What is YA?
This one is pretty easy for most of us: YA is Young Adult fiction. These are books that primarily target a demographic in their teens. Due to Middle Grade and NA, YA age ranges can vary by genre and author. Most YA books are meant to appeal to the ages 13-18, though younger and older readers are common. YA presents a more mature world for teens to read, one where topics such as sex and violence can be introduced without the cushioning they receive in MG and younger aged books. YA received a popularity boom in the past twenty years with releases such as The Twilight Saga bringing attention to YA books that have a wider audience.
What is NA?
NA stands for New Adult, and is considered a developing genre. NA targets the age range of 18-30 and generally depicts coming of age stories, college settings, and stories about people in their twenties. A lot of NA books get either lumped into YA or general adult fiction due to the ages of their protagonists, but the category can be identified through a few key staples. The most prominent of those is sex and sexuality. YA has to walk a fine line, wherein many books feature some characters that do have or desire to have sex but may not do so until certain milestones are reached. This is in part due to the concerns parents may have about younger teens reading books featuring a lot of sex. Alcohol and drug use are also more common in NA stories than YA. Discussions of mental health issues tend to be more serious in NA, and the settings tend to focus on college, big cities, and workplaces where younger generations are more common.
But is NA really a thing?
According to some publishers, no it’s not. There are professionals in the publishing industry that find NA to be a useful age range to apply to books, and there are absolutely authors and readers (myself included) who find the difference between YA and NA significant enough to warrant different labels. However, there are also publishers, authors, and readers who believe NA is an unnecessary break from adult fiction and from YA. Since a lot of the topics covered in NA can be found in adult and YA as well, some feel it just further isolates writers by creating a new niche category in publishing. I am always open to hearing more about that side of the debate, but as of yet I have not been convinced that differentiating between YA and NA is actively hurting writers in their careers, thus I find NA a useful tool. As I’ve said many times on this blog, YA characters tend to irk me. When a book about college age characters is pitched as YA I am significantly less likely to read it than if it’s pitched as NA, because I find older characters written from the YA perspective are also annoying. It’s a classification that for me can make a lot of difference in what I pick up to read.
Final Thoughts (and some examples)
For myself, as a writer and a reader, I find the NA distinction to be helpful. I both prefer to read in the NA age range, and prefer to write for an audience within it. I don’t think that having the age distinction takes away from YA, nor does it negate the really awesome books that are YA. It simply provides a little more guidance for those that find themselves not as invested in YA. Some examples of books that come to mind that I think fit NA:
- The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
- This book was shelved as YA when I found it in the bookstore, and I largely see it referred to as YA. But despite the age of the characters (who are teenagers) I felt that a certain maturity was given to them indicative of the times they lived in and the trauma they lived through. Mentally and emotionally, they seemed closer to young adults than teenagers, and the content of the story really matched that. Sex and violence in particular felt more adult than YA, but not overtly so.
- One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
- The characters in this book are in their early to mid-twenties, and the setting is New York City–specifically in an apartment, a subway, and a diner for the most part. Though characters attend school, they don’t spend a lot of time on the idea of school as it’s not the focus of their primary lives. This differs from a lot of YA where life heavily focuses on school and what happens there (both high school and college) both for settings and plots.
Are you a NA reader as well? Do you disagree with the differentiation between NA and YA? Tell me either way down in the comments!