Literature uncategorized

The Emergence of New Adult Genre and its Growing Popularity

By Ruth Hoey

The New Adult (NA) genre is a newly popularized fiction genre, with the term ‘New Adult’ first coined in 2009. Despite being around for over a decade, it has only now seen a rapid growth in popularity after facing harsh criticisms since its emergence.

This genre is often cited to have arisen after the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. The novel began as a fanfiction for the Young Adult (YA) trilogy Twilight but soon caught fame and popularity as it’s risqué themes appealed to the slightly older fans of the YA genre. 

According to a 2012 study, 55% of buyers of YA fiction books were older than the 12-17 target age category. Publishers discovered that they could develop a new genre, taking YA style fiction but dealing with deeper and darker issues, specifically with an 18-25 age category in mind. Thus, New Adult fiction was born.

So why is the genre only seeing an increase in popularity now? One reason was the claim that this genre was nothing more than a marketing strategy. Many saw the genre as a way for publishers to make more money doing the same thing as before, claiming it was the same as YA.

However, the biggest reason dates back to how the genre emerged. Many people, readers and critics alike, came to the conclusion that the New Adult genre was just YA fiction with explicit sex, building on the argument that it is nothing but a marketing strategy. The fame of Fifty Shades of Grey rather than boosting this new genre, reduced it down to “YA erotica”. 

Although the genre did first appear with the introduction of sexier themes to YA fiction, it can no longer be confined to this. NA covers topics such as first jobs, financial independence, living away from home. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell encapsulates the New Adult genre’s focus of moving to college and navigating all the drinking and partying which accompanies it. Gary Forman’s Just One Trilogy follows the story of a couple’s one-night stand and their individual lives after her; leaving home, going to college and him; searching for her around the world. This swoon worthy tale encapsulates the coming-of-age and navigating adulthood with NA fiction offers. 

NA also addresses mature themes such as identity, drug abuse and suicide which are not often broached in the YA genre due to the younger readership. Richelle Mead follows up on her YA series Vampire Academy with the mature NA series Bloodlines. This series combines the fantasy settings all too familiar with the YA genre with mature topics and themes such as drug abuse, sex and even the dark setting of a “re-education centre”.

If you’re into historical fiction, Code Name: Verity by Elizabeth Wein combines these mature themes with the past, dealing with the World War II era following the life of a spy in her early twenties.

This genre brings together the coming-of-age drama of young adult fiction with the real-life issues facing young people stepping into adult life. I see New Adult as a vital genre for readers today. The transition into adulthood is tumultuous in real life. It needs to be reflected in novels. The NA genre has the potential to facilitate new adults in their transition into adult life, giving them the capacity to deal with the issues they face through a resonance with the NA protagonists.

So, whilst the New Adult fiction genre has faced many obstacles and criticism, it continues to grow in prominence and popularity as it brings with it an insight into the life experiences of new adults, offering the comfort of knowing that they aren’t alone.