The Difference Between Young Adult and New Adult…and Why It’s Important

Posted January 22, 2018 by Lillian in Features / 5 Comments

In the last couple of years, a new genre has started to take root, and in the last year I’ve noticed that it is really becoming popular: New Adult. This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed this. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago. What is New Adult? I defined it as a subgenre involving characters aged 16-30, and I think that is fairly accurate. New Adult typically involves characters that are entering college or have just finished college and are dealing with adult issues such as committed relationships, bills, finding a house/job, etc. BUT typically this is also defined by just the age of the characters and the intimacy in the relationships. This intimacy is what leads me to the discussion (really rant) today.

I read a lot of both New Adult and Young Adult. As New Adult is still a relatively new subgenre, it is still finding its niche in book stores and on websites. However I’ve noticed it crossing over into Young Adult and I’m sorry but NO. Just NO!!! Let me give you an example without naming the book: a popular young adult fantasy series kicked this off in my opinion with not just one graphic sex scene but also an oral sex scene in the middle of the book. Now I personally didn’t read this book til late last year, but it came out towards the end of 2016 and I noticed that it became the trend for the protagonist to lose their virginity in the YA fiction.

Now before you call me a prude (but seriously I am, I own that title), hear me out. Sex in YA has always been there. Usually it’s implied in a fade to black setting. However in the last year, these fade to black scenes have become actual scenes that talk about the intimacy of sex in graphic detail. For example:

His tongue flicked her nipple, and her head tipped back, her fingers digging into his shoulders, urging him to take more, take harder.

And that is not even the worst of it. This particular quote comes from a scene that lasts nine pages and it isn’t the worst of them. It’s detailed and graphic and this book was purchased in the YA section of my local bookstore (and that is still where it is sold).

I’m not naive. I know teens have sex, but I don’t feel it is appropriate for it to be in their books, especially to such detail that a 32 year old married woman blushes. Y’all that’s inappropriate to the extreme. Young Adult in my opinion should be relatively a clean read. Why? Because YA is marketed for ages 12-18. Would you want your 12 year old reading the scene I just quoted? I don’t think so!

The book I quoted above I gave only 3 stars in my rating because the entire series to this point was marketed as YA and the sex threw me off. If it was a New Adult or even Adult fiction, I wouldn’t have questioned it and been able to enjoy the book more. However the thought in my mind was what about the kids/teens that have been reading and devouring this series as I have? How will this affect them? Even if the sex is consensual, I don’t find it appropriate in YA simply because YA includes that younger teen, the 12 and 13 year olds who have not been exposed to it yet.

So here is where I speak to the authors and publishers of these books. It is time to bring the New Adult genre to light, to market it in such a way that young readers do not get their hands on books like the one quoted. It’s time to push bookstores and chains like Amazon to create the genre on their sites and separate these books from general YA. Put yourselves in the shoes of the parent of these teens: Would you let your 12 or 14 year old read a sex scene? Not a fade to black but a graphically detailed scene that tells way more than even this adult wants to know.

Your turn! I want to hear your thoughts on this. Am I overreacting? Is it ok for sex to be in YA? Should the New Adult and YA genres be clearly defined and separated at retail? Take the poll below and let me know your thoughts in the comment section!


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5 responses to “The Difference Between Young Adult and New Adult…and Why It’s Important

  1. I know exactly which book you are talking about. When that series started out I was excited to have a fantasy book I could listen to with my oldest, who is 13. But I wanted to listen before so I knew what to expect. I’m glad I did that because there’s no way I would let him read it until he’s older.

    I know sex happens, but I don’t think it needs to be that detailed because YA also goes to those 12 and 13 year olds, too.
    Katrina @ Bookish Things recently posted…Review: Crazy Love by Kendra C. HighleyMy Profile

  2. As a high school librarian, I agree with you to a point. I feel like a book that is just romance, and the sex is just part of that, well that is a bit too much for a YA book. But if it is part of a story, and it isn’t completely graphic, or go on for as long as the book you mentioned above, then I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve noticed the After series by Anna Todd is put in the YA section at Half-Price Books, but it is a romance for sure. New Adult, yes, but the sex in it is way above what I’d want to categorize it for YA. Good post for sure!
    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted…Sunday Post #88 and Stacking the Shelves January 21st, 2017My Profile

  3. Oh yes – I fully agree with you! I put my space opera adventure as a New Adult read as my protagonist is 19 and deals with issues that won’t necessarily affect the younger teens who are reading YA. But I have been rather startled to read some books categorised as a YA when I wouldn’t be at all happy for my 13-year-old granddaughter to read them. And this appears to spreading… So thank you for drawing attention to it.

  4. I agree with you. YA’s focus – as I was taught in my adolescent literature class – is about coming of age. There are two specific terms for the different types of coming of age stories. Sex is not included. In my opinion, that is definitely a NA topic.

  5. Yup, I agree. YA encompasses everything from 12 yr olds (or younger!) to 18 yr olds, and heck even us adults are reading em, but for those younger readers it’s totally inappropriate, as far as I’m concerned. And if an author is putting graphic sex in a YA book I’d frankly question their judgment! It’s ridiculous.
    Greg recently posted…Sunday Post #230My Profile

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