Birth of a Genre: New Adult

St. Martin’s Press ran a contest in 2009 to promote a genre they call New Adult. Aimed primarily at a female audience, the stories deal with situations specific to early adulthood like college, starting a career, finding your first apartment, and maybe even marriage.

Image courtesy Salvatore Vuono:

The keyword for New Adult seems to be “transition,” and I think it fits perfectly. There’s definitely an adjustment period once we leave high school or college. Practical day-to-day knowledge on how to be a grownup doesn’t come with the diploma. It takes time to figure out who we really are and how we fit into the world, and we usually learn through trial and error—through epic failures and accidental successes. We have to sort through a lot of confusing information and contradicting advice, and often our emotions muddle the mess even further. We start off in one direction, hit a dead end, and have to turn around. It can feel like navigating a labyrinth.

NA Author Kristan Hoffman (Twenty-Somewhere) likened this transition period to breaking in a new pair of shoes, saying that “New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches.” I think a lot of NA’s success will depend on its ability to connect with readers who are breaking in their grownup shoes.

Flexibility may also play a big part. Hoffman predicts that, just as with Young Adult, New Adult will eventually include more than contemporary stories. Eventually it will branch out into fantasy, science fiction, historical, and more. Something I heartily approve of!

I like the concept of a New Adult genre. While it will never replace Young Adult in my heart or on my bookshelf, I think I could make some room for it.

What do you think about New Adult? Does it have potential as a genre? Or should it be considered a sub-genre of adult fiction?

©2012 Kim Vandel

4 thoughts on “Birth of a Genre: New Adult

  1. I’d never heard of this genre, until coming across your site. I love the sound of it. Although I’m in my 30s now, a lot of what I write about is from that time and it’s great to think there is a specific place for this kind of writing, and that writing about difficult times in your life can be worthwhile for others. Nice post!

  2. I’m starting to really love New Adult! When I was in college and after I first graduated, I was sort of stranded in the middle of YA and adult. I was having a hard time relating to the adult novels because I was young but not hip, living in the city, and engaged. I wanted something just a little older than high school and always hoped for more books about college-age kids. I’m loving the New Adult genre and seeing all of the additions that have been popping up!

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