It’s Not Me, It’s You: Breaking up with the New Adult genre

it's not me

If I had no exposure to the New Adult genre and had to guess what it is, I would suspect something like this: Recent college graduate (or high school graduate if the character did not go to college), who is trying to figure out The Real World – getting a full-time job, finding a place to live, having to pay all your own bills, understanding health insurance and 401(k)s – all while juggling friends and family and romance and etc. I would guess the setting to be mostly in the workplace. I could also almost think that it could be about college freshmen, who are “new adults” by the fact that they are leaving home for probably the first time. However, though my college days are far behind me, I feel pretty confident in saying that the average college freshmen are (very) slightly more mature high schoolers. Even senior year of college can be seen more as a part of childhood than adulthood. But, I digress. (And please, these are generalizations, don’t get offended if you are – or were – mature and adult like in your college years.)

After reading several New Adult books, this is how I would define the genre: Young Adult stories with adult sex scenes.

Now I know that several New Adult authors dispute that definition. (I tried to search for some exact quotes from them, but since nothing came up on the first result page of any of my searches, I gave up. I’m sure you can find some if you really want to.) However, I don’t buy it. Most of the books that I’ve read had been about new college students who lose their virginity – graphically. Or fall in love and realize that sex can be meaningful – and graphic. Some have even had actual plot lines that did not center on sex, but was still inundated with multiple graphic scenes. Honestly, most of these books are bordering on erotica. And very few have ever mentioned majors, future careers, or paying an electric bill.

Now, if you like this, that’s fine. Read your horny little hearts out!! I’m not trying to demean other people’s tastes in books. I have just come to the realization that this genre is not enjoyable for me and thus, I think I need to give it up.

Does that mean I’ll never read another New Adult book? Probably not. (What is a break-up without a backslide?) For example, The Return is a book by Jennifer Armentrout that I have been looking forward to since The Covenant series ended. Seth was one of my favorite characters and I was happy to hear he was getting his own spin-off. However, while The Covenant series was YA, JLA has said that Seth is old enough for The Return to be NA. I’m DREADING that all this means is that the sex scenes will be much more graphic than they were in the preceding Young Adult series and the writing will be exactly the same. Here’s your chance, Armentrout, to disprove my New Adult theory! Please do!


And ughhhhh. That cover. Really???????????????????

What do you think? Do you read New Adult? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?

22 thoughts on “It’s Not Me, It’s You: Breaking up with the New Adult genre

  1. New Adult is just a fancy title for soft-core porn. I’m surprised it took so long for it to be given an “acceptable” title.

  2. I’m with you. I gave up New Adult pretty quickly. I haven’t read many of them but the covers are enough to turn me away. Oh well, I am holding out hope that someone will eventually give us the New Adult we want.

  3. This is a discussion that has taken places in many writer’s groups and critique groups I’ve been a part of. Everyone I’ve talked to in the YA genre hates that NA has become synonymous with explicit sex scenes. It’s probably not realistic to think that 18-22 year olds are NOT having sex, but I don’t know that it needs to cross the line into contemporary steamy romance either. Why can’t it really be the bridge between YA and Adult that it was supposed to be? I actually decided to market my book as YA rather than NA even though my characters are all recent high school grads because of the lack of explicit sex. I figured some readers might be disgruntled by that. And frankly, as much as I love to read a really good hot and steamy sex scene, I don’t ever anticipate that I’ll write one.

    • I mean, obviously there is an audience for the steam. And I don’t have a problem with that. But as you said, NA is basically synonymous with the graphic scenes. I could give it a pass if they were “cut to the fireplace” type of scenarios, or even just ONE graphic scene. But the majority of the books that I’ve read are very little story with LOTS of graphic sex.
      I think it’s a smart idea that you decided to go with a YA branding. I think you have a chance to reach a much wider audience that way.

  4. LMAO @ “read your horny little hearts out”.
    I love NA books. I loved em before I even knew it was a genre! BUT, I also like erotica, so I guess that’s a no brainer. 😉

  5. I feel like New Adult is still going through a teething period. I think when major book stores recognise it as a category (properly) and give it a shelf, then we can then sigh and think ‘now the work begins’. Because at the moment, there’s a lot of ‘older’ NA stories that once would have been classed as Erotica or Romance, but in trying to reach a younger, ‘edgier’ market, have classified themselves as NA.

    I think NA has HUGE potential. It’s a stage in life that is important- starting to work out what it really means to be an ‘adult’ in the world. On your own. With those first ‘adult’ relationships. And I think sex is an important part of that- but I despair when I crack open an NA book on my kindle and find that it’s just some clumsy sex fest disguised as something else.

    J Lynn (or Jennifer L Armentrout) is a FANTASTIC NA author. I think she gets the balance right between the physical and the emotional.

    I haven’t given up on NA as a category yet. And as you can see from the above word vomit, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot! I went on a NA crusade over the summer, and I while there is a shed load of melodramatic orgies going on, there are some real diamond reads too. The real test is sifting through the dirt to find them!

    Don’t give up on NA! Maybe just give it a little time to mature. Maybe you just need some space. Heh heh.

    Great post!!!!


    • Thanks. And yes, maybe me and NA can just be “on a break”. I agree with you that it has a lot of potential as a genre, but the vast majority of what I’ve read should be assigned as like NA Erotica and not just NA. I don’t have a problem really with the sex in them, just the graphic detail that it always involves and that it seems to always take over the story. I love me some JLA, but I recently read Stay with Me and was just so disappointed in it. It had great potential. It talks about how to pay for school, and credit scores, and a life plan, but I felt the story was just so overcome with the main characters sexual awakening that it ruined the rest of the book for me.
      Thanks for your comment! You definitely have some valid points!

  6. I agree with some of what you are saying. It is not a genre I read often. There is one author I read a really good YA series by and looked into another of hers. She has two copies of the same book one YA one NA. I will be reading the YA one just because it does fall into that erotica NA category. But i dispute that all NA books do. Some deal with more adult issues but are still written in the easy reading style of YA. Like Hope by Collen Hoover, (I have not read this so please tell me if I am wrong). But generally I agree, I try to stay away from NA.

    • It’s true there are always exception to the rule. I’ve never read Like Hope, but I did read Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover and while I didn’t love it like so many others seem to do, it was probably one of the best NA books I’ve read. It did have many real issues “new” adults would face and while there was sex, it wasn’t the main focus and I can’t quite remember details, but I think there was only one actual sex scene and I don’t think it veered into erotic territory.
      That’s very interesting that an author would have the same book be YA and NA. I would actually be interested in reading both, just to see if the only difference is the erotic stuff. Can you share which book/author it is?

      • Sorry the book is called Hope, it was my grammar. Yes it is Ember and Ember X by Jessica Sorenson, as far as I am aware they are the same book, just Ember X is more graphic. Think they are both free on the kindle. Hope you enjoy them if you read them 🙂

      • Thanks! I just looked them up on good reads and they definitely sound like the same story, except Ember is 17 in one and 19 in the other. Not sure if I’ll read them any time soon, but it would be an interesting study in defining the difference between YA and NA.

  7. I’ve had the same experience with New Adult. I’m not sure I’ve actually finished a new adult book yet. You’re so right it seems like the just add sex to young adult. That’s not for me either, so I generally avoid the genre. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

    • You’re definitely not the only one. While there are exceptions I’m sure, I find the NA = Erotica to be the most prevalent of all the books I’ve tried. I’m glad other people enjoy them, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

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