many of those iconic books were a part of a school curriculum or recommended by a savvy adult?

As I recall, people (especially kids) want to read about themselves or who they wish they were. Catcher in the Rye is set in New York in 1949. While readers may identify with Caulfield, the cultural references and contexts are nothing like anything any Millennial experiences now.

So yes, I think that New Adult (which I literally read as "books about people who are new to adulthood") is a *thing* and will remain a *thing* until the target audience ages and then we'll have a fresh influx of "Quarter Life Crisis," "Dating and Mating," and "Baby Blues" genres.


message 43: by hannah (new)

hannah I take issue with Flirt and don't think it's appropriately named, because it turns NA into chick lit. Also, NA shouldn't be a genre because YA is not. They're categories, and if NA is going to be anything like YA, it will have various genres that fit the category. And yes, I think it is a result of current culture that keeps actual adults-who-are-young (since YA is called YA but is for and about teens) living with their parents because their college degrees make them qualified only for Starbucks, everyone tries to prolong college by continuing to binge drink and party, and society is constantly telling us to grow up but giving us no opportunities to do so with the economy the way it is.


message 44: by David (last edited Dec 11, 2012 09:30AM) (new)

David Swager New Adult is a target audience for marketing purposes similar to Young Adult or Teen. None are genres. I would suspect that any book so labelled will have main characters of 18-25 and will contain more graphic depictions of sex and violence. None of which will give any hint if the book is worth reading with respect to quality or subject matter. All it means is that in this version, Harry Potter is likely doing Hermione.

Hunger Games was written for Young Adults. What made it successfuly was that it worked on many levels and appealed to readers of all ages. Unfotunately, most NEW ADULTS are less mature than my 15 year old.


Erin ♥ (Paperback Stash) Lauren wrote: "I believe this genre is popular simply because readers want it. The demand is coming from readers discovering these books in digital forms and gobbling them up. This is an area traditional publishe..."

Agreed. Goodreads didn't invent this genre, they are embracing it because it's popular and it would look odd not to otherwise.


message 46: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum I keep grappling with the question if my novel Who Town is New Adult since the characters range in age from 23 to 28. While I'm seeing that many of my current readers are in college or high school. However, I struggle with the category name since I'd like to think a 40 year old remembering coming of age in NYC or any other big city could relate to the story in an entirely different way. Are readers specifically asking for "new adult fiction?"


message 47: by Cajun (new)

Cajun Hawke I also would like to know where to categorize a junior level college student living by himself and a newly grad from college character.


message 48: by Shakil (new)

Shakil Thasariya I take issue with Flirt and don't think it's appropriately named, because it turns NA into chick lit.

TMKOC


message 49: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Flirt is horrible. It would certainly deter any males from buying the books. I think publishers are sadly way too hung up on categories.


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