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As New Adult novels have become more popular and successful over time, I’ve seen a lot of talk, both interesting and infuriating about the emerging category.
The stereotype, which I’m sure most of you have seen, is that New Adult novels are Young Adult novels with explicit sex.
It’s not hard to see where the misconception comes from. The most popular New Adult novels, the ones that really brought attention to the category, are largely Contemporary Romance novels in which their characters partake in steamy scenes. Sex, explicit or not, happens in New Adult and is completely acceptable.
The issue that people seem to be getting confused on, however, is that sex is somehow a requirement for a novel to be categorized as New Adult. This, to me, is mindblowingly erroneous. New Adult novels are about a lot of things: independence, new responsibilities, being away from home for the first time, serious relationships, starting a family, grappling with the question of what it truly means to be an adult and so much more. Yes, some of them have sexy scenes. But New Adult is so much more than the sex.
The point of New Adult novels was and never will be the sex. There's a genre for that already, and it doesn't encompass the entire category of New Adult.
To infer that sex is somehow a requirement of New Adult novels is like saying that an Adult thriller that doesn’t have sex isn’t actually intended for the Adult audience at all, or like saying that a Young Adult novel without dark themes isn’t Young Adult.
But don’t take my word for it.
Last week, literary agent Suzie Townsend from New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. (who, as an agency, collectively represent awesome books like Divergent, False Memory, Losing It and Shadow & Bone) interviewed several agents and editors about their opinions of New Adult and what New Adult meant to them. Here are some answers I found particularly telling:
“‘OMG. I'm an adult. Now what?’ in any genre. Like YA, it concerns a lot of first-time issues and struggles, but they're what most people face in/after college rather than in high school. It's a different focus and a different mindset. Repeat after me: NA is not sexed-up YA.”—Gordon Warnock, Foreword Literary
“I'm seeing way too many NA submissions that are simply YA with sex. That's not NA and that's not what I'm looking to add to my list. I want to see more novels about the experience of being NA. Unsure what this is? See my definition in GIFs here.” —
Kathleen Ortiz, New Leaf Literary
For those who want to learn more about how the industry views New Adult, I definitely recommend reading through the whole post.
The way I see it, New Adult novels, like Adult novels, can have sex in all it’s varying literary degrees—from explicit to “fade-to-black” scenes. But sex doesn’t determine whether or not a book fits into the category any more than it determines whether or not a book may be sold as an Adult novel.
So that’s my opinion, but what do you think? Is sex a requirement for New Adult novels? Why or why not?
Is sex required for a book to be considered NA? Here's why one writer says no. (Click to tweet)
Do you think sex is a requirement for New Adult novels? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)