Young Adult vs New Adult -And the genre marketing scheme
I, like most of you, probably asked the same question just now: "I know what Young Adult
is. But what on earth is New Adult?"
In doing my research, I'll give you my short answer: "New Adult" is nothing more than a publishing and marketing scam.
In a nut shell, the industry decided they needed a category to be the stepping stone between the Young Adult and Adult genre.
Now, I will be fully up front right here with you dear reader before going forward: If you read my "Why I hate the 'how do I write a male/female character' question" blog, you'll know that one of my major writing pet peeves is putting your creativity into a box.
And genre age categories are the biggest boxes out there for the publishing world. So it boggles my mind that we're creating more of these boxes to limit our scope for the sake of a "safe space" for "the children."
So, before I go down other rabbit holes on this topic, let's compare and contrast below what the industry says the differences between Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) are:
Now, if you're looking at this break down, some red flags should instantly pop up for you.
First is the age range.
If your main character is 18 years old, does that automatically make your novel YA and NA? It's very ambiguous. Also, what if your main character is, lets say 22, but functions mentally as a 15 year old — or vice versa. How then do you determine if your book is YA or NA?
Okay, so no clear answers there. So let's look further down on the list.
Personally, this category makes no sense to me. It's a writing standard that all novels should be fast paced with periodic lulls for character development. What is one of the first rules hammered into any new writers head: keep the action/danger on the page! It's a writing tool that encompasses all books and something we shouldn't use to pigeon hole a book into one category.
I'm sorry, but I'm tossing this one out the door right off the bat.
Next: A strong voice that fits the age range.
Okay, this one has some merit. You want a fourteen year old to talk like a fourteen year old. You want a character in their early twenties to talk like they are in their early twenties.
However, this also hits the same issue as our Fast Paced category. A strong character voice is a foundational writing principle for all novels across all age genres. Making your character talk and act their age is a very flimsy argument for the YA or NA genre classification and takes you right back to the age range issue.
So what are the last two items both YA and NA contain: swearing and sex.
These two topics fall into both genres with a heavy "yeah, but. . ." added at the end.
YA novels do contain swearing, but it's kind of like the rules for a PG-13 movie: it can't be too often or too over the top. (For example: you can only say the F-word once, or else you're automatically a rated R movie.) New Adult seems to lack that rule and allow more.
Okay, so what about sex?
Yes, a YA novel can have a sex scene. Sex in your book doesn't automatically make it adult or romance.
That being said, I fully understand that the NA genre would allow more written details about what happens between two consenting adult bodies in a bed together. YA, while still having the scene on the page, might gloss over those physical details and focus solely on the emotions of characters at that moment with very little physical description.
Does that make the seminaries between YA and NA as murky as a Louisiana swamp to you too? Yeah, me too.
Now let's look at what the industry says are the differences between YA and NA:
In YA it states said that the main character(s) are still dependents reliant on their parents, probably in high school or middle school, and that they are focused only on the present.
In the NA category the main character(s) are independent, possibly having just moved away to college or gotten their first apartment, and that they are more focused on their futures.
I don't have any qualms about these two differences themselves. But I do ask one question of you dear reader: Look back at all of these topics and ask yourself, "Okay, but what is the difference between New Adult and Adult?"
The answer: NOTHING.
New Adult IS Adult!
They are the exact same thing!
The industry tries to explain away this discrepancy with a very weak argument stating that New Adult is for characters who are new to being put in adult circumstances. I vehemently disagree with this as all novels place characters, regardless of age, in circumstances they have never had to handle before in an adult manner. Thus you're characters are dynamic, growing and maturing with their decisions and obstacles and becoming relatable to your reader.
In my opinion, the publishing industry is trying to shoehorn in a new and completely unneeded category.
Let's go back to our movie rating system analogy. Basically, what the publishing industry is trying to do is put a new rating between PG-13 and R.
As far as I can tell, they are trying to make a new "safe space." It's akin to saying, "Yeah, this is adult material, but it's not too adult yet." So basically they are trying to insinuate that Young Adult is New Adult "lite."
Did you just roll your eyes at that sentence like I did? Good, we're on the same page.
Okay, but why are they doing this? What is the point?
What is the point of any business? To make money of course.
Thankfully, if you asked yourself "What on earth is New Adult" before reading on, it means the world is seeing NA for the illogical scam that it is.
Don't get me wrong, NA still out there. Yet in recent years it seems to have faded out, becoming a subgenre of the romance literature. Oddly though, it only seems to have taken root in the digital only market of that genre.
I hope it stays there.
Why I Hate the "How Do I Write a Male/Female Character" Question