Monday, May 21, 2018

Weres Wanna Know: Is anyone else confused about New Adult?

I think I first heard the term New Adult five or six years ago when Jeaniene Frost was writing The Beautiful Ashes. The first NA I read was probably Cecy Robson's Shattered Past series, which has lots of sex and other "adult subject matter" like abuse. (If you like to cry, check these out. They're intense!) It was my understanding that what made something NA was a college age - let's say 18-24 year old - protagonist. And I've read a few college romances, which also had lots of sexual content, that reinforced that.

I actually started to think NA = lots of sex. I mean, lots of people have lots of sex in college so it made sense. The Beautiful Ashes was re-released with a new cover that looked like adult PNR because lots of people thought it was YA. And I figured that was a problem because of the adult content in the series, though I don't think there was much in that first book.

About two years ago I reviewed a book with an 18 year old heroine who had already graduated from high school and a 20 year old hero. And I spent a ton of time trying to figure out why it came from a YA publisher when it was obviously an NA book. Was it because there's no sex? Because all the NA I had read had lots of sex. (I do understand that's not really the definition of the genre so don't @ me.)

I don't think I'm the only one who's about confused this. I've seen so many comments about how the ACOTAR series has so much sex for YA. And then I read something that called it NA and I had an epiphany. One, that would explain why everyone comments on all the sex. And two, NA comes from both YA and adult publishers. That second one kind of blew my mind.

But now how am I supposed to know what to call any given book? I've read some UF with nineteen year old heroines, like Hailey Edwards Black Dog series, and tagged the reviews as New Adult Urban Fantasy - that one seems pretty easy. But what about the ones from YA publishers? I have no idea. The main character's age is usually in the blurb, but now we need more information.

I read a Twitter thread not too long ago that claimed YA is about finding out who you are and NA is about finding your place in the world. That sounds good, but then I might not know which one it is until after I read the book. And if NA also has all the sex, how am I supposed to know if my twelve year old should read it unless I read it first? I don't actually have a twelve year old, but you get the point. Plus, now I'm afraid I can't even tag my review correctly!

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I think that the genre has evolved in the last six years. But that really only makes it more confusing. There are lots of NA releases without a lot of sex in them. Maybe they have more cursing - like how a certain number of F-bombs automatically gets an R rating? And I can name a handful of adult books with teen protagonists that muddy the waters even more. Maybe it all depends on the marketing? Honestly, the more I analyze it, the less clear the definition gets.

And does it really matter? For teens, I think it does. For my own reading, probably not. I'm going to read what sounds good to me regardless of what label you put on it. And I'm not sensitive to sexual or violent content. But I'm a word person and it bothers me when labels are used incorrectly. It's worse if I'm the one doing it wrong because that's my thing. But sure, let's keep changing how we use the term. Aaah!

And don't even get me started on this, which actually means "New Releases in Adult Fiction."

Is anyone else confused about New Adult?

We’re participating in the 2018 Discussion Challenge hosted by It Starts at Midnight and Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Go check out all the May discussions!

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