Young Adult book sales have soared over the past two decades, probably because they appeal to a wide range of readers, from tweens to octogenarians. While authors in this genre typically target ages twelve to eighteen, they capture a much broader and older audience. And with the category being vast in topics and audience, a subcategory was bound to emerge
Enter ‘New Adult.’ The genre first coined by the publisher St. Martin’s Press in 2009 is designed to categorize that sweet spot between teen and adult.
While many publishers don’t consider the category distinctive from Young Adult, plenty of writers and readers do, especially as a way of clarifying what kind of characters, plot, and content to expect.
New Adult content can err on the sensitive side, touching upon mature issues such as sexual development, intimate encounters, delinquency, suicide, depression, leaving home, crime, graphic content, and violence. But it also often contains healthy, educational, and positive-focused mature material that young adults identify with, or are curious about, such as setting off to college, understanding gender fluidity, LGBT protagonists, marriage, and making adult career and life choices as portrayed by coming of age and adulting characters.
So, with the tepid embrace, is New Adult still a thing?
Definitely. For starters, it helps readers gain clarity on whether the book is best targeted to a younger audience or one more sophisticated and experienced. However, this can still be a point of contention, since youth today are well-versed in a variety of mature and sensitive issues. But when it comes to gifting a book to a child, teen, or adult, the category clarifies appropriateness.
It also helps the writer communicate with their audience, especially when pitching an agent and publisher. With ‘New Adult’ there is an understanding that the book delves into topics beyond first romance and typical high school plots. Think of Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews, Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.
If you’re a young adult author, and reader, then you’re most likely familiar with this genre and have seen it evolve over the years. While there are crossovers including chick lit, dystopian, diaries, and steampunk, if ‘New Adult’ is added in the description, then it probably appeals to a curious and intellectually mature reader.
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