What’s the difference between YA and NA (New Adult)?

Depends on who you talk to. For some agents and editors, NA specifically means sexytimes, and NA is therefore shelved with women’s fiction. For other agents and editors, NA may have adult themes and older protagonists, but it doesn’t have to have adult sexual content.

With so many adult readers reading YA, it was inevitable that novels aimed at the 18-25 year old bracket would make it onto the shelves. I myself believe that it directly comes out of the fanfic and slash fandom communities. I think NA can be a fantastic addition to books for adult readers. Some YA is middle grade and younger, and while it’s great stuff, it doesn’t have the sophistication (perhaps) that can be enjoyed by older readers. Also, many 16 year olds may not want to be seen reading stuff for younger kids.

Ace fantasy book Red Gold BridgeBut does that mean that YA for older (say 16-18 year olds) is going to give way? Will there be a market for books for older teens that explores adult themes but doesn’t necessarily include adult content? Are we narrowbanding the genre and constricting it so much that we lose some of the upper-age group for this genre?

In my own books, the Gordath Wood series, they are definitely not YA, though the character of Kate Mossland is just barely 16 in the first book, and is only 17 by the third — and by then she has not only grown up, she has changed the very course of the history of her adopted country, and is embarking on a relationship with an older man. Although there is frank talk of sexuality, especially birth control, there is very little sexual content.

crow-gods-girl-front-smcrowYA or NA? I’m not sure.

What do you think of the new NA genre?


J. Kathleen Cheney · July 3, 2013 at 7:31 am

I often wonder the same about some of my work. The next series we’ll pitch involves a 16/17-year-old heroine….yet I have no idea if it’s gonna be adult or ‘new adult’.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Patrice Sarath · July 3, 2013 at 7:55 am

It was very interesting at the WLT conference that agents really had a difference of opinion. One specifically stated that NA doesn’t mean sex, and another countered that it does, and it’s fiction that should be shelved among women’s fiction (which is a whole nother topic).

You’re right — we’ll see where it goes. Things can be adult without being about sex.

J. Kathleen Cheney · July 3, 2013 at 8:01 am

And like my first series, this one doesn’t get to the sex until book two. And given my POV character, it’s not going to be ‘shown’. So it will be a challenege…

Patrice Sarath · July 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

I do feel the tide is turning and readers are looking for good overall stories, not necessarily sex scenes.

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