Diverse Genres in New Adult Literature | Discussion

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There has been recent discussions from authors and bloggers about Young Adult novels unrealistically lacking explicit sexual scenes between characters. It’s no surprise that real life teens know and may even be partaking in those acts, so why isn’t it being shown in the literature centered around young adults? On the other hand, there are “YA” novels showing very explicit sex scenes in their novels (which I don’t have a problem with because I’m eighteen, and I’ve read far more explicit books). But most of those novels, that have explicit sex scenes, are being categorized in the wrong way.

For example, the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas has very steamy scenes that makes readers fan themselves. Now, I don’t mind Sarah J. Maas including these scenes because I personally think it ties the story together and makes the characters have deeper connections. But what bothers me about this “YA” novel is that it isn’t being marketed as the right age range for her characters. The A Court of Thorns and Roses series has characters ranging from 18 to their early twenties, and I don’t know about you, but that seems like a book that belongs in the New Adult category, not YA.

“New Adult fiction bridges the gap between Young Adult and Adult genres. It typically features protagonists between the ages of 18 and 30.” (Goodreads)

With all the explicit scenes in that series, I wouldn’t want it to be falsely called a YA novel when in reality it has some adult themes that I wouldn’t want a young reader (a 13 year old) to read, thinking it was simply a fantasy novel when it is much more. Young Adult novels follow 13-18 year old characters, so categorizing A Court of Thorns and Roses, and other “YA” novels following older characters, in that same section, is false. This book deals with much mature topics that belong in the New Adult category rather than YA. (Here’s an article explaining the differences between YA and NA, if you are still a bit muddled).

While I do want Young Adult novels to talk about sex more in a way that isn’t seen as taboo, some books that are considered Young Adult are being categorized incorrectly. Some of these stories contain very mature topics that some young readers might not want to read about at the age their in. We have to keep in mind that very young readers pick up YA novels because it follows characters their age, and, by incorrectly categorizing novels that follow 18-30 year old characters dealing with different issues in their lives, it can be graphic to younger readers.

So why are some Young Adult novels, that clearly follow older characters, still being called YA? Why aren’t they simply being called New Adult novels in order to add a silent warning that what the story contains may be too mature for the younger spectrum of YA readers? And, most importantly, why is majority of the New Adult books only centered around romance? 

Well, I believe that New Adult has gotten this rep over the time it’s been introduced. People seem to think that it’s an age range for twenty something year old women who only want to read about a college romance which. is. so. false. Take a look at the New Adult category on Goodreads. Majority of the novels in the New Adult age bracket are stories mainly focused on romance. I was discussing this fact with my best friend and she said it was wrong for people to assume that New Adult novels are marketed only for women and that those books are only about romance. Twenty somethings don’t only want to read about people their age falling desperately in love. They want Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Historical Fiction, etc. novels following 18-30 year olds. They want to relate to characters going through the same stage of life as them in different settings and circumstances.  

New Adult is an age range for literature that just recently became recognized, but I wish it would be taken more seriously. When people hear New Adult, they instantly assume it’s a steamy romance novel. I want the New Adult age category to have different genres like YA novels do, instead of it mainly being romance driven. I want to read a story about people trapped in space and they are twenty three years old. I want to read a story about a twenty five year old person living during the 1920’s in New York City. I want to read about the zombie apocalypse happening when a person is away at college. I want people to take the New Adult category more seriously and have more genres under its umbrella like adult fiction and Young Adult novels do. 

There are many YA novels that show explicit scenes and follow more mature characters who belong in the New Adult category. But because people don’t credit New Adult as much as YA, people are afraid to label their fantasy novel as New Adult and instead call it Young Adult. I feel like the publishing industry should look at New Adult stories in a new light and categorize the older characters in YA novels as New Adult. We should have more diverse genres in the New Adult category because twenty something year olds don’t want to just read about college romances, they want diversely written stories following all different adventures. 

Please let me know your thoughts on this discussion because I’d love to hear your opinions. 

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10 thoughts on “Diverse Genres in New Adult Literature | Discussion

  1. Thanks for posting this! I was always pretty confused about the distinction between YA and NA, and I guess that’s why–because publishers aren’t marketing them how you would expect. Also, I do support having more diverse books in the NA category. I don’t JUST like to read YA, but I usually end up reading only that because there’s so many sub genres that I’m into, but if NA is mainly romance (which is a category I’m not too fond of) I would be interested. Anyway, great post!

  2. I get what you’re saying with this post, but I honestly think the issues you’re addressing stem from the category being so new. Libraries didn’t have Young Adult sections thirty years ago, but now look where the category is. I say just give it time and it will happen on its own.

    • I hope so, but it just gets me sad that it’s lacking so much diversity right now. I just want the publishing industry to take it more seriously. I also don’t want people to be wary of writing a NA story that isn’t centerer around romance, because I’d totally read the hell out of that story.

  3. Interesting post! You hit on a lot of difference issues here. One librarian I was talking to recently mentioned that “YA” is becoming more fluid (she works at a middle school), so some middle schoolers are ready for YA and some are still reading middle grade. However, I think people are so familiar with the term “YA” that it becomes a marketable point when selling a book, as opposed to New Adult which isn’t quite in the mainstream’s lexicon.

    I also wish that more YA books would be more comfortable with talking about sex. The YA books I’ve read where sex occurs…have no discussion of consent, or pleasure for the girl or woman involved. I know those kinds of books are out there…but I just haven’t seen them. I once read an article (that I can’t find now!) that’s thesis was that YA books don’t have girls enjoying sex because adults are afraid of adolescent (female) sexuality. I think this is true–and prominently shows when fathers, instead of talking to their daughters about sex, “spoof their sexy selfies.” It shows a culture that is afraid of sex.

    Anyways, I definitely feel the frustration of not finding non-mushy New Adult books. I’m a 22 year old female, and I don’t particularly like YA books, but at the same time, I think college and entering the adult world is SUCH an interesting, nuanced, complicated time in my life, and I’d love literature that reflected that. The best example I can think of is Giant Days–a Disney Hyperion comic that follows 3 girls entering college/trying new things/discovering their sexuality. But even that has romance! Oh well.

    • I agree absolutely with everything you said! YA novels don’t touch much on sexuality and when they do they never seem to focus on the female pleasure aspect of it which is somehow seen as taboo. People need to stop making the pleasure of a woman seem risque because hello! females have sex too.

  4. Beautifully written and I could not agree more! I’m worried that the more popular New Adult novels get it will only be recognised for Romance, there is so much more potential. We just need some brave author to go out there and do it!

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