Why New Adult Novels Are Not Satisfying Me

Category: , Written by Christina Reads YA / 9:00 AM
Dear readers/publishing industry/etc.,

Did you initially rejoice when the trend for New Adult novels started?
Do you ever feel dissatisfied with NA novels--at least how they're headed now?

Welcome! To start off this post, let me quote from a review request I received recently about a NA novel:
"Readers everywhere are falling in love with new adult novels.  Nostalgic for some and aspirational for others, these books address the tumultuous move from the teen years to adulthood.  Filled with real-life problems, difficult decisions, and the challenges of adult romantic relationships, these novels sweep readers on the fast-paced emotional journey into adulthood."
This blurb about NA novels also seems to emphasize its focus on romance. Yeah, there are some real-life problems and difficult decisions, but I have read some pretty popular NA novels and did a quick browse through Goodreads for novels shelved as NA... and those covers and summaries really seem to emphasize the romance plot lines and sex. Even within these romance plot lines, I don't feel like I've seen a whole lot of diversity.

I want more. I don't want NA only focused on relationships. My life as a twenty-one-year-old college student is not focused on relationships. It wasn't when I first started college and it certainly isn't now either. And I don't think I'm only one who is like that--there is so, so much going on in college and there is so much potential for other things to be examined. So it seems to me like the setting is not being explored as much as it could and should be.

That's my two cents. What do you think? I'm also not a huge fan of the category name, New Adult.
Thanks for sharing!

48 comments:

  1. I agree insofar that NA at the moment, and especially the whole discourse around/promotion of it focuses too much on the sex/relationship aspect. Some of the novels I've read that were set in college barely focused on that at all (for instance Beautiful Disaster, but that was by far not my only problem with it). Also, most people seem to think that all NA is contemporary books, but there are also paranormal, fantasy, or dystopian or whatever novels! It's more an age category than a genre.
    Like you, romance isn't a big part of my life at this point. I'd frankly not have time for it between studying and work, and I have bigger questions nagging at my mind, like what I'm going to do after graduation and what I actually want in life. Some NA books do address these topics but more often that plotline is overtaken by the romance... and the love interests all sound fairly similar.

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  2. I haven't read any New Adult books, but from everything I've seen and heard, I feel like it's just an excuse to have YA-like books, but with more sex in them. I'm sure that doesn't apply to all NA books and I know it's a generalization, but this genre just really isn't grabbing me. I fall into the "new adult" age range, but I'm more than happy to just read a mix of YA and adult books and call it a day!

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  3. I enjoy the NA genre, but I see what you mean. There is a reoccurring theme with relationships in almost every NA book I've read. There def needs to be more variety, even though I like that little bit of romance.

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  4. Currently NA is a genre, even though the name implies an age classification, like Young Adult or Adult. It's not. It's a subsection of romance novels, which doesn't even make sense, since there are plenty of traditional romance novels with heroines in that age range that don't feel it necessary to call themselves New Adult. Until it diversifies and adds in other genres, it's going to be nothing but a joke, and continue to be seen as marketing sexy books to a young audience.

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  5. I haven't read a NA book so far and I'm planning to stay away from it too. I'm very happy with my YA books, despite the fact that I'm a few years older than the MC's. It's all about sex and unhealthy relationships (from what I have seen so far) and I don't like that at all. I don't mind some sex scenes in a book if they serve a purpose, but random scenes are not what I'm looking for. I do like to read some Adult books now and then, but those are thrillers or fantasy.

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  6. I still don't know how I feel about NA books. I want them to bring something new to the table and not just be an excuse to write about sex in a vaguely YA book, but I also feel that I haven't read enough of them to say for certain that I don't like them.

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  7. I agree that a lot of them are based on relationships. But I think that's only because it's trending. I'm sure it will soon start branching off into other sub genres like YA did.

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  8. A lot of people consider children's literature a genre too, though, so I think the genre vs. age category debate is mirrored and not as important or definitive. Certainly I don't think that NA has to be a "subsection of romance novels," though that's what its focus currently seems to be.


    I don't know if people think of it as a joke now, but I have definitely seen it marketed as "50 Shades of Grey" meets YA. I think that was from ABC news...

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  9. I think the problem is that the NA paranormal/fantasy/dystopian/etc. novels which you might be thinking of are not as marketed/promoted, so it looks more like a genre than an age category. I do think that the romance plot line tends to swallow the other questions, which, frankly, to me are much more interesting.

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  10. I wonder if it's the promotion of the genre that is primarily affecting our perception of it and whether we're grabbed by it. And yes, I am certainly happy reading a mix of YA and adult books as well :)

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  11. I definitely am a romance junkie, so books without romance tend to leave me somewhat unfulfilled. I would like to see more variety, though, re: romance in NA and YA as well :)

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  12. Hmmm, it's just that I've heard about NA for the past two years though, and I haven't seen a huge change in sub genre focus. But I will hope :)

    [although, it's not necessarily the romance sub genre I take issue with; it's the fact that the romance seems to drown out other possibilities]

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  13. True. I certainly do not think I've read enough to make a HUGE generalization about them. I felt so hesitant writing this post for that very reason.

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  14. You think that most of the sex scenes are random? I don't know if I agree / have read enough NA to be able to agree/disagree. I definitely do think, though, having the right balance of sex scenes is crucial to keeping the romance plot from swallowing other subplots.

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  15. Yes, I have the feeling that picking up a NA means that you are in for a lot of sex scenes. And I don't think that they are always necessarily. I can be completely wrong about that, but that is my conclusion after reading several reviews. And look at the all the covers, they are screaming one thing in my eyes :p

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  16. I have not read all that much NA, but the ones I've read so far do seem to follow a formula. Author Julie Cross actually wrote a post where she dissected the exact recipe:

    NA Formula



    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

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  17. I have only read a single NA title to date, and have actually enjoyed it a lot. I agree, though, too much romance. That's the whole reason I am not that eager that jump into more of them. I have a pretty low romance tolerance. Hell, if I could get less romance in my YA novels, I'd be a happy girl. I get that people fall in love all the time, but I am not those people, and I want to read about other stuff as well.


    I am hoping that it's just a time thing, if we give NA a chance, it will mature into something a whole lot more diverse.

    ~ Lindie

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  18. Oh, those covers for sure are promoting one aspect of the content. :) lol, maybe they aren't always necessary. I honestly haven't even read a lot of reviews of NA books, because I've just been feeling pretty "meh" in general to the trend.

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  19. That was a really interesting post. I like what she said about society needing a wild outburst and thus potentially identifying with the MC. I hadn't thought of that, though some of the trends like the innocent girl and bad, hot boy are why I wrote that it's not terribly diverse within the romance as I've seen so far.


    AND YAY, so eager to delve into your email about S&S~! :)

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  20. Me too - I would really like for it to become something else. I don't have a low romance tolerance so much as a low tolerance for the way it's sometimes portrayed. Not necessarily them falling in love but them being OMGSOULMATEZ4EVA. That just pushes the line for me. And that tends to swallow the other stuff in the story.

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  21. Who thinks children's literature is a genre? They are silly.


    Oh, I think it's a joke, but it's laughing all the way to the bank.

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  22. Oh no!! I mean, I don't necessarily agree with them on ChL being a genre, but I think the essays from these scholars are fantastic. Certainly thought provoking, if nothing else. If you're interested... Perry Nodelman. His "definition" of ChL is so long, but I also don't think I've read anything quite like it.

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  23. I completely agree with this post and it saddens me. Three years ago BEFORE NA became popular...I YEARNED for a book that touched on the subjects that I was going go through: struggling through college working full time/deciding on my future/figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be/getting a "real" job out of college. Sure..they aren't topics that are tremendously exciting but they were REAL issues and I could have died for books that spoke to me through the use of characters, plot and theme. So I wrote the book I wanted to read and I wish more NA authors would branch out of the romance arena and focus on some of these others issues. I'd love to see some paranormal/dystopian NA books that touch on these issues and themes in a different way too. I also hate the term New Adult. I love the genre/category/whatever you want to call it...i just want a different name for it!

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  24. I have just heard about New Adult this year, I haven't read any yet, so I can't really form an opinion. I actually hear a lot of bad things about them on other blogs; people call them pointless and they say they should just be called adult. Any good recommendations of New adult books?

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  25. I haven't read much, but what I've seen has been, like you mentioned, largely romance-focused. I don't mind a good story focused on relationships (ala John Green with The Fault in Our Stars or Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries). But why did I pick those examples? They also focus on life. Growing up. Problems other than that cute boy or girl. Living in a broader context than neat-new-mysterious-hot-person shows up. I think if NA wants to survive, it needs to broaden. I don't read straight romance much, so I think that's what made me wary of it.



    CJ
    Sarcasm&Lemons

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  26. Giselle of Xpresso Reads just posted a list of her most anticipated NA books here, if you're interested: http://www.xpressoreads.com/2013/03/book-girls-dont-cry-they-read-new-adult.html. Jessirae of http://www.jessiraelloyd.blogspot.com/ also reviews a lot of NA books.

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  27. I think they're tremendously exciting :P. Real issues are always at the core of what I'd consider a good book. I would love to see some NA books outside of the contemp. romance field as well :)

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  28. Mmm, I don't know if the NA books wouldn't focus on problems other than cute boy/girl. I would like to see NA broaden, though, and really use the college setting for other things than providing a context for the romantic interests to meet without a parental audience.

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  29. Crickey, stop the soulmating already! Another thing that makes me gag is when the entire reason the characters are together is because the guy is hot and the girl is unlike anyone he has ever met. Is she really? Because I swear I met her in the last 3 books I read as well. How is this a good foundation for a relationship? All this "I spoke to you once, so I will love your forever, hey is that a heavenly chorus playing?" stuff makes me want to weep.

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  30. I've noticed that a lot of NA (at least the books being picked up by publishers) tends to be romance-centric at the moment, although there are several new NA books that are in other genres such as fantasy and paranormal romance. My new urban fantasy/supernatural series is set at a university and could be classified as 'new adult', and it'd be great to see more of this type of book getting recognition. New adult isn't just "sexed-up YA" as some people seem to think!

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  31. Well, I haven't read any NA books before. However, by what you have mentioned, it would be kind of boring if everything is concentrated on problems faced in the relationship when growing up. I would love to read challenges that people faced during their college life during adulthood? Is there NA books you have read in the past which is more to your liking? :)

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  32. True. I don't think that's isolated to NA or YA though.
    The "unlike anyone he has ever met" - I have a very hard believing in that in whatever book uses that. Usually that means telling me she's different and not showing me.

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  33. Oh, no, please don't judge me to be any sort of expert or source of knowledge on New Adult. And previously I had not read many NA books; Gayle Forman's Just One Day could be considered NA, though, and it's beautiful.

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  34. Are there?? Someone did ask me, though, what makes an NA fantasy/paranormal/etc. book NA instead of Adult. Is it then just the age and/or potential college setting? Because right now, NA is more of a genre of contemp. romance, so it is still unified in that way, but expanding to other genres might be tricky...

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  35. I think YA kind of absorbs what they term as NA in a lot of ways and Adult in others and from the titles and covers I've seen it seems like it is their genre for including sex and such that they don't include as much of in YA (one of the reasons I read YA). I can get that stuff in the adult section, so I'm confused why they created this genre. I guess I would be more tempted to really give it a go if I could do it without getting a lot of language and sex since I like my books without that stuff (probably not the norm) or at least not the focal point, I always want the main focus to be good characters, plots, and writing. I do read romance quite a bit, but even in those that I love the focus is about more than just the romance and my favorites don't even have sex in them. :)

    I have tried a few and I didn't see what really made it NA versus just an Adult novel. The focal point ended up just being sex too. I think they could produce some great books for that genre, but I will probably hold off on reading them until I see positive reviews or recommendations. Do you have any that you read that you would recommend?

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

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  36. Hmm, I wouldn't make judgments on whether your preferences are the norm :P. I actually am also like that too. I love the romantic tension, but I'm not a huge fan of all the descriptions about what actually happens. And the more I talk about NA, the more confused I get about why it exists vs. Adult... Hmm, I don't personally have any that I have LOVE LOVE LOVED, but Giselle of Xpresso Reads just posted a list of her most anticipated NA books here, if you're interested: http://www.xpressoreads.com/2013/03/book-girls-dont-cry-they-read-new-adult.html... Jessirae of http://www.jessiraelloyd.blogspot.com/ also reviews a lot of NA books.

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  37. Nono, don't misunderstand. :). I never judged you as any sort of expert. Thanks for the suggestion though. :)

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  38. I graduated college two years ago, so I'm not so far removed from my college days. While I was involved with romantic relationships during my college days, my world was hardly ruled by them. Relationships with friends was so much more important. Or figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Do people really expect 18-21 year olds to know enough about themselves to make such major decisions? Oh! Skipping biology class and heading to a small on-campus cafe to eat soft pretzels and cheese with a bud was so much more important than romance. On the flip side, cramming for said bio exam because I skipped so many classes was also more important.

    I've not delved in to NA because I'm really not interested in reading romance novels about people my age!

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  39. I agree! I've read I think only one NA book so far and I did enjoy it. BUT. I'm confused. See, here's the thing. I understand the need to separate children's books from YA from Adults. Age specific. I really get it. But why create a "new" genre that overlaps with adult books?

    I made the mistake of reading an article on NA books on wikipedia where the person who wrote it says that NA is basically for people between 20 and 30 years of age. Seems a little weird to keep calling me "new adult" at 29, when at least 1 in 10 people that age have kids of their own. Just sayin'.

    And another thing. Saying college is all about sex, parties and relationships is slightly annoying. I'm still there (*sobbing*) and I have no freakin' idea how others manage to do multiple things at once. I know that after a day of classes, work, projects and studying, I have no energy to go party. Really, I don't. Maybe I need more coffee?

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  40. "Relationships with friends was so much more important. Or figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Do people really expect 18-21 year olds to know enough about themselves to make such major decisions? Oh! Skipping biology class and heading to a small on-campus cafe to eat soft pretzels and cheese with a bud was so much more important than romance."

    I do think NA has a bit of the last part, but it does seem to me to be more focused on the relationship aspect and how that is helping the characters resolve their past. It seems much less focused on the future.

    I believe I saw a distinction somewhere between YA and NA in that YA was more focused on who you want to be while NA was focused on where you fit into the world. I'm not sure I've read any, in my opinion, that have dealt with the latter.

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  41. "Seems a little weird to keep calling me "new adult" at 29, when at least 1 in 10 people that age have kids of their own. Just sayin'."

    True.

    "Saying college is all about sex, parties and relationships is slightly annoying. I'm still there (*sobbing*) and I have no freakin' idea how others manage to do multiple things at once. "

    The saying goes... choose between sleep, a social life, and grades. I've vacillated between the three all throughout college. I'm a senior, and I'm not sure I've even found one "right" method to handle any of it... coffee does help though ;).

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  42. I've never read a book labelled New Adult though I have read books featuring 20 something year old characters. The Piper's Son is seen as young adult though the characters are in their 20's whereas The Art of Fielding falls into adult fiction with the main character being around 23. I adore both books and I wish some books in NA were a bit more like them. That struggle with who you are, the fear of being unsure, waking up on mornings wondering where the hell your life is going while dealing with overwhelming school work. I feel like NA portrays romance as the most important aspect of a person's life which is completely unrealistic. To be honest I feel a bit isolated when I read books that lay so much importance on love and relationships. I love reading romance but I'd like to see some diversity in the genre, maybe then it would appeal to me more.

    I think it would have been fine for books with 20-something year old characters to fall into the adult genre. I'm saying this in total ignorance but I guess the NA genre is a marketing scheme. I know a lot of people who love YA but won't read adult fiction and the sale of adult fic has been down. Anyhow I just hope there are books in the category that focuses more on college life and real issues.
    Isa @ Chasing Quills

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  43. I think some of your same arguments could be said about YA. I think that the unhappiness with YA is why NA was able to emerge. But you're right - the industry needs to be careful that they don't do to NA what they did/do to YA, which is make it a stereotype .

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  44. " I feel like NA portrays romance as the most important aspect of a person's life which is completely unrealistic. To be honest I feel a bit isolated when I read books that lay so much importance on love and relationships. I love reading romance but I'd like to see some diversity in the genre, maybe then it would appeal to me more."

    Yes. This is my main issue. It's either the romance or something tragic in the main characters' pasts--and that's not all there is, especially when you've started this whole new place that's got so many opportunities for you to explore.... Based on what you wrote, I think I would like both the Art of Fielding and the Piper's Son.... and yes, more diversity, and more focus on college life. As far as I know, publishing companies who focus on adult fiction are buying the self-published NA e-books, so I think there's still a consensus on that part at least, 20-somethings in adult fiction.

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  45. I think it is used to stereotype its readership.

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  46. Precisely! I think it gets to the point where it restricts the genre - which is what caused NA to "need" to be formed in the first place. When a readership doesn't fit into YA or adult, it has to look elsewhere. But now they're trying to make NA all about "relationships." Which is restricting. In YA they restricted its readership in ways like... No sex, no adult content, no etc. Variety is better than all or nothing.

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  47. I'm not sure I understand. How is YA stereotyping its readership? I think there are stereotypes about its readership, but that could be said for any genre or age category.

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