“New Adult” seems to be the new ‘It” genre in Romance. Recently this came up in discussions on my post We Call Them Young Adult Romances, But Are They Really?
Many of the comments on my article focused on where to draw to line in terms of explicit sex in YA books. I recommended in my post that explicit sex (not graphic sex i.e porn) should be included tastefully in books with protagonists 16 and above. My recommendation was consistent with the designation of young adults 16 and above as “adults” in many US states and other countries, including a few provinces in Canada. Some commenters were horrified that I would be recommending explicit sex in these books even though I pointed out that the whole Young Adult genre was a misnomer and marketing nightmare. It seems now that YA isn’t really for young adults, but for ages 12 – 15, although it has been indicated that the intended targeted age group could be as high as 18. YA books obviously cannot cater to the needs of such a large age group, as the reading needs of a 12 year old and those of a 16 – 18 year old differ widely. This brings us to the “New Adult” genre, which many readers suggested as a compromise.
The emerging genre of New Adult books was born because a few enterprising het authors, fed up with the restrictions placed on them by the Young Adult genre, decided to come up with their own genre which would allow them to include explicit sex in their romances with teenage protagonists 18 and over, without incurring the wrath of parents, school libraries, the Goodreads YA Group etc. who cry foul at any “under age” sex in YA books. I guess all of the romances written decades ago with underage protags having sex, which no one has protested nor have authors and publishers been sued, was because those books are considered to be “literature.” Here are a few links to articles about the New Adult genre from the UK Guardian as well as ABC News and the New York Times..
There are many other articles on the Internet on this topic.
Basically, this genre covers romances between protagonists who are “college age,” 18 and above up to possibly 25 but could go to the higher 20s. But this is where the problem arises. As you know, a large percentage of M/M romances feature twenty something protagonists who are in the same age group – 18 to 25 – so what’s the difference between M/M books which feature younger protagonists and “New Adult” books? I should point out that most of these authors who have published New Adult books are self published, but Carina sent out a call for New Adult books last October and here’s what it said:
Carina Press is now accepting submissions in the new adult genre. We are looking for submissions with a strong story and fully developed, very definable protagonists, 18 and above (or at an age eligible to enter college), in their early to mid-20s. While at least one protagonist should fall in this age range, it is possible the other protagonist may fall in their upper 20s.
Story elements should be targeted to an adult, not teen audience, and should contain adult contemporary themes, frank, modern language, high relationship drama and intense conflict. Characters actions, dress and dialogue should all be age-appropriate. Think of the relationship drama of the college years and run with that!
Other elements that work in this genre (but are not required to be considered for publication) include increased sensuality, love triangles, protagonists with traumatic events in their background, and protagonists who have celebrity status–actors, musicians, athletes, etc. (Please do not use real celebrities).
To date I can’t find any GBLT authors who are using this designation but they probably won’t be far behind the het authors, especially in view of the call from Carina for New Adult manuscripts, because these books are selling like hot cakes. One self published book was recently reviewed on this site and the reviewer took the bold step of designating it as New Adult, however if the other GBLT epublishers do not adopt this designation, as a review site we have a problem because we tag books according to the publishers’ classifications, and the epublishers who focus on GBLT books have not come to the party as far as I know.
So why should I care? My reason for this post is that we tag all books reviewed by genre in order to facilitate searching for them. If GBLT epublishers don’t embrace this new genre we will have to double tag all of the books which is a pain, as our system is overloaded. Also there are many M/M books and series already published with protagonists between 18 – 25, which poses the problem of how do we differentiate between New Adult and M/M books with twenty something protags. No one has a clue and we seem to be making things up as we go along. No one has a clear definition so this is still up in the air. Everyone seems to have his or her definition of YA, New Adult and M/M and I’m looking for some consistency, at least for labelling purposes, so the readers won’t be confused when they’re searching the database.
As indicated above, at least one epublisher [Carina], which releases mostly het romances with a few gay romances, is jumping on the New Adult bandwagon so it looks like the other epublishers will have no option but to adopt this new genre or clarify their policies. However, my question today is, what differentiates New Adult from M/M and YA? There’s a lot of overlap in the three genres. I’m hoping that a few publishers will comment on this post and provide some clarification. Many of them already have or are setting up Young Adult imprints so surely they have a vested interest in clarifying the age groups and sexual content of the YA, NA and M/M imprints.