What is New Adult fiction, and why should you know it?
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
As a reader, I find myself with a bit of an identity crisis. Much like a lot of readers, I enjoy a little bit of everything. I'm a die-hard Jane Austen fan, I own Harry Potter books in several languages, and I definitely read Game of Thrones back before anyone ever heard of Kit Harrington. I consumed a lot of high fantasy when I was younger, in addition to Young Adult fare and everything in-between, including some erotic fantasy... Kushiel's Dart, anyone?
However, my consumption of YA paranormal romance, a la Twilight, (which let's just get it out there, I love Twilight for what it is, and will always love it. It's a YA romance, get over it) was always a little strange for me, given that I read it far after my teenage years. I had a hard time understanding what it is I like about Young Adult literature... what many, many people like about it, for that matter. Is it the fact that it deals with discovery, learning, and growth that doesn't often happen to 'grown' adults? Is it the blush of first romance? Is it old people trying to relive their teenage years?
Now to be clear, I am and will always be an advocate of read what you love. If you love children's bedtime stories, you read those snuggle stories and enjoy.
I, personally, gravitated toward YA romance over regular contemporary romance, and I realized at some point it was because the 'romance' aspect of it was handled differently. I love the relationship building, the excitement of first kisses and pitter-pattering hearts, all while enjoying the lack of 'throbbing bratwursts' and the myriad of ways that romance authors of yesteryear described sex in their bodice-rippers that featured Fabio on the cover.
I understand now that the advent of self-publishing has opened the doors to authors who want to write in every conceivable way, with every conceivable level of description, and every conceivable age.
Which brings me to New Adult fiction.
If your story is about characters who are older than seventeen, your story is no longer considered Young Adult. However, at that point it has historically been lumped into 'Adult Fiction' which lets be honest, is where Stella gets her groove back and you don't see a lot of representation for ages between 17-30. Slowly a new category has been creeping in, named New Adult because it represent people who are literally new at being adults. It focuses on the same coming-of-age experiences that Young Adult stories often branch into (Bella was 18 when she got married and got it on with Edward, ya'll) but is divorced from a lot of the angsty teenage drama.
This is my sweet spot. I feel a little silly writing about teenagers, because I want to tackle relationships and issues that I, personally, think are a little too mature to have a sixteen-year-old experiencing. No judgement, it's just not my thing. I felt like I had to choose between crushing my stories down to fit the YA category, because that was the type of story I like to write; Or ramping up the sex appeal of certain scenes for an older adult audience that expects... more.
In my Mortal Heat series, the characters are twenty-four, working their first post-college jobs, and go out drinking and dancing like every good twenty-something should... YOLO. They have had some sexual experiences, and have had relationships, both good and bad. I feel like it adds depth to a character for them to have a colorful backstory to draw on. If they've experienced some of what the world has to offer, they are a little wiser and more interesting than your average sixteen-year-old.
Again, not judging anyone else and what they choose to read or write. I'm just saying I think the New Adult category is a great place for authors like myself to land. While it was first relegated to a place filled with drunken college hookup stories, this category is taking off and including great works of fiction, including fantasy and romance. I have very high hopes that adult consumers in the 17-35 range will start to see the value in this up-and-coming category, and take a chance on something new. If that means you decide to pick up Mortal Heat, awesome. But if you're in the market for something featuring characters that are a little wiser but not the divorced-and-looking-for-a-comeback kind of wiser, I hope you'll check it out, too.