Siding With the New Adult Book Category

Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Debatable Topics | 6 comments

Who could resist all these yummy New Adult Novels?









First, I don’t think the industry is “desperate” for creating this genre. A desperate publisher would force their writers to change their stories to fit one of the already existing genres/categories (because already existing genres/categories ARE easier to sell). I know this because it’s what agents tried to get me to do with The Forever Girl. “Can you make it MORE adult?” “Can you re-write this as a Young Adult novel?” “This is between Adult and Young Adult. Pick one.”

So is it desperate to care enough about staying true to your story to NOT want to conform? For me, I felt like it would have been more desperate to change my story and characters just so I could fit in a neat little box. Besides, from what I’ve gathered, people DO want to read books like this.

And how, exactly, does this make the BOOK industry desperate?

And what is with attacking readers who like reading this genre? If a reader wants to read about snails on a sandwich, that’s what they want. If we have that, we should let them know. Whether you charge $0.99 for your book or $9.99 for your book, a reader deserves to get what they think they’re paying for. Simple as that.

Now I do understand this one authors argument about shoe-horning genres. That said, I don’t see it being about forcing a book to be New Adult. It’s more about having a way to let the reader know what to expect (in case they may or may not like that). If you don’t fit into YA or squarely into Adult, you now have a way of saying, “Hey, this is what to expect from my book. No, it’s not quite adult, but it’s not appropriate for YAs either.”

(And by “not appropriate” I mean that ONLY in the sense that, in the society I live in, parents can be a little strict about what their kids read. Some don’t want their 13-year-olds reading about foreplay and sex. Whether children/teens should be allowed to decide this for themselves is another issue entirely, and I know a lot of teens who WOULDN’T want to read this stuff, so it’s also our job to let them know that our books do cross the YA threshold, even if they don’t seem “entirely adult” at first.)

What it comes down to isn’t dictating what people read. “Here, you’re a YA, read this YA book.” No. It’s about letting them know WHAT TO EXPECT between the covers so they can decide for themselves and spend their money in a way that will make them happy. If you don’t want to read an adult novel that has a slightly more YA tone, then you don’t want to read New Adult. Wouldn’t you rather know in advance that a book won’t be “adult enough” for your tastes, IF that’s important to you? Or let’s say that you’re looking for a Young Adult novel because you prefer certain things fade to black. How upset would you be if you bought a book tagged as YA that shows foreplay and sex in an adult manner?

It’d be inappropriate and irresponsible for me to label my book as Young Adult. It’d also be inconsiderate to say the first book in my series is entirely adult. And I’m not the only author out there in this boat. Do we conform to the pre-existing genre boxes, or do we make room for ourselves and be fair to our potential readers by letting them know what to expect?

And what about those readers who express this is what they are looking for? Is it so bad to make it easier for a reader to find what they are looking for? Those readers who genre-hop (like myself) aren’t going to be hurt by genres existing. I’ve never met a Young Adult who felt patronized that the Young Adult genre exists just because they want to read Adult. Nope — they know they want to read adult, so they read it, and having the genre distinctions allows them to know which books to buy (adult) and which to avoid (young adult).

And this is where books differ from movies! See, with movies, you need parental permission to see certain movies. Books, well, lets just say as a teen I bought plenty of adult books when my mom wasn’t looking. I never felt patronized that a Young Adult genre existed. For some, it lets them know what to buy. For others, it lets them know what not to buy. It’s not like, “Hey, if you are 16, you must buy YA books.” So why would we act as though a New Adult genre would mean “Hey, you’re 22, you must buy NA books.” ???

I cannot follow the line of reasoning on that one (if one exists beyond trolling!)

I simply see it as this: If you’re looking only for YA books, you know to avoid Adult books. If you are looking only for Adult books, you know to avoid Young Adult books. What’s one more in the mix? If you don’t want a YA style with SOME Adult content, don’t buy. If that’s *exactly what you’re looking for* how much easier will it to be find now, without shuffling through piles of Adult and Young Adult books?

As I see it, I have a few things I hope to accomplish as a writer. I want to respect my readers, I want to give them something they want, and I don’t want to be misleading.

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What about you? Do you read New Adult books? Do you write them? Are you losing sleep because they exist? If you are 18-35, do you feel patronized or like they are being shoved down your throat because they are geared toward your age range? Or should we do away with distinctions all together? Everyone can just dig through a hundred thousand books until they find what they really want? Or, perhaps, since the number of books is growing, do you think more distinctions (and allowing those different genres to be published) makes it easier for readers to find what they are looking and spend more time reading and doing other things and less time browsing for books?

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Rebecca Hamilton is a USA Today bestselling Paranormal Fantasy author. Her bestselling Forever Girl Series is available at online retailers and has been optioned for film with Witten Pictures. The Hungarian edition has been published with IPC books and the German edition has been published with Darkiss, a Harlequin imprint.


  1. I think it’s nice having them around. They’ve always been around, just without so much press. Let’s face it…18-35 year olds do interesting things too. I don’t always want to read an adult book and sometimes YA is TOO childish. So I like the in between.


  2. This is awesome!

  3. I like the idea of a “New Adult” category. When I was in college and just after I graduated, I had a hard time finding books about people in that age group. They were mixed in with books about people in their 40’s and up. Of course, YA hit big when I was in my early 20’s, and now that I’m 30, we have New Adult. Nice timing.

    I’ve heard some complaint that New Adult features teens, but have some explicit scenes. I can understand how that might be problematic for some parents. Especially for parents of 12/13 year olds. Also, I’m not a fan of the “teen porn” label I’ve been seeing. I’m not very familiar with New Adult at this time and only really know what I’ve heard. Which is mostly complaints. But as someone who read adult books as a teen, I’m sure the stuff in New Adult isn’t as explicit.

    But everything new must have the requisite number of people complaining for no reason. I’m excited to see what new books and new authors pop up in this genre.

  4. Actually, I think all these categories are hurting writers because by their very nature they limit the audience you are aiming toward. Use to be a novel was always an ‘adult novel’ and for anyone that wanted to read it. Now, it is like navigating a nielsen ratings field there is the under 18 demo, the 18-35, the above 35 …. nonsense. I can hear Hemingway, Mailer, F. Scott, Salinger and anyone else who wrote a novel that was enjoyed by people in jr. high and middle age alike saying how crazy we must be. I wish the book industry and authors alike would pay as much attention on putting some creativity into their plots as they are on how to label the product.

    • I feel this way (as a reader).

      There are WAY more books today than their used to be. I can afford to be picky. but say I wasn’t picky. Well, I can look through 10 shelves of books that are mixed together OR 10 shelves of books that are further categorized. It’s the same amount of books to look at and the same amount of shelves. However, people like me might not have time to read tons of books and so we ARE pickier. Now we only have to look through 1 shelf of books to find out ideal read.

      In the end, it’s exactly the same for the people who don’t care and 10 times easier for the people who do. Everybody wins :)

  5. I’m 37, and to be honest, I rarely look at the target age when choosing a book to read. If the synopsis appeals to me, I will read it whether it’s middle grade, YA, NA, or adult. I’m just happy to have so many awesome books to choose from, in so many age ranges!

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