New Adult: Growth in Different Genres

A few weeks ago, I asked twitter who had questions about New Adult and what they were. A number of people responded (and I'll have answers to those questions soon), but there was one question that stood out above the rest. There were several variations in the way that question was asked, but the gist was this:

Will New Adult grow into different genres or is it strictly going to be contemporary romance?

I've thought a lot about this, and the different ways that I could attempt to answer it. The simple truth is that I don't know. I believe that we're at a pivotal moment within New Adult where we could go either way and which way it goes is going to depend on the market and sales and most importantly readers.

But let's try to puzzle it out and predict the future anyway.

The definition of New Adult finally seems to be pretty consistent. Even Wikipedia seems to have a good description of the genre:

a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket...New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

Right now, the genre as a whole has been gaining popularity at a pretty break neck speed. The books that appear to be most successful in terms of sales and most talked about as New Adult Books are contemporary romances. A lot of them began as self-published books and have been since bought by traditional houses. They're selling extremely well as ebooks at sometimes a lower price point than the traditional $7.99.

From what I've seen, the audience is predominantly women, but that isn't saying that much since about 80% of fiction readers are women. I would speculate that while New Adult books are about and for twentysomethings that similar to YA readership, a lot of the audience is probably people like me, who are no longer in their twenties but enjoy the nostalgia and angst of the time period (though are probably glad to have gotten past the angsty stage in their life).

If we're going to take a page from the expansion of the YA genre several years ago, we'll see that there are a number of genres or subgenres that readers will move between without too much hesitation. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and thriller can all be suited to the character development that we see defining New Adult.

Which of course begs the question of what's already out there in the world of adult fiction that could be be enjoyed by fans of New Adult. A few titles that instantly come to my mind are:

No Peace for the Damned by Megan Powell: urban fantasy with a twenty-two year old descended from
a demon who leaves home for the first time...and then joins a group of humans who are trying to destroy her family.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey: the first novel in a very epic fantasy series that follows a young women who has been raised and trained to be what is essentially a high class prostitute as she gets swept up in politics, treason, and even revolution.

Waking the Witch and Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong: these two titles are part of her Women of the Otherworld series and are narrated by Savannah, a character who first appeared as a child in the series, but is now officially an adult and trying to prove herself and balance her power as a witch.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost: In the first book of the series, Cat is just a young college student who happens to also be hunting vampires and making the world a safe place.

Julianna Baggot's series which begins with Pure is a dystopian published by Grand Central but it has young characters and "crossover appeal."

(Clearly you can see my tastes often run to the paranormal/fantasy spectrum here...)

As New Adult continues to grow, we're hearing more about New Adult novels that are branching out into new genres.

Recently, The Registry by Shannon Stoker was released. It's a dystopian novel with an eighteen year old protagonist. It's being published by William Morrow and being marketed as New Adult.

Promise by Kristie Cook and Descension by BC Burgess are two paranormal New Adult novels that are on my TBR list after seeing them in NA Alley's New Adult crush tournament.

And then there have been deal announcements for established authors who have new books with traditional publishers. 

Andrea Cremer, writing as A.D. Robertson has a new series coming out, starting with Captive. It takes place in the same world as her Nightshade books, but this is an adult novel (with erotic content). The main character is 25 and I've heard it could be described as New Adult.

Sarah J Maas has a new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, which is being marketed as New Adult fantasy: A retelling of ”Beauty and the Beast,” “Tam-Lin,” and ”East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” A Court of Thorns and Roses tells the story of a young woman growing into herself, learning to love, and understanding the true nature of sacrifice.

And just last week, Jaime McGuire's new series, starting with Red Hill, was announced. It's described as a love story set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse.

So what does all of this mean for the future?

Well, to me it means that there's a lot of possibility. I think we could see more new adult in the future--and more new adult spanning into different genres. However, it might be an uphill battle for a debut author writing a new adult fantasy or a new adult thriller or a new adult novel without a romance. At least until we see even more success outside of just contemporary romance.

Of course it just takes one "yes" to get a novel published. And it just takes one success to open more doors within the genre. I'm excited to see this happen.

So for everyone still building their summer reading lists, what are some great new adult novels outside of the contemporary romance genre that I've missed? Or what are some great novels that were published before the rise of New Adult that would fit the genre? I'd love to hear more recommendations!

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spajonas said...

I definitely want to see more New Adult books in genres other than strictly romance. I have a New Adult scifi series publishing in September, and I hope to open the market a bit with it. The books have a romance component, but it's not the focus of the series. There needs to be demand on both sides, though, readers and writers. Writers just need to jump onboard with something worthwhile to read!

Kessie said...

This is encouraging to me. My critique and beta readers all slapped down my NA-aged characters (who were in college) as acting "too immature". I reluctantly rewound them into high school, but the only difference between high school and college is a summer at the beach. As they age up into NA as the series goes on, I hope they can find a home in the genre. It's urban fantasy, with romance as the characters grow up together. :-)

J.M. Bray said...

I think that pigeon-holing New Adult into a single area would be counter productive to what it "should" be all about. To me, the things a person that age faces are perhaps the most important of their lives. Their choices in those years establish, to a great extent, who they will be as an adult.

I look at NA as less a genre, and more of an age category. As such, NA fantasy, NA Horror, Romance, Sci-Fi, Mystery...the sky is the limit...any genre could work well.

With all that said, my book Tearing the Shroud, is a Romantic Fantasy. True, not a full blown Romance novel, but a story with several strong love relationships woven in. ('s happens.) I'm in negotiations with a large (for now unnamable) Romance pub. They want to release it in October.


Stephsco said...

I'm mixed on this. Young Adult isn't a genre, it's an age group, so to have offshoots--YA romance, YA paranormal etc., makes sense because YA isn't enough of a tag to tell you anything other than it's a book written for an audience of a certain age group.

I'm hesitant to accept New Adult fully, although I'm definitely for exploring characters in a college setting, or early adult experiences. I wanted more books like that when I was that age and settled for The Devil Wears Prada and Bridget Jones. But my hesitation comes when I see New Adult sci-fi, because what differentiates this book from the already-existing sci-fi genre? Sci-fi itself is nuanced with characters of many ages. Is it that these books specifically deal with late-stage coming-of-age issues AND set in a sci-fi setting? Is the distinction necessary, or just confusing?

I don't have the answer! I see what is labeled New Adult right now as an extension of contemporary romance. I support it because I like that a different angle of storytelling is giving writers and readers something new. But I admit I've rolled my eyes a tad seeing some self-described works-in-progress online pitched as New Adult Steampunk/Fantasy with Romantic Elements. All of that may be true and encompassed in the story, but the more traditional piece of me thinks PICK ONE!

It will be interesting to see how this conversation progresses in the next year.

Stephsco said...

^ and by Pick One I mean pick a category to call it; by all means, blend genres.

Jenny Kaczorowski said...

The first NA books I read were Elle Beauregard's MYTHOLOGICALS series, which I'd describe as dystopian with paranormal elements. There is certainly romance but the grappling with adulthood issues take center stage. Since reading the first some time ago, every other NA I've read has been contemp. I hope it expands more.

Emma Adams said...

I think NA is definitely branching out, and I hope to see more New Adult speculative fiction in the near future! The first in my New Adult paranormal/urban fantasy series is being published in September by Curiosity Quills Press (one of many small publishers now accepting NA in different genres), and I hope this category will continue to grow! :)

Alexia Chantel said...

An interesting post. I have shelved NA into a purely contemporary category, haven't had the chance to read one yet but the ones I have read reviews of are contemp. You made a good point in listing those examples of pre NA releases, I see how they fit.
And I have been wanting to read No Peace for the Damned!

Lucy V Morgan said...

We'll get a big paranormal NA sooner or later.

If you look at where the NA trend really started, it was in self-published Twilight fanfic with "Bella" and "Edward" aged up to become legal enough for sexier storylines (I'm not a fan of published fanfic, but these roots should be acknowledged). These fanfics were turned contemporary to divorce them from the source material and to feed a desire for contemp fic, but all those bestselling Twifics had a base audience, and they are paranormal fans. This audience was big enough to send plenty of these fics to the bestseller list; they aren't the only audience for NA but the are significant. When a good paranormal NA comes along, marketed in the right fashion, they'll buy it.

Nicole Marie Schreiber said...

What are everyone's thoughts on New Adult historical romance? Like the Heiresses by Allison Rushby and Speak Easy by Melanie Harlow?

sharmin monee said...
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