The Line in the Sand: Y.A. and N.A.

I’ve been reading Young Adult (YA) novels for quite a few years now, and for the most part, it’s always been easy to determine where teen books end and adult books start. Times have changed though, and now we’ve entered into the beginning of an era of a new book category: New Adult (NA).

New Adult novels have come into their own very recently – I’d say within the past few years. As of right now, NA books consist of characters that aren’t quite teenagers anymore, but aren’t really considered full-fledged adults yet either. If I had to take a guess at the age range of the protagonists in these novels, it would be 18-24.

In this grouping, writers have a whole new set of issues and problems for their main characters to work through. Going off to college/university, moving out, having a serious and committed relationship – these are just a few of the important topics which can be touched on in a NA novel. There’s a similar presence of a “coming of age” story found in the YA genre, but in NA the choices seem to have a greater impact on the long-term future of the characters. Where YA focuses on learning who the characters are as people, NA features characters determining what it means to really be an adult.

New Adult novels have less constraints on the so-called “rules” YA authors face when trying to get published. Some people like to argue that NA novels allow for more intimate scenes to be published in them – which is true – but I don’t believe this is a requirement of this genre. Instead, I like to think that the NA genre has an added benefit by having the choice for these more graphic scenes. Technically YA novels can get published with sex scenes in them – I’ve read books that have it, it’s just not as common and definitely more toned down. The whole “fade to black” tactic is commonly found in YA whereas NA has the freedom to describe the emotions the characters are feeling in the moment.

So, why am I writing about this particular topic, you ask? Well I’m currently facing a dilemma of listing my first-draft completed trilogy as a YA novel or NA novel. Technically my main character is a young adult: she’s seventeen at the beginning of the first book and it focuses on her journey through her last year of high school, but by the time the final book comes around, she’s now nineteen and part way through university. On top of this, my trilogy deals with some loaded issues (rape and abuse) that can sometimes be considered too heavy for the YA genre. In many ways, my main characters are a hybrid between these two genres: new adults living in young adult bodies. They deal with some of the problems people five or six years older than them would normally handle, yet at the same time have the petty issues involving high school to handle as well.

When it comes right down to it, I know I’m going to have to make the tough decision and determine once and for all which genre my trilogy stands in, but for now, I guess it will just remain up in the air, floating somewhere in between two extremely good options.

Until next time.


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