Perhaps your local bookstore has added a new shelf label or your favorite author has announced a new series under this mysterious category. In any case, you’ve found yourself wondering, what exactly does “new adult” mean, especially in terms of literature? New Adult is the next step up for those of us who love YA but have graduated into the next stage of our lives and want something that hits a little closer to home. Usually featuring protagonists aged 18–30, New Adult fiction engages with themes such as sexuality, developing independence, change, and embarking on a career. While Young Adult works are often set in high schools, New Adult is usually set in college or the early years beyond schooling.
Some of the first works to take on this label include Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, and Slammed by Colleen Hoover. The genre garnered criticism for basically being hyper-sexualized YA. While some of these books engaged with (specifically female) sexuality in a refreshingly frank way, others depicted unhealthy or even abusive relationships such as in (according to some reviewers) Beautiful Disaster listed above or the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. Many of the works emerging for this age range do fall solidly the domain of Romance. But for us nerds out there who prefer some magic or science with our love stories, I decided to make a list of some sci-fi/fantasy books that are considered New Adult.
(Disclaimer: I have not yet read most of the books mentioned in this post. I’m new to the genre, too!)
1. Vampires of Manhattan by Melissa de le Cruz – As a follow-up to her teen series Blue Bloods, de la Cruz revisits her characters as slightly older, more mature versions. The novel stars human-turned-vampire Oliver Hazard-Perry, head of the Blue Bloods Coven, who is striving to carve out a life for himself in the city when suddenly his lover turns up murdered and he’s the prime suspect. Readers who have already enjoyed the original series will best appreciate this book.
2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – This is the name of both the series and its first installment. Nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre finds herself dragged into the faerie realm after killing a creature of the forest. What ensues is a series of action and love plots. These books have been praised for positive portrayals of female pleasure and for featuring a female lead with the ability to “separate her self-worth from her sexual history.” Feyre engages in casual, unromantic sex and later leaves a committed relationship when it turns unhealthy, behaviors which are rarely exhibited in teen or adult romance.
3. Under Different Stars by Amy Bartol – I had to get some sci-fi on this list, and this first installment of Bartol’s Kricket series seemed like a good fit. Eighteen-year-old orphan Kricket spent her life dodging the foster care system yet yearning for a home. Now she is soon to learn that she’s not even of this planet. Two different alien guys are after her, whether for nefarious or romantic purposes is hard to say. She even travels to the home planet Ethar she never knew about. Reviews are super mixed on Goodreads, but it sounds intriguing to say the least.
4. The Host by Stephenie Meyer – This is one of those ones that is being retroactively called NA. Back then, we just called it Adult. But the main character is 21 years old (or the body she lives in is, anyway) so I guess it counts. Wanderer, a.k.a. Wanda is an alien parasite that has been implanted in the brain of Melanie Stryder, body-snatcher style. But Melanie is more than the passive host Wanda was expecting. With two minds in one brain, Wanda and Melanie must untwist their shared attraction to the handsome Jared and also find a way for their two peoples to coexist. Whatever you think of Twilight, I remember this book having a very different feel.
5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – This one isn’t sci-fi/fantasy but it’s undeniably about being a geek, plus Rainbow Rowell is an author we’ve covered on the site multiple times before. Cath and her twin Wren were uber fans of Simon Snow when they were younger and although Wren has moved on, Cath hasn’t. Now they’re off to college and Cath must navigate growing independence from her twin, worries about her empty-nester dad, cute boys, and her evolving relationship with her fandom. Can she still be into fan fiction and cosplay as an adult? Is there anyone on campus who won’t deride her for her passions? As half of DG’s resident twin set, I’m intrigued to see that inevitable stage of diverging lives represented in fiction, especially for a pair who went to the same college but chose to room separately, just as Julia and I did.
Will you be recommending any of these works to the geeky college kid or young professional in your life? Did I miss any great titles? What do you think of New Adult? Let me know in the comments below!