NA not YA

Recently, one of the hot topics in children’s fiction has been the emergence of the “New Adult” (NA) genre.

It is an area that has been bubbling under the surface for a while, but is now starting to find a louder voice, thanks perhaps in part to the growing popularity of e-books and the runaway successes of books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Beautiful Disaster (which may not be NA titles, but have definitely carved a space for the genre).

Over the last couple of months our inboxes in the editorial team at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books have been inundated with NA submissions, and last week we announced the acquisition of nine titles from three brilliant authors who have already blazed a trail for the genre via self-publication and whom we want to break out to a broader audience.

So, what exactly is NA and why is it different from YA? My feeling is that the line between the two areas is blurred as both genres deal with similar issues and characters. Like YA fiction, NA is all about self-discovery—in terms of who you are as a person, as well as how you fit in to the wider world. Both genres focus on the time in your life when the world seems full of opportunities, which is liberating and terrifying at the same time, as well as (broadly speaking) the moment when you are still at the centre of your universe, without full-time work, children or other “adult” issues to contend with.

The key point where the two areas strike their own paths is the age of the central protagonists. In NA characters tend to range from 18 to 25, pushing beyond the teen experience to bridge the gap between adulthood and childhood and opening up a whole new world to writers. Television has been filling this area for a while now, with programmes like "Hollyoaks", "Gossip Girl" and "Skins" all speaking to older-teens and twenty-somethings by showing characters just like them.

I can’t write about NA books without mentioning the fact that the steamy relationships between the central characters is one of the defining characteristics of the genre. But, let’s be honest, teenagers are having sex, so books in this area have to show older teen relationships in a truthful way. Besides, alongside these sexy subplots—and the plethora of hot boys to choose from!—NA novels are tackling subjects like family issues, self-awakening and acceptance, meaning even though the NA genre is focused in the romance area at the moment, there will no doubt be room to widen the scope in terms of content once NA is more established.

But, NA is also about creating novels you can’t put down, with sexy, fun, engaging characters that are far-reaching in terms of appeal (something that’s been proved by the different people in the S&S offices who have asked me for the manuscripts of the NA novels we’re publishing…). After all, crossover books are not a new phenomenon; Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are all examples of just how wide a readership books can have.

So, with the expansion and popularity of YA books, and an obvious market for readers looking for books that represent their lives in the same way that TV shows do, books in this space are long overdue. NA titles tap into this under-published area, appealing to an older-teen/early-twenties market that are looking for characters like them, dealing with issues they can relate to.

It’s always exciting when a new genre comes on the scene, and we think each of our NA titles has something different to offer, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how readers respond to them. And, with lots of NA titles due to publish next year, I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on what 2013 has in store for this new genre.