Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 15, 2013

What is New Adult?

Last week Natalie Zutter had an article published on Bookish titled What Is ‘New Adult?’ Romance Editors and Authors Tell All. We have talked about New Adult novels before, but the buzz on them has really built up momentum in the last year, so I thought you would be interested in reading some excerpts from her article.

In the past year, New Adult novels have moved from the self-publishing realm to the forefront of major romance publishers, with their varied readership eagerly following. Thanks to word of mouth, these intense stories of first love between emotionally damaged characters in their mid-20s are filling a vacancy in the romance genre.

“I view New Adult as really bridging that gap between traditional young adult and contemporary romance,” says Margo Lipschultz, senior editor at Harlequin. “Until a year ago, you didn’t find easily available stories about kids in college who are experimenting with that newfound sense of liberation but also the heightened responsibilities that accompany it.” Generally, the heroine is 18-24 years old, while the hero is 18-26. “A college setting is common but not mandatory,” says Pocket Star editorial director Lauren McKenna.

Now that major publishers are releasing New Adult novels, many more contemporary romance authors are trying their hand at this liminal genre. What’ll you get when reading New Adult? Bookish spoke with top editors and authors to pinpoint New Adult’s key characteristics.

It’s all about the angst

A term that comes up often when discussing New Adult is “angst.” While angst has gotten a bad rap in the past few decades as it’s been equated with whiny teenagers, editors and writers think more about its original German meaning of “fear or anxiety.” Claire Zion, editorial director at Penguin’s imprint NAL, characterized angsty NA protagonists as “people in very real, kind of dark situations,” often due to alcoholism or abandonment. “They’re not glamorized at all, which romance often is. I don’t think that they’re exaggerated bad situations; they’re very real to common American experience. A lot of teens are growing up in broken homes or mixed families. Their parents have troubled pasts. People want to write about it, and people want to read about it.”

While situations in New Adult lit seem more dramatic than in real life, they stop just short of being over-the-top. Avon editor Amanda Bergeron cites Lisa Desrochers’ “A Little Too Far,” which kicks off with the heroine sleeping with her stepbrother before leaving for study abroad–then, in her guilt, falling for an almost-priest who’s only months away from taking his vows.

“What’s fabulous about New Adult is often these authors are taking such risks,” Amy Pierpont, editor-in-chief at Hachette’s imprint Forever, says. “It’s such a dramatic and emotional read, and it’s such a dramatic and emotional time of life. Everything is monumental; there are no molehills, there are only mountains to be climbed.”

Let’s talk about sex

According to the editors and authors interviewed for this piece, there is a common misperception that New Adult is “sexed-up YA.” However, there’s actually less bumping and grinding than media coverage suggests. What’s key, say New Adult experts, is the sexual tension itself–the slow, delicious build-up that might mirror the first blush of puppy love yet has greater depth, now that the characters are older.

A category in the making

“The development of the New Adult genre is not unlike the development of paranormal romance from years back; it came out of nowhere, and no one knew what the heck it was,” McKenna says. Indeed, that’s the subgenre that garners the most comparisons to New Adult. “It happened very quickly, and to sustain its popularity, authors have been changing all the time to really stay fresh and different.”

“New Adult… needs to expand, because the parameters are very narrow right now,” James says. “[If not,] readers will burn out on it because they don’t want to read the same book over and over again…. [For] New Adult to continue to be a viable niche, we have to grow it outside of contemporary into paranormal, science-fiction/fantasy, maybe even historical–I think that’s a little trickier.”

Click Here to read the full article.

Talk tomorrow,


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