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What is New Adult (NA) fiction?

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

What is this strange new thing, and is it even a "real" category?

Over the past decade, the Young Adult (YA) category has become widespread and well-known, if not particularly well-defined (see our article about YA here). However, in that time frame, many YA readers have been ageing out of the category. YA is meant to cater to readers aged 12 to 18. Basically, ‘teenage readers’. So, what do readers do once we reach the tender age of 19?

Traditional publishers seem to think that readers will simply graduate into adult fiction. However, that is demonstrably not happening. Readers who have become accustomed to the immediacy, fast-pacing and deep point of view (POV) of YA books often have difficulty transitioning into books written by and for GenX and Baby Boomers. Many books in the adult category, especially in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, feel distant and inaccessible to former YA readers. Thus, many 20-year-old readers have continued to read YA, which is ostensibly created for teenagers. And unsurprisingly, when a 20-year-old reads a book intended for teenagers, they might be dissatisfied. For example, plot devices may seem very predictable and cliché to a twenty-something, but these same devices may seem fresh and exciting for a teenage reader. Therefore, these two groups of readers may leave extremely different reviews on the same book. A book written for a twenty-something may also use a more advanced writing style and vocabulary, which can be inaccessible to a teenage reader.

Therefore, it seems incumbent on us to create a category for readers who have graduated from young from YA but are not interested in so-called adult fiction. Steven is but a humble slushpile monster (he doesn't even wear pants), so we are not overly optimistic that our classification will catch on. However, for our purposes, we are defining NA as the following:

  • Main/POV characters are aged 19-29

  • Moderate graphic content (incl. violence, sexual, dark/upsetting situations or descriptions)

  • Relatively less accessible vocabulary and writing style

  • Deeper experiences (incl. break-ups, engagement, marriage, multiple relationships, sexual awakenings)

  • University or early career settings (for contemporary)

When submitting your manuscript to the competition, please use this classification. Beyond the Slushpile Monster competition, it might not be widely used, so make sure you check the classification being used by any particular agent or publisher.

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