Will The “New Adult” Genre Be The Next Sexy Book Trend?

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“New adult” fiction may be heating up a bookstore near you. | Source: Shutterstock

I am a self-proclaimed book nerd. Even though I barely have any space in my NYC apartment, I do have a bookshelf packed with old favorites. I read basically anything, but I most often read YA fiction and typical “adult” fiction. Apparently though, there’s a new genre coming to squeeze its way in between those two that it looks like I may need to make room for: “new adult” fiction.

I read this pretty interesting article on Today.com all about the rise of “new adult” fiction. So what is it exactly? “New adult” refers to books that focuses on characters of the college and post-grad age range from 18-24 years old. Obviously in that time of your life, you go through a lot of changes and experiences. The thing though that these books really explore? The sex.

Let me start by saying that I am all for authors writing about whatever they want. I love reading books off the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books list, and most of you have probably read some too. Writers should write about topics that make people (even me sometimes) uncomfortable, because that’s what makes you think.

Freedom of speech is super important, and I also think there is value in writing about real-life situations, and sex is definitely one of those topics. It’s not something to be embarrassed about, and I think having characters that show that can be really important. It’s promising if publishers want to create content older teens can really relate to.

I guess though while reading this article (especially with references to 50 Shades of Grey being mentioned by multiple interviewees), the one thing that just has me a little nervous about the genre is it seems things could end up being more interested in selling copies rather than rewarding stories. For example, one of things that kind of caught me off-guard was the idea that one publisher chose to publish a book and then an “uncensored” version.

Here’s my confusion with that: Are the books just being released with this added sexual stuff because they think it is a better move selling-wise? That’s just kind of annoying. Or, is it because the characters’ sexual experiences are really important to the story and characters’ journeys? If the answer to that question is “yes” (and if so, great!), then I guess I don’t get why you wouldn’t you just insist on selling it from the get-go with those scenes included.

A more open attitude in the publishing world in terms of content is definitely something to applaud. I’m totally all for these books to explore sexuality in more detail because it is definitely a topic that weighs on the minds of the 18-24 year old set. It’s certainly not wrong to write about or read about.

If there’s a great “new adult” story centered around sex, then awesome! There’s also a whole host of other topics that I think would make for really interesting “new adult” fiction stories as well because the ages of 18-24 can be a really tumultuous time for a bunch of reasons. Of course, you can certainly have sex and also other coming-of-age topics all in one book! At the same time, I also don’t think “new adult” authors would always need to then wedge a sex scene in there somewhere just to get people to appreciate this genre that I think has a lot of awesome potential and openness.

Have you heard of the “new adult” genre? What types of stories would you hope “new adult” fiction authors would tell? Tell us in the comments!

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  • C. Casey Gardiner

    I’ve been hearing this term pop up in different discussions lately, but I wasn’t sure what it was. “New Adult” sound rife with potential, but it could easily become another kitsch-catcher. Forgive me for betraying my kind, but more titillating entertainment is not what this culture needs, and it’s a poor substitute for originality.

    But, just as there’s people out there who can’t tell the difference between love and sex (Issac Hayes, I’m looking at you), there will certainly be publishers who will jump for the easy buck. My only hope is that they don’t taint this frontier too much before it has a chance to blossom into something amazing– a new voice for a desperate, regressing “kidult” generation.

    My own book was going to be a “new adult” sort of thing, before I chopped it in half and ended it in high school, thereby making it a “YA contemporary fantasy” but the tone and language is still more mature than most YA books, so maybe it could still be labeled as “new adult”. I suppose these limits will find themselves, as the rules for the genre are eventually agreed upon.

  • KT

    The thing is, which is kind of what you said in the article, why do ALL new adult books have to be about sex? Believe it or not, we’re not all sex-obsessed. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have books about sex, I’m just saying there should be more issues involved, otherwise this genre is not “new adult” it’s “sexy time.” A book that I really enjoy, which I think would fall under “new adult” and has no sex in it (even though it’s considered just an adult book) would be The Host. It focus on 21 year old Melanie. Which is just the right age for new adult. Why is that book is considered an “adult” book and not a “new adult” book? I don’t know. Maybe “new adult” wasn’t around when the Host came out (2008). But if the reason it’s not labeled “new adult” is because there’s no sex in it, then…so far, I’m disappointed in this genre. I don’t like people getting the impression that the “new adult” age group only wants to read about sex. If sex is part of the story for SOME books, that’s perfectly ok, and real. But if the whole story is only sex, and has a weak plot with poor characters..no..just no. Also, some new adult books don’t need sex at all. Some new adult books should be about other stuff!

  • Jillian

    I’m 19 years old and a freshman in college, and a proud book nerd. I read both YA and adult books, and I think a “new adult” genre would be very interesting.

  • LittleRedWolfGirl

    I would love this! I’m 22, but read more YA than not (with some exceptions – I’m so addicted to George R. R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series), because I find that most adult fiction books don’t have as much to offer. For the non-fantasy/sci-fi books, I can’t really relate to the characters as well, because they’re usually quite a bit older than me and have experienced a lot of things I haven’t. Lately, I’ve been on the hunt for great LGBT YA fiction, but sadly, that genre is rather limited. Still, most YA books don’t have main characters older than 18, and while I’ve been through that stage of life, I am past it. I love the idea of having a genre for my age range, and have no problem with sex scenes. However, if most of these end up being just written porn, I’m gonna lose interest real fast. I’m hoping for some really great stories in a range of genres (realistic, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal), but with characters who are a bit older. Hopefully, this new approach will be a big success, and we’ll see some great stories!

  • Emily

    That sounds interesting. I have three bookshelves crammed with YA fiction. I am SUCH a book nerd! I am in the age group 18-24 (I’m 20, turning 21 in a few months) and I think it would cool to have a whole new genre.