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An Exploration into New Adult Fiction

What is New Adult Fiction?

With the rise of the millennial generation, a new genre has emerged appealing to those aged 18 to 30. The term itself was coined by St. Martin’s Press as a midway between adult and young adult fiction books and took off in 2013 in America. Publishers, especially in the UK, are resistant to have this as an “official” genre as it is difficult to define its genre, however, there is a growing number of self-published authors who are taking ownership of this genre and making it hard for publishers to ignore.

How do you Define New Adult Fiction?

New Adult fiction can have many subgenres much like any other works of fiction, such as fantasy, mystery and crime. However, the defining feature of New Adult fiction is that the protagonists are aged between 18 and 30. This genre also explores more controversial and mature topics such as sex, sexuality, career development, generational divides and maturing. As individuals reach the 18 to 25 age category, it can be hard to relate to both their underage peers and older adults as they start to navigate the world of newfound freedoms, employment, relationships and responsibilities. Therefore there was a call for fiction that represented their lives and emotions with protagonists that they could relate to.

Examples of New Adult Fiction

The most popular example of New Adult fiction is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Maas. This book follows the story of 19-year-old Feyre Archeron who is taken to the faerie land of Prythian. Other examples of New Adult fiction vary, but could also include: The Magicians by Lev Grossman, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

The Associated Stigma

However, New Adult has gained a stigma of being reduced to ‘Young Adult fiction with explicit sex’. This may be one of the reasons that publishers are unwilling to embrace it. This is a very unfair stigma when many writers want to portray the difficulties of maturing into adulthood in a relatable way. Many New Adults books do not contain explicit sex, but instead, unpack the challenging emotions and self-discoveries of a generation that is completely different to their parents. Unlike the generation before who had a pre-set destiny of getting a job, stay in that career for decades, get married and have children, millennials are still figuring out who they are and what they want from life. The emergence of new technology has only exacerbated the problem of finding a career path and a set life plan.

The Popularity of Young Adult Fiction

55% of those who purchase Young Adult fiction are adults. With the popularity of trends such as Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, Young Adult fiction has grown significantly to become a staple on many people's bookshelves. Many fiction Young Adult fiction has voices, styles and messages that are meaningful and impactful, and this genre is at the forefront of including diverse and queer characters and exploring associated issues. Now there is a hunger for more inclusive fiction for new adults.

How to Break the Stigma?

New Adult can appear to be a condescending label for readers who read it as twenty-somethings needing to have ‘training wheels’ fiction before transitioning into adult fiction. On the other hand, many see it as filling the gap of adult people that publisher continuously ignores: anyone who isn’t a white, middle class working straight man. New Adult is also used as a marketing ploy to incite the reader to purchase new fiction, relying on the associated stigma to make it seem daring and risky.

It is up to you to decide whether you agree with the New Adult genre, however with its growing popularity, it is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Many in the writing community want to write New Adult fiction and explore themes in a sophisticated and clever way, without fear of their work being shunned. Publishers need to recognise this genre, take ownership and define exactly what their parameters are. With 55% of adults already buying Young Adult fiction, there is already a market for people who want books that aren’t afraid to explore difficult topics in a way that is easy to understand and believe in.

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