Let’s Discuss: New Adult Lit

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post about how A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is marketed as a young adult novel despite being new adult, so I have to give a shout out to  Katie over at Too Old for YA because her post is what inspired this one.

But this post isn’t about ACOTAR. It’s about new adult literature. When I was first introduced to new adult lit, I thought it was simply another term for erotic fiction. In reality, new adult lit is the step between “young adult” literature and “adult” literature. It features a protagonist between the ages of 18 and 30, and more than likely, takes place in a college. Or you know, deals with college-aged people.

To be fair to my misconceptions, new adult literature usually has more sexual themes than young adult. It makes sense. When you’re a “young adult”, you’re falling in love for the first time, learning how to deal with conflict, and figuring out who you are. And yeah, you’re still doing that in your early adult years, just in a different way.

But for some reason, publishers don’t seem to think new adult lit is a marketable genre despite evidence pointing to its potential. Like NA, other genres have had difficulty breaking into the mainstream demographic. For a long time, children’s literature and young adult literature were both seen as “less than” general fiction aimed at an adult audience. It was seen as not being complex enough, not having complex themes, not being interesting enough. It didn’t really sell.

When Harry Potter was released, no one thought it would sell to adults. No one anticipated that it would be as successful as it was. Children’s literature was suddenly more profitable. The same misconception happened with young adult literature. Adults didn’t read young adult lit; therefore, no one thought it had any merit. It wasn’t marketable. But with The Hunger Games came more adult readers. Young adult literature was suddenly massively popular.

To me, this doesn’t necessarily suggest that children’s literature and young adult literature is appealing to everyone. To me, it suggests that there’s a demographic of people whose reading desires aren’t being met. That demographic isn’t children or teens. It’s us twenty-somethings.

The reason I continued reading young adult literature in college is because I wasn’t finding what I wanted in the general fiction genre. I couldn’t relate to a thirty-year-old mom or a fifty-year-old widow. And quite frankly, I didn’t want to read about them. I wanted to read about people my own age, but there just wasn’t much there. And if there was, it wasn’t necessarily good. So I went back to young adult literature because it was exciting and fresh.

New adult literature can be that too. But it can also have more complexity than a young adult novel. It can be darker, it can be sexual, and it can still have rich world building and character development. And it can be popular. You can see that with A Court of Thorns and Roses because in the end, it isn’t a book that really fits into the young adult genre. It was just stuck there because it was better for sales.

I don’t know about you, but this is something I want to see grow. And I think it will–just like young adult literature did before. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and even Twilight created a new generation of readers.  But those readers aren’t teens any more, and they need something else to read. Isn’t it about time we start getting it?

And yeah, I know I’m being a little dramatic.

How would you define the new adult genre? Do you think it would do well? What would you want to see? Let me know your thoughts about new adult lit in the comments below! 🙂


13 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: New Adult Lit

  1. Jenna M says:

    It always seems to me like a very blurry line between YA and NA, and I wonder if part of the reason the NA label has trouble breaking into the mainstream is because it can feel like too much of a niche market. Right now if I walk into a bookshop, NA books are shelved with the YA, and it probably widens the potential audience for them to continue doing it that way as opposed to treating them as separate genres.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan says:

      It is a blurry line. I guess I see NA as having more mature themes that might not be “appropriate” for younger readers, and usually, the protagonist should be a little older. The problem I see with NA being grouped with YA, and there not really being a sign to distinguish the two, is that YA attracts younger readers (13+, maybe younger). I think there needs to be some distinction so that a kid who might not be comfortable with reading more mature novels won’t pick up that NA book thinking it’s YA.

      That’s true. It might be too much of a niche market. I guess my perspective is there still feels like there’s a gap between YA lit and general fiction aimed at adults.


  2. FairytaleFeminista says:

    My thoughts on NA is that it can help and hurt marketing efforts by the author. Some people think NA and sex are interchangeable and those who don’t want to read about sexual situations avoid anything labeled NA. On the other hand, NA helps to get past the gatekeepers who worry themes considered “too adult” shouldn’t be available in libraries or where tweens and teens can get them. As a person who read The Godfather when I was 12, I don’t know if I really buy the idea of reading by age group. When I was a kid, I wanted to read about adults because I wanted to be older. As an adult, I’ve read YA and NA even though I’m married and have a kid of my own. I also read books with lead male protagonists despite being female. I think NA is a fine idea, but too often people want a “sure thing” when it comes to anything that costs time and/or money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan says:

      Yeah, I was one of those people honestly. I avoided NA because I thought it was just sex driven and I wasn’t really into that.

      I buy into the idea of reading by age group, to an extent. I think middle grade and ya lit represent different reading levels, so there’s definitely that aspect to it (though this doesn’t necessarily correlate to age). I was definitely like you. I started reading “adult” novels in middle school. However, I also know that many teenagers aren’t ready from that, and I learned that from teaching teenagers. It was something I found surprising. But a lot of my students stuck to YA lit because it felt safe and it was within their comfort zone. After all, young adult lit is supposed to be for 13-17 year olds. I think it’s important to have that distinction so kids can find their ground while reading, especially new readers. Age group kind of genres usually also have higher interest levels because its usually focused more on plot than like literary elements.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. afangirlsinsights says:

    Sarah J. Maas is actually working on an NA type book called Crescent City. I agree with you about the YA lovers growing older and wanting something similar but more adult paced. Some people have speculated that the YA genre is going out of style (which I hope isn’t true). I am hoping you are right and NA becomes a more popular and expanded upon genre. I’d like to have something other to read than the general “adult fiction”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Megan says:

      Ooh really?! That’s exciting. I don’t think YA is going out of style (I think Netflix is helping keep it afloat with its movies). But I think it’s starting to lose its appeal to older readers. But I’m glad I’m not the only one who wants a more grown up version of YA.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious says:

    This is such a great post! I really wish there were more great books in NA. I may be in my 30s but my life experiences aren’t that of marriage and kids…. and so I am not really interested in what the market deems as “marketable fiction.” I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, and it seems the best of those stories these days are coming from YA, so that is what I read (and love).

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Josephine S. says:

    I personally felt like NA just had a lot of growing to do as a genre because for me, there aren’t many NA books I find interesting. YA is such a broad label. Truly, YA can be about anything and be set anywhere. From a fairytale retelling, to a school in the sky. There are no limits to what you will find in YA. Especially now, YA is tackling serious social issues and doing leaps and bounds currently. Not saying NA couldn’t also but presently, I haven’t heard of one. Since, as you pointed out, NA doesn’t get much attention. I also think once you’ve read one or two NA novels you’ve kinda read them all. If that makes sense. Its been two years since my last NA novel so maybe it has improved.


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