by Jose Paz Soldan
“New Adult,” is a term first used in 2009 in a contest held by St. Martin’s Press, a publishing company looking for something new. Though the idea of the genre itself wasn’t new at the time, the publishing company still christened a genre that to this day remains in hot contention for its validity.
The New Adult trend is a response to desiring novels that focus on the transitional point of early adulthood, presenting more adult situations than a YA novel. It’s a result of desiring something that doesn’t quite fit into adult literature or YA literature, almost in an awkward transitional point. In short, “New Adult” is a genre the same way “Young Adult” is. It’s defined primarily by its age range and protagonist, with the stories themselves varying from book to book but usually featuring a contemporary setting, as Mary Wetta describes in her article, “What is New Adult Fiction, Anyway?” She goes on to say, “These novels aim to bring the emotionally-intense story lines and fast-paced plotting of young adult fiction to stories that focus on a new range of experiences in life beyond the teenage years.”
Goodreads.com provides these books as examples for the New Adult genre: The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman, A Court of Thrones and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Just as the Young Adult genre has managed to expand on the type of novels it offers, New Adult offers a wide variety of different titles to choose from. The Magicians is a contemporary fantasy and A Court of Thrones and Roses is a high fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
One of the issues facing New Adult fiction is that it’s not an established genre, and it doesn’t quite have the same power or history that Young Adult fiction has. It’s been rising in popularity, but there remains the issue of classification and space. Most bookstores and libraries do not feature dedicated New Adult shelves or classification due to its recent appearance, and several critics have made their voices heard regarding the genre. Lauren Sarner of the Huff Post writes, “New Adult is a label that is condescending to readers and authors alike. It implies that the books act as training wheels between Young Adult and Adult. For the New Adult books that are particularly childish, the label implies that they are a step above Young Adult — which is insulting to the Young Adult books.”
However, these aren’t problems and criticism exclusive to New Adult. Young Adult novels have had their own issues in trying to prove themselves a legitimate genre for years, and now act as one of the biggest forces in the market. Young Adult is strong enough to have its own spaces in bookstores, its own shelves in libraries, and even its own force in Hollywood and Netflix adaptations. New Adult seems to be following this trend, having a small but still noticeable niche.
As an emerging genre, there is a lot of potential for New Adult novels, particularly in online and e-book publishing. For quite a few undergrad student writers, it might be the genre and audience to shoot for in terms of indie publishing. If New Adult continues to follow in the footsteps of the Young Adult genre, it might end up taking its own bit of the market. It’s certainly a phenomenon to keep an eye out for. It might be the label a novel needs in order to really stand out amongst the crowd, particularly if one is interested in the indie-publishing scene instead of going a more traditional route.
It’s also an interesting genre to explore something different. Even if one isn’t interested in publishing or writing, it’s not a bad idea to explore the novels that have been published under this genre to get a feel for what could or could not be NEXT.
Jose Paz Soldan is the Long River Review scholarship contest coordinator and a fiction panel reader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.