There's something about the summertime heat that makes me want to write. Yeah. There's nothing like 111 degree weather to get your creativity going, right? 
Well...maybe not exactly, but it did get me thinking about all the people who have to work outside in weather like this. Construction workers, fruit packers, mechanics, farmers. You get the idea. And that (if you can follow my strange line of thought here) got me thinking about New Adult stories. Where I live, a lot of kids get their first jobs working in a shed, packing fruit. That's a first job. New Adult is all about those special firsts. First jobs, first houses, first loves, first tastes of independence. But pretty much everybody knows this by now. There's a lot that's said about New Adult fiction. Some of it's true. Some of it's not so true. In the end, it all comes down to this: New Adult is about growing up for the first time and seeing the world in an entirely new way. 

The fact is, there are so many things you can do with New Adult! You've got yourself a character who has the adventurous spirit of youth and the freedom of an adult. Put those two things together and your story can go pretty much anywhere. I was recently asked where I saw New Adult going in five or ten years. It's just like any other category. It's going to go everywhere. Science fiction, historical fiction, dystopian adventure, post-apocalyptic adventure, fantasy. You name it. Like YA, NA will be an umbrella for tons of books to hang under. Right now, there are a lot of romantic New Adult novels out there, but there are adventure novels, science fiction novels and historical fiction novels popping up, too. It won't be long before we see New Adult marked on the shelves at places like Barnes and Noble...!

Is my book NA? 
Something else that I get asked a lot is "How do I know if my book is New Adult?" And that's a fair question. How do you know if your book should be classified as NA? Basically, if your characters are between the ages of 18 and 26, you've got a NA main character. Out of high school, but not quite "grown up." (although there are some people that are completely mature at that age...but let's not get nit-picky here!) Slap that character into any story or genre and you've got yourself a novel. See how easy it is? 

What about crossovers?
True, New Adult and Young Adult sometimes intersect, and it has nothing to do with the age of the characters. My own novel, State of Emergency, is a New Adult novel, but it's appropriate for Young Adult readers, too. But the story and the characters are still very much New Adult. 

So I guess the question I want to pose to you is this: What makes a New Adult novel "New Adult" to YOU? Is it the age? The content? I'm just curious, because I know what makes it New Adult to me. What do you think? 



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  1. For me it's the age, content, voice, and general feel of the story.

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  2. I think it's the age and the experience that defines New Adult more than the content (although many people would beg to differ!). My NA supernatural fantasy series is suitable for young adults, but as it's set at a university, it's more New Adult in terms of the experience of leaving home and having independence for the first time.

    This is a great post, and I hope NA goes everywhere, too! :)

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  3. YES to more NA fantasy! (only slightly biased here :D

    I think we will see a lot more NA characters across all genres and sub-genres now that publishers are noticing it's what readers want. I've always written NA age/attitude characters but got requests from agents and editors to change the age because "NO ONE" wanted to read them. *sigh*

    To me, NA is about that perfect time of our lives, when we're no longer under mom and dad's thumb, we're on our own for the first time, and realizing that decisions we make have serious repercussions. NA is about courage too -- grabbing life and leaping. Bigger choices, bigger risks, bigger consequences, but without the life experience and fear of judgement that comes when we're fully adults.

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    1. So true about it being 'the perfect time in our lives'. Oh, to do it all again! :)

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  4. For me it's the age of the characters and the experience they're having in the story.

    I write and read mostly romance so I can only speak to that but I think that most of the NA stories tend to have a different voice than you'd find in a traditional contemporary romance.

    Also, the characters look at the world differently than the late 20's - early 30's heroine as they usually don't have as many life experiences to draw from.

    That's the fun in NA for me...being in a character's head as they have an experience for the first time, or see the world in a new light! :)

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  5. I think it's age and experience, which really is what defines the content. An 18, 19, or 20-something away at college or experiencing life beyond high school for the first time is worlds away from the safety net of firsts that happen while still living under a parent/guardian's roof. Even though college isn't full independence, it puts enough distance between the safety of home and the new experience for the MC to have to figure things out on his/her own.

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  6. Great conversation starter, Summer! For me, New Adult is mostly about themes. If the main character is on his or her own with no parental oversight for the first time, and doing the things 'new adults' do, then that pretty well classifies it as New Adult.

    Age can be cultural and/or a genre specific kind of thing, so I think it's more of a guideline than a rule. Basically, if your character isn't an independent adult socially, culturally, or legally, I think that's probably YA (or some other) territory.

    I also think intended audience is a good indicator. Who did you write the story for? (Which is different from who 'could' read it, I think. I can read and enjoy Harry Potter, but it wasn't written FOR 35 year olds, if that makes sense...) If you're writing a story and envision sophomores-seniors in high school enjoying and relating to it the most, it's probably YA. However, if it's something college-aged readers are going to identify with more, then it's probably NA. :)

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  7. First jobs can be really tough. I shudder just thinking of having to work outside in 111 degree heat!

    It's not easy being a New Adult.

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  8. WOW - thanks for weighing in, you guys!! I absolutely LOVE reading what you think!! :D

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  9. This is a great post! For me, it's all about intended audience. I get the opposite question a lot... often fantasy novels have protagonists in their early twenties, so why aren't they considered NA? NA is a category and I think it often just depends on what audience the author wants to cater to--the whole adult sphere, the teen-sphere, or specifically people coming-of-age and in their twenties, or people who like reading those stories? And I think the boundaries are still transparent... a lot of fiction is still being published as adult that COULD be NA-- like Lev Grossman's THE MAGICIAN'S, for example.

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  10. To me NA is that first taste of independence like you said. I love how this genre is becoming more and more popular!

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  11. Great post, Summer. Some reviewers are calling my Colour Wielders YA. That I don't get, since the mc female is 22 and is very much experiencing a lot of firsts in her life. But that's okay. Personally, I really love writing NA. It feels more free and filled with so many possibilities of delicious conflict to explore.

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  12. Great post, Summer! :) I agree. In the coming years, NA will broaden as a category. We just need a few breakaway hits to get those other genres out there!

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  13. Awesome as always Summer! For me it's experience. Whatever that maybe. New experiences and growth into maturity. Love NA and can't wait to see where it goes from here!

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  14. I think it's about the age and the experiences. I have a novella I'm working on now that I'm not sure about for that very reason! It's the summer after high school, but I feel she's still dealing with more 'teen' issues than 'becoming an adult' issues.

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  15. Thank you for all the stellar input, everyone!! I've really learned a lot about the perception of NA just by reading these comments.

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  16. It's the voice, theme, and content that really defines a book's classification. A lot of classics have characters in their teens or the NA age range, and yet they were published as regular adult books and even today feel more adult than YA or NA, because of the characters' experiences, maturity level, etc. I've actually begun thinking that some historical YA would be better-marketed as NA, since the typical teen experience of 50, 100, 500 years ago was more NA than YA by modern standards. I always think of how Scarlett O'Hara and Amber St. Clare are 16 at the start of their respective books, and yet are never considered anything but adults (albeit younger, more inexperienced adults) by the standards of their eras.

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    1. That's an interesting point! I was reading over a book last week at B&N - What Macie Knew - and it's about a little girl, but it's an adult novel. So in some cases I would say that the age of the main character doesn't make the book fall into a category; it's the subject matter or the narrative in which the story is told. The Secret Life of Bees, for example, is an adult novel told from the perspective of a child. So yeah. There's that too, lol

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  17. Great post, Summer, and fab comments by all! I've been writing NA paranormal/contemporary fantasy for years. I'm excited to see NA grow into its own like YA - expanding into all the genres. Like many others, I was told 4 years ago that nobody wanted to read about this age range and to change the age of my character. But no other age made sense - some of things she goes through just didn't work for a younger high schooler or a more mature adult. There are just different challenges, decisions to make, fun to be had, situations to get into, consequences for their actions, relationships to experience, etc., at this age that make for a fabulous story. And I think that's part of what makes a book NA - are these situations and decisions a high schooler or more mature adult would face or make? Thanks for the great discussion!

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    1. Thank YOU for stopping by - I absolutely agree! :D

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  19. It's voice and experiences for me - plus being allowed to write the stuff that really goes on - e.g. sex and drugs - without sugar coating it for a mass market. I like to think of it as Chick Lit's tequila body shot of a little sister.

    Does anyone know of any British NA yet?

    C

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  20. I think what makes NA is more than age. You said it earlier in your post when you touched on firsts and the new taste of independence, but didn't put it in the section of what makes NA. I think age can't be the only determinate (just like it can't for YA)--it needs to center around the themes a new adult is facing for the first time (finding themselves, their place in the adult world, finding their career, etc) as well as tone/voice.

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  21. Its that moment when they go, "Holy shit, mommy and daddy aren't helping us with Calculus." Its a slightly different nuance than "Can you help me with this one problem?" Or even, first time away overseas away from parents.

    The problem with this comes though, when your writing a story about foreign exchange students that have foster parents. But what I'm talking about is when you are part of a university overseas.

    It doesn't have to be overtly violent. Or even edgy really.

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