What is New Adult Fiction, anyway?

“Old enough to know better, but young enough not to care.”

I get funny looks when I say I write New Adult Contemporary Fantasy to any non-bookish type. Part of the weird look is the contemporary fantasy part, but more often it’s the New Adult portion that hangs people up.

So, what is New Adult? Is it a genre? Only as much as Young Adult is a genre, which is to say not really. What it is, however, is Young Adult’s older sibling.

New Adult books can be any genre–fantasy, sci-fi, romance, drama, mystery, suspense, literary, you name it–or subgenre, for that matter (paranormal romance, cozy mystery, crime drama, etc.) What they all have in common is the age of the characters. While Young Adult protagonists tend to be in their teens, New Adult protagonists tend to be in their early to mid-twenties, sometimes even a little older. Along those lines, New Adult books tend to feature conflicts and plot devices in keeping with that age range: the trials of a new career, more adult romantic relationships (than their YA counterparts), and other things that might be new to an adult in his/her early twenties (get it?)  Both Young Adult and New Adult books are free to tackle difficult issues–or not.

Note that I did not say that New Adult (or Young Adult) stories are FOR readers of a certain age. I don’t care how old you are: you enjoy a good YA or NA novel as much as you darn well please!  And while NA plots may contain topics or issues that some would think aren’t suitable for younger readers, that isn’t true across the board. Heck, there are YA books some would put in that bucket, too.  The point is, it’s kid-by-kid, and person-by-person. Read what you love; let your kids read what they are ready for. If the story is compelling, who cares how old the characters are?

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