A Lot of NA Novels Are Letting the Category Down

I’ll start this with a quote from Confessions of a Opinionated Book Geek:

What is the formula for new adult fiction? I am glad you asked! I have the ingredients below:

1. College kid in living situation they shouldn’t realistically be able to afford with their background and economic status?

2. Messed up parents?

3. Abuse, most likely sexual, in their past?

4. They are not looking for romance, more they don’t want it, but a guy falls from the sky?

Yup. As you may know, I am an advocate for NA fiction for its moving away from home and learning state – not for its sexytimes. The only reason I removed the New Adult tag from my main novel was a marketing choice. After all, quite a few adult SFF novels have child protagonists or characters of all ages, and I even had one agent say that NA SFF could never exist because it made no sense. That’s a fair point. After all, if one suggests NA is the romance/sex/erotica part, then SFF might have that anyway; if one says it for its crossover appeal and many-aged protagonists…well many SFF books have that anyway.

The review from which the above quote comes concludes by saying that the certain NA big-5-published novel involving a virgin features way too much sex, whether actual or implied, to warrant stressing the virginity of one character.

NA is about age – or is it, really?

Some novels are first pitched as NA and set in uni, but docked down to YA, albeit Upper YA, when they are published. I can see why people would be interested in the age-group of about 18 – about 30, but NA is either too focused on age at times, or not specific enough.

My biggest criticism of NA as it stands at the moment is that it gives a bad example of relationships to those real new adult and YA readers.

Sure, everyone has their faults when it comes to relationships, but so many fictional heroes and heroines of NA fiction are, as the formula above suggests, damaged or damaging, or both, as the way might go.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, this is a useful plot device of romance, but to an extent. These sorts of mental and/or behavioural ‘quirks’ shouldn’t be portrayed or suggested as positive behaviour, not ways to handle a partner. I know we live in a modern world, but I’d like to hope that manners and the traditional values of marriage still exist.

Random titles on Google images

Not only that, but it’s becoming a trope and cliché of NA contemporary. Bad girl, good boy, or vice versa. Never any other combination. But I know good girls in relationships with good boys who still go through the character growth and change that might be novel-like. We all face uncertainty and mismatch and disagreement in relationships without having a melodramatic or [physical or/and emotionally] abused childhood.

I’d like to see a New Adult story that deals with a couple moving in together or something that has no mention of university or abuse. Plus, it would be cool to have a fantasy or sci-fi bent on this idea. An alien moving away from his/her parents/mothership and datarate and starting a life on Earth with their partner.

Oh, and another thing…authors seem to think sexual exploration and that first time are an important part of NA and so they need to advertise if one half of the couple is a) promiscuous or b)a virgin. I’m not interested. Maybe if that story involves the tribulations and steps of marriage…

Just as it’s possible to write NA without sex, it’s possible to write a virgin without carving a flashing sign above them that screams LOOK HERE, I’VE NEVER HAD SEX. Also, the equivocation that being a virgin means innocence? Fallacy. Triangle is primarily a romance story, and, although I know Lucas and Lea have never had sex because of the morals of their religion, something which is a major theme in the novel, I’ve never considered Andrea. I don’t want to know, frankly. The fact changes very little about her relationships.

Being a virgin is not something which alters someone’s behaviour or integral personality.

Another question: can contemporary NA be more than romance? Please? It annoys me that ‘contemporary New Adult’ is automatically associated with sexy times romance or university, rather than using its themes – about exploration of the self as an individual when one is not under the rule of the parent.

As a new adult myself in the true sense of the word (19 and soon going into my 2nd year of uni), I am concerned about the way this category (not genre) is going. Recently, I’ve even reverted and worried about the validity of NA. It’s more than age, yes, but age is a big factor, and, with some of my protagonists being in their early twenties, it’s hard for me to wipe away the thought that I am writing NA, regardless of the genre or romance content.

On the other hand, every story should be about a character’s exploration of theirself, about coping through change, whether as a single unit or as a herd/group.


Heya, this is the first of series of scheduled posts for this week whilst I’m away in Dubai. I promise I’ll take loads of pictures and tell you about it later!


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