A few months ago I was searching the internet for book suggestions. I found one eventually and scrolled down for more information. The category was listed as New Adult. I typically consider myself on the up and up as far as what’s happening with new books. However, I had no idea what this was.
After some more hours online, I cracked the code. Here are a few things that can help you tell if a book is under the new adult grouping:
The protagonist is a “new adult.”
These books generally feature people who are older than the characters of young adult books (ex: In The Hunger Games trilogy Katniss is sixteen years old). They are also younger than full-fledged adults (ex: people who pay bills and stuff like in James Patterson novels). Protagonists of new adult books are usually between eighteen and early twenties age wise.
The story is about a quarter life crisis or something along those lines.
Thematically, new adult books deal with things that people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five might deal with. For example, this means books with more sexual content would fall under this category. Note, this does not mean it’s graphic. It’s just part of the story line, whereas books more towards the young adult side of the spectrum would not discuss it in the same manner. New adult really just means it’s dealing with the transition of growing up. This can include, but is not limited to, stories about sexuality, identity, starting college or a new job, etc.
It is a relatively new book.
This label has only officially been around for a few years. Obviously this doesn’t mean that there are no other books about young twenty-somethings figuring out life. There are others, but ones with this official title are newer.
It is possibly controversial.
The New Adult category gets quite a bit of complaint that the books that belong to it are overly sexual. Critics argue the themes are often too mature. This argument wrongly generalizes that all New Adult books have a sexual component somewhere in the pages. Are there a lot of books under the broad grouping that deal with relationships and messy things? Yes, that is a fact. But to say they are all sexual erases the diversity that is also present. New Adult encompasses multiple genres. You can have a New Adult mystery book or a new adult zombie apocalypse book. The possibilities are endless.
Recently, Lauren Sarner wrote in The Huffington Post article, “The Problem with New Adult Books,” that New Adult books are essentially insulting. This is the other grievance people pick at; they think the label is trying too hard to be a bridge between Young Adult and Adult.
Books like Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess, are a lot of fun for people who read things like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, at a younger age. It’s about a group of girls in their twenties trying to figure out the “adult” world. What’s wrong with having a label that signals books are going to be about your age group? I don’t see any problem with it. New Adult does not signal what the book will be about. Labeling is simply a helpful guide. It’s helpful in the same way that high school cliques are. You can be in more than one, but when you find one you like, the label helps you find other people (or in our case, books) that you might like.
It also helps when you go in a book store and you want a recommendation. The store worker can ask, “Well what kind of books do you like?” Then, you can be super book savvy and tell them you like new adult romance books. It’s almost magic.
You could be thinking, is this really an official thing? Will the title prevail for hundreds of years? The short answer is, I don’t know. Amazon and Goodreads though have new adult as an option under their categories, so it is recognized widely as a category now.
Why is this really cool and important? It’s important because it’s nice to be represented. There is now a name for books that mirror the issues of the people who are still trying to figure out the whole being a grown-up thing and I think that’s pretty great.