Is NA a Sexed-up YA?
The New Adult (NA) category hasn’t been around for very long, but since its conceptualization in 2009, the category has seen significant growth. Still, working on a category that’s so new means that writers of NA fiction are also struggling to find their voice and to understand just what it is they are actually creating, especially since there are so many misconceptions about what NA really is.
The genre originated in 2009, when St. Martin’s Press launched a contest for novel submissions appealing to “new adult readers”. This was after studies and surveys uncovered that a startling 55% of readers of books for ages 12-17 were actually above the age of 18, showing that even adults enjoyed reading Young Adult (YA) literature. However, readers above the age of 18 had unique problems to deal with, and these were yet to be incorporated into YA, and recognizing this, the NA category was born.
As we see NA continue to grow, however, we’re also seeing another genre of fiction on the rise: erotica. While in the past, reading erotica may have been regarded as a taboo, these days, people are more open to admitting that they enjoy the genre. Surveys have revealed that 41% of adults now openly admit to reading erotica, and the growing acceptance for the genre has allowed it to remain among the top-selling categories of fiction. Sadly, NA and erotica are often referred to as one and the same, and many say that NA is merely a genre “merging the “young adult” fan base with “erotic fiction” fans.”
Is it true that NA is little more than YA with an erotic twist? The topic is often cause for debate in many circles, and many NA authors have been quick to dismiss the notion. While it is true that New Adult fiction takes romance to the next level, this is all little more than a reflection of what the category is all about. Unlike YA, NA deals with characters who are older – characters just graduating from high school or starting out in college or landing their first jobs, experiencing life’s real problems for the first time. They begin to explore their own sexualities and encounter challenges that characters in YA fiction would never have to go through.
NA is all about navigating the sensitive mindset of one just moving on from their teen years. As Deborah Halverson, author of Writing New Adult Fiction, said in an interview, “Getting into the mindset of the developmental stages of the new adult is important. How old can your protagonist be? How (sexually) graphic can authors be? Do these characters have to leave home? Those things matter. How does the teen fiction book with a main character who lives completely on her own fit in? So what is NA about? It’s about the new adult experience and the new adult perspective.”
NA is not all about sex, and it certainly isn’t a sexed-up YA. Rather, it’s about experiencing a host of new and different challenges that the characters in YA wouldn’t have to deal with. While many of the romances in NA do end up pushing the ballot, it’s a matter of the characters and their perspectives maturing more than anything else.