In my work as an editor, one question I get asked often is whether the author’s book is young adult (YA) or new adult (NA). I also get asked if NA is even a viable category in publishing.
There’s actually a lot of crossover between these two categories of audience, and NA, though a newer to the publishing scene, is gaining traction.
Let’s get started.
What is Young Adult Fiction?
Young Adult is generally defined as a category for books for readers aged 12 to 18. That’s a huge range, and some people break that down into “lower YA” (12/13-15) and “upper YA” (15-18/19).
These books can fall in any number of genres, including, but not limited to, fantasy, science-fiction, contemporary, dystopian, etc. Everything from the Twilight novels to The Princess Diaries to Six of Crows falls under the YA umbrella.
YA fiction tackles themes like first love, early relationships, self-identity, friendship, mental health, and a general coming-of-age. Characters in these books are usually aged 12-18 and lack life experience at the beginning of the novel, though they gain some perspective as they go.
Think of YA as the late middle school through high school years of life. There are a lot of firsts and a lot of change.
What is New Adult Fiction?
New Adult was born out of YA, an easy naming convention for those books that bridged the gap between Young Adult and Adult. Which, if you think about, makes sense! You don’t suddenly have Big Adult Problems when you hit your 18th birthday. There’s a transitional period, and that’s what NA tackles.
Just like YA, these books fall into a variety of genres. Some popular ones you might’ve seen online are Red, White, & Royal Blue and From Blood and Ash.
NA fiction tackles similar themes to its YA counterpart. First or second love, relationships, and mental health are popular themes, but so are self-empowerment, self-discovery, a fear of failure, and loss of innocence as these characters step into “real” adulthood. Characters in these books are generally aged 18-30, and unlike YA protagonists, these NA ones do have some life experience and perspective at the beginning.
Think of New Adult as the college years & early career period of life.
The Future of New Adult
New Adult is still a fairly new concept in publishing, but it’s gaining traction. Readers *want* it. Just look on Bookstagram and BookTok and you see people actively looking for books that fall into this category!
Of course, I can’t see into the future, and I can’t guarantee that demand means major publishers are willing to take the chance on NA just yet. Some people still insist New Adult is dead or won’t happen, but you never know. Still, some of today’s popular reads are straying into NA territory, and it’s becoming popular among indie authors and readers. If you’re thinking you want to go the indie route, NA may be an option for you.
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