by Leah Raeder
New Adult Contemporary
I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.
But I couldn’t run far enough.
I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.
I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The law says one thing; my heart says screw the law. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.
In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.
And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.
What is New Adult all about?
by Leah Raeder
New Adult is a brand spanking new genre, so the definition is still a bit up in the air, but I think NA Alley nails it:
Protagonists generally fall between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, though exceptions may apply. NA characters are often portrayed experiencing: college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc.
Other terms for NA include: Upper YA, Crossover Fiction, and Mature YA.
NA combines the rawness, intensity, and first-time experiences of YA with the grit, independence, and real-world experiences of adult fiction.
“It’s just YA with sex.”
This is a common criticism of NA: that it’s just sexed-up YA. And the reason this stings is because there is some truth to it. Yes, NA as a whole has a ton of sex in it. But that’s because people ages 18-26 have a ton of sex. You’re out on your own for the first time, without your parents’ rules hanging over your head. You’re allowed to experiment and make your own choices. It’s all about trial and error, breaking free from your family’s expectations and finding out who you are on your own terms. And that typically includes—you guessed it—having sex.
When people say NA is “just YA with sex,” I think what they really mean is that it contains high school-ish drama, only with more sex. And that’s a fair criticism, too. Yes, NA is typically full of drama. So is real life. A first serious relationship, before you know what your needs and expectations are, is going to be messy and full of drama. You’re trying to figure out who you are at the same time as you’re learning what you want in a partner. That means lots of trial and error, fights, and flung dishes.
Growth is painful, and NA is about people who are still growing—in an emotional, rather than physical way.
“There’s already adult fiction. Why do we need NA?”
There were plenty of books about college-aged people before anyone came up with the New Adult tag. Why do we need it?
Because adult fiction is huge. It encompasses people in their teens, 30s, 50s, 70s, and beyond. The life experiences for each of these age groups are completely different. College is a little world unto itself, like high school, and that world is vastly different from that of a 30-year-old married person with a career, or a 50-year-old whose kids are leaving home for the first time.
New Adult isn’t about narrowing and limiting fiction to certain life experiences, though. In fact, it’s the opposite: NA gravitates toward controversy, bad decisions, messed-up people, and dysfunctional relationships. You can talk about these things with more grit and rawness than you could get away with in YA. NA is sort of a free-for-all right now, where some seriously dark and disturbed shit is dragged kicking and screaming into the light. And this has a lot to do with the self-publishing boom that’s been the driving force behind NA.
My novel Unteachable wouldn’t exist without the NA genre. It’s way too controversial and graphic for YA, but it’s also too focused on young adult issues and themes to really fit in with contemporary adult fiction. NA is the perfect—and only—category for it.
We need the New Adult tag to legitimize fiction that talks about the spaces in between adolescence and adulthood. Those often dark, gritty nooks and crannies that have been overlooked by traditional publishing. NA shines a bright, bold light into this space and says, “I dare you to look.”
And readers are doing just that. In droves.
About the Author
Writes pretentiously lyrical YA and adult fiction of various genres. Loves zombies, velociraptors, and other world-ending things. Copies her bio from Twitter because she’s lazy.
You could win a copy of the book or an Amazon GC.