|Check out my guest post, "New Adult Author: Sharon Bayliss."|
What is New Adult literature? I'll tell you.
New Adult is a category of fiction designed for audiences in the 17-23 age range. This age-range is an a general estimation. Most importantly, New Adult is for people of the age to be living life on their own for the first time. In addition to having a main character in this age range, New Adult novels will also have themes relevant to this life stage and are written with a voice and style that falls somewhere in between Young Adult and Adult.
Why does New Adult exist?
Although the term Young Adult implies that actual "young adults" would be included, the Young Adult genre is for teenagers, generally from 13-17. Although some publishers and agents will branch out and include older protagonists in YA, this is rare. Recent graduates of the Young Adult genre are looking for books that appeal to them and have many of the characteristics of YA that they enjoyed, but are for their age group.
And to get my social worker hat on....Erik Erikson describes eight distinct stages of psychosocial development. It is already recognized that people in psychosocial stages 1-5 (infancy through adolescence) need literature developed specifically for them. However, I believe that people in psychosocial stage 6, young adulthood (and maybe even 7 & 8...but that's a different post), especially those new to the stage, can also benefit from literature designed specifically for them.
The young adulthood stage of development has it's own unique attributes. Erikson defines the main conflict as "Intimacy vs. Isolation", where one of the big questions in life is "Will I be loved or will I be alone?". This is the stage in our lives when we are supposed to become who we are. We are supposed to find our mates, find our careers, create families, buy homes. Basically, do everything necessary to set up a life. And that is a lot, especially when you're fresh out of your parent's house.
Another upside to New Adult is it's crossover appeal. "New Adult" may appeal to adult readers better than YA because it doesn't have the stigma of being "for kids". Teen readers may also gravitate to New Adult, for the same reason. ;)
Possible themes for New Adult
Just like Young Adult, New Adult literature should have some underlying themes that would be applicable to the age group, but they certainly do not have to be the main focus of the story. A NA novel can be science fiction, fantasy, romance, contemporary, thriller, and so on and so forth, and have primary plot lines to match their genre. Here are some possible New Adult themes and life events that would be a good fit for NA:
- College life
- Moving out of your parents house and living alone for the first time
- First jobs
- Deciding who you want to be, career-wise, and in general. Identity issues. Existential issues.
- First serious relationships, finding love
- Sex - It's less important that it be a "first time" as it is in YA. But the character should still be figuring stuff out. Since our readers can watch R rated movies, we can also be a little more explicit here without as much controversy.
- Experimentation - Sex, drugs, alcohol. Of course, not all new adults engage in experimentation, but the phrase, "I experimented with "x" in college," is a phrase for a reason. :)
- Isolation - Living alone for the first time can be difficult
- Single life - New adults often do not have life partners and families yet, so their main relationships may be with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends.
- A struggle to "find yourself"
- Change - Moving out, going to college, finding a job...it's a lot of transition.
- Money challenges
As you would in YA and all literature, the most important thing is to create a multidimensional character first and then make sure their behaviors and voice match their age. You do not want to try and create a generic twenty year old character, you just want to make sure your character is acting and thinking like they would when they are twenty.
What are some examples of New Adult literature?
There are more titles coming out all the time. To not re-invent the wheel, I have linked to a great list on NA Alley: Recommended NA Reads.
How do I get my New Adult published?
It can still be tough, because not everyone is looking for this yet. But here are some who have specifically said they want New Adult:
(Yeah, that's right, I don't have too many. Let me know if you have more.)
St. Martin's Press - Credited with "inventing" New Adult, but you need an agent to submit.