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The Rise of New Adult Literature

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press coined the phrase “New Adult” in a call for submissions that they described as “great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience” according to Wayback Machine. Since then, as noted by Good Reads, the New Adult genre of literature has exploded in popularity, encompassing smash hits like Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy and Jennifer L. Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series. The books are intended to “bridge the gap” between Young Adult books (which typically feature characters in their teenage years) and Adult books (which typically feature characters in their late 20s and up).

The Current discusses how New Adult is often colloquially referred to as “Young Adult with sex.” While the descriptor is similar to Young Adult in that these novels encompass multiple genres, New Adult has come to be synonymous with smutty romance novels according to Book Riot. This is likely because E. L. James’s 2011 Fifty Shades of Grey romance series was the first major New Adult novel, forever associating the category with the romance genre. Additionally, Book Riot discusses how New Adult has also fostered significant controversy and backlash since its introduction in 2009, with many librarians and critics deeming it an unnecessary categorization and “marketing ploy.” But New Adult encompasses many of the most recent smash hits that can’t be categorized as anything else. Many recent hit novels such as Rebecca Yarros’s ongoing Fourth Wing series and Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue can’t truly be classified as either Young Adult or Adult. Both stories feature characters in their 20s exploring their adult lives and sexualities, which may not be relatable to teenage audiences. Young Adult novels, targeted towards readers ages 12-18, also don’t feature on-page sex scenes (similar to how PG-13 movies can’t show sex onscreen), which means that novels that do have to be classified as something else. The New Adult category is a solution to all of these issues.

While still a relatively niche genre, New Adult novels have exploded in popularity in recent years and the genre doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Readers can expect to see novels labeled “NA” for years to come.

By Clary Taylor, News Editor

Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC


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