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Guest Post: In Defense of New Adult by Sarah Harian

Today we welcome author Sarah Harian, whose New Adult debut, THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE, was released today by Penguin/Intermix Books!

New Adult is one of those strange topics in fiction where its existence is unknown and simultaneously beaten to death. Some people call it the love child of St. Martin’s Press and Fifty Shades of Grey. St. Martin’s Press coined it, but Fifty Shades of Grey brought it life.

Honestly, I don’t know if this assumption is true. I started writing New Adult five years ago when I knew nothing about categories or the way the publishing industry worked. I knew I wanted to write an urban fantasy story set in the point-of-view of an eighteen-year-old college kid. Unfortunately, there was no market for college-aged protagonists, so I started aging all of my characters down in order to fit the Young Adult mold.

To me, New Adult finally made a scene when readers started talking about Jamie McGuire’s book, Beautiful Disaster. It was a college romance making a splash, which hadn’t really happened before. I began hearing of a few more books that were New Adult and piquing reader’s interests, such as Easy by Tammara Webber and Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens. Suddenly, New Adult was a thing. It wasn’t anything I was really interested in (I’m a scifi/fantasy and super edgy contemporary lover at heart). But it was still a thing. And that’s what mattered.

I’m not going to talk about what New Adult isn’t, mostly because people are sick of hearing that New Adult isn’t sexed-up Young Adult conversation. I’m going to talk about what it is.

To me, New Adult is for us kids who grew up during the boom of YA. We read Harry Potter right when it was published. And we read Twilight in our late teens. We’ve become addicted to the style of YA, the immediacy of it.

YA did something amazing for literature. It made it accessible to all readers. We didn’t need an education to adore and understand literary fiction (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) or a million pages of backstory or world building to establish a science fiction universe (Feed) or a fat fantasy to be, like, 1500-pages-fat (each of the Lumatere Chronicles sits around a humble 500). But the thing is, this kind of accessible fiction isn’t just for teen readers. Adult readers found a love for Young Adult as well. And we want more. We want the style of YA to translate over to adult situations. I feel like this is where NA can plant its flag into the ground.

But it’s difficult for those of us who write NA. New Adult has grown from the ground up, establishing its necessity through self-publishers who proved they were wanted. The original New Adult writers didn’t have to deal with agents or publishers telling them that their novels weren’t suited for the current market. They wrote, published, and saw if the market wanted their novels for themselves. But just because our success is linked directly to the readers who purchase our books doesn’t mean that NA doesn’t experience trends. In fact, we experience them at extreme levels. Currently, New Adult is withstanding a polar-vortex of contemporary romance.

Many people, including some publishing professionals, think that New Adult will never be anything more than books about college romance, but I think that’s a silly assumption. That would be like saying Young Adult is nothing more than paranormal romance with vampires or werewolves or angels. Yes, those books have merit, but that’s not all young adult is. The same goes for New Adult.

To be honest, I don’t know what New Adult is for the whole of society, and I don’t know how long it is going to last, but I’ll tell you what it is for me. I started reading Harry Potter when I was eleven and The Hunger Games when I was nineteen. I grew up parallel to the boom of young adult, and I crave the immediacy it brings. I will read YA until the day I die, but now, being in my twenties, I want something that represents fresh adulthood with the same immediacy as YA. I crave that.

New Adult can establish itself as the vessel between YA and adult fiction in all genres. It has that potential. I don’t know what the category is going to do—I can’t predict that. But I hope, for the sake of my reading wishes, that future books released in the New Adult category will be The Mortal Instruments and Shatter Me and Speak and A Fault in Our Stars geared for the newly minted adult, because we still need literature speaking directly to us, and we’re not ready to completely let go of YA—our first love—the books that drew us to read in the first place.


About Sarah:

Sarah Harian grew up in the foothills of Yosemite and received her B.A. and M.F.A. from Fresno State University. When not writing, she is usually hiking some mountain or another in the Sierras, playing video games with her husband, or rough-housing with her dog.  You can follow Sarah on Goodreads, Twitter or her blog.

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The opinions expressed in guest posts are the views of the designated authors and do not necessarily reflect those of YA Highway members.

Bonus: here's Sarah's book trailer for THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE!

Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Love love love this post. I think it really perfectly encapsulates why people lump YA and NA together so often, even though you wouldn't think of them as necessarily having the same audience - NA is so perfect for those readers who want the fantastic facets of YA but don't actively read it for the age of the characters. YA brings so much to the table in terms of writing style, pacing, and plotting, and I think NA is a great way to take those elements and apply them to older characters in a way that contemporary adult fiction rarely does. And nothing against contemporary adult fiction, of course, but there's a reason I and so many others primarily read YA!

  2. I agree with your points, and also, twinsies on the "writing this stuff five years ago" thing. I was querying with a NA manuscript labeled YA because of the then-no-man's-land of college books, and I was literally told to rewrite it in a boarding school a couple times just to get around the publishing industry's preconceived notions about books set in college. I ended up having to get signed with a different book. Maybe today there will be a place for this baby. ;)

    Also, very much yes on the way older people who have aged out of the target demographic still wanting books with similar feel to them. NA also doesn't have to work inside the same "*gasp* what are you saying to Our Children??" pearl-clutching format. It can include some early adult experiences without the stigma of corrupting the young (well, mostly).

  3. I keep going around in my head about New Adult is NA=YA+ sex... it is a demographic 18-25, female... hot chick lit for those who aren't yet in the working world... I read some of Beautiful and found it a lot of fun... I think college is a defining period in so many of our lives but does that make a marketing segment for publishers? A terrific, thought-provoking post...


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: In Defense of New Adult by Sarah Harian Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard