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Funny You Should Ask: What Is New Adult Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask is a humorous and handy column by literary agent Barbara Poelle. In this edition, she answers a reader’s question about the distinction between young adult fiction and new adult fiction.

Dear FYSA,

My critique partner keeps telling me that my young adult novel would better be classified as "new adult" because the protagonist is 18. How do you define new adult?

An Old Adult

Dear Adulting,

First, let me preface this answer by saying that I do not read—nor do I represent—NA fiction. That being said, fortunately I have colleagues at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency who do.

Let’s consult with Rachel Ekstrom, office-mate extraordinaire, who has sold multiple NA projects:

Me: “Hi, Rachel! Can you help define new adult for my next Funny You Should Ask column? Also, can I borrow your pink Kate Spade hat with the black bow on it?”

Rachel: “For me it’s really about the tone and the content—high heat level, sexier, steamier and edgier than your typical YA. Beautiful Addictions by Season Vining or Slammed by Colleen Hoover are two great examples.

“Also, no.”

Me: “Aww, man. But thanks for weighing in on NA!”

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Even without expertise in the arena, I can add that new adult is a term coined in recent years to define an intended audience between the ages of 18 and 30—which usually means a protagonist of the same demographic. The popular HBO show “Girls” is an excellent example of NA material. The plots are usually high drama, but with the kind of stakes that are heightened only for a small group of people. The setting(s) will be those frequented by the readership, and the sexual content will be taking place in more detail than in YA.

In the end, if you are unsure where your manuscript fits in, and reading a lot of YA to compare, try a few NA novels and see if you can recognize what your critique partner is referring to. WD

Ask Funny You Should Ask! Submit your questions on the writing life, publishing, or anything in between to with “Funny You Should Ask” in the subject line. Select questions (which may be edited for space or clarity) will be answered in future columns, and may appear on and in other WD publications.


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