Battling Life: YA vs. NA Literature

let's talk about sexLet’s talk categories. We here at utopYA are big fans of the Young Adult and New Adult categories of literature. Okay, maybe ‘big’ isn’t a fab enough word. Ginormous? Huge? Massive? Well, you get the idea. It’s kind of our thing, if you will.

As you may know, the Young Adult category is hotter than a dripping wet Channing Tatum wearing nothing but a damp towel, a very small towel. Another category gaining equal amounts of the hotness factor, is New Adult. The background on this category is muddied at best. Some would say it’s a must-have sub group while others will say it’s just a marketing trick.

Young Adult books have been around long before the dawn of Hot Pockets, but have only been recognized as an actual category in the last couple of decades. Oliver Twist, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, The Outsiders; all of these classics are just a taste of the multitude of Young Adult books out there before there was a category for it. They all portrayed our protag as a young person in various places in their life learning important lessons of how to simply BE.

What about New Adult? The haters out there will call this category another way to sell books written for younger readers. Others will say New Adult is just an excuse, a ploy, for teen writers to include more explicit sex to satisfy the not-quite-a-teen-anymore reader. But then others will call New Adult the ‘Generation X’ of literary works. It’s the black sheep. The in-between stage of life. Our protag has crossed the threshold of puberty, they have come of age, and they may have even been through some crazy epic life changing event. So what’s next for them?

The answer is: Life.

Little Women and Pride and Prejudice are two classic examples of what we would now probably classify as New Adult. Our protags aren’t swoony teens battling with insecurities or caught in the chaotic storm of coming into oneself. They are battling life. Can they truly be classified as Adult fiction? Are our characters in their peak of life armed with years of knowledge and experience to guide them? Should our beloved characters be labeled as ‘adult’ when technically they aren’t quite an adult?

What are your thoughts? For eons Young Adult literature existed before being dubbed a category. Can the same be said for New Adult? Could it have existed for eons as well and we are just now giving it the category credit it’s due?

UtopYA Con will soon be announcing panels for June. Would you like to see a panel on the Young Adult/New Adult debate? What questions or concerns would you like to see discussed? Feel free to pull out your soap box and share below!

D.B. Graves is a young adult writer living amidst the rolling hills 
of Middle Tennessee with her husband and young son.
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12 thoughts on “Battling Life: YA vs. NA Literature

  1. I would love to hear a panel of authors discuss this. Maybe even some bloggers. In my reading experience, I have noticed those that are labeled New Adult, have a lot more violence, drugs, cussing and sexual detail. I agree that it would be nice to have a genre where the characters were older than high school, but not quite full adults. It gets old to hear about our main character at their locker or cafeteria. But not just to be able to amp up the vice level. I am not opposed to it, but I don’t always find it necessary.

    • I totally agree, Gaby. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some good YA books. I love the world of ‘firsts.’ The first kiss, the first date, the first heartbreak…yada yada. But I recall the years after high school (and I’m cringing at how long ago that was) were the most influential as far as growth. It was a whole new world of firsts. The first rent, the first real job, the first real relationship, the first time you really have to balance life. I think this panel would rock and have an awesome debate. 🙂

  2. I’m all about this new category! When I was writing my first book I didn’t really have an audience in mind, I just wrote. After it was published people started trying to find a category for it and everyone started saying that it was “young adult”. Even though I never gave it a category myself, I felt like I was being pressured into catagorizing it. I decided that it certainly isn’t an adult book, so I called it YA as well. However, the book has some violence, language, and has some darker emotinal parts that I woulnd’t feel comfortable with all young adults reading. I started telling people that it was an Upper YA book, more for the 16+ age range.

    The first time I read a description about New Adult I was thrilled! My characters are, just as you said, out of high school and starting life. It doesn’t have the sex and super adult themes of a true adult novel, but I think it’s too mature for the younger end of the YA spectrum. I am proud and pleased to apply the label New Adult to my books!

  3. I’m the same as Elizabeth. The new book that I’m getting ready to release is based on 18 year-old friends who are dealing with life, not the typical high school drama. I love that there is a New Adult genre now because that is where I feel more comfortable writing. I’m still not going to have sex in my books, but then again I don’t think every book in this genre needs to live up to the stigmas around the title name. I’m an action girl so there is plenty of that, but I like to write clean books for teens who are looking for characters who think and act with a bit more maturity than other YA books might offer.
    Love New Adult!

    • Absolutely Amy and Elizabeth! I’ve seen so many articles or posts from ‘haters’ saying that New Adult is just a gimmick category excuse so the characters can have explicit sex. Pishaw I say! There are books out there with explicit sex and/or rape but still categorized as Young Adult due to the characters age. So having explicit content should not be the ‘stigma’ as you say to give a book a new category. That is, in a word, LAME! I can’t wait for this panel and look forward to the chat. Bring it!

    • It is indeed going to be a popular panel.

      We work directly with our panelists to make sure they get on the panels where they feel they can benefit the attendees best, but thank you for the suggestions. You might see them on there yet.

      All of the panel rooms are basically the same size. We have had standing room-only in the past, though, and I suspect that several of the panels this year will be extremely popular. I’m glad to hear that this one is finding favor with attendees!

  4. I think that panelists discussing this would be a wonderful idea. I also think that more often then not these categories overlap and connect making it hard to determine what book is what type. I understand that these categories are separated but some YA books include sex scenes and some NA books are completely innocent. I am not at all saying that these are common but why must we define the two so similar categories of books this way?

    I look forward to seeing the panelists discuss this topic and hope it comes up! I still stand by my opinion but retain the right to change my mind.

  5. I always thought I would only write YA, as my first published novel is, MS – 16.. But when I was halfway through my next novel, I really started to consider the age of the MC (18) and the rest of the characters who are slightly older, accompanied with the violence and drug abuse, I realized this couldn’t fall under the YA category, and I didn’t want it considered an adult novel.
    That’s when I discovered the NA category, and everything was all right. I’m all for NA, and think the characters in NA should be at east 18/19 – the youth of a teen on the cusp of adulthood.

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