I probably should open this post with a warning or a “Hey this is my opinion so take it as you will, *insert shrug or giggle to dumb-down what I have to say*”. But I’m not going to do that. Because this is something I wish I could scream from the mountain tops and drill into the head of everyone, everywhere… whether they write books or not.
Young Adult and New Adult are NOT GENRES. THEY ARE NOT. No. They aren’t. Nononononononononono.
They are categories. Just like Middle Grade, or Adult, or Picture Books, or Board Books, or Text Books… They are simply a KIND of book.
They are large umbrella categories that house all sorts of genres. Literary, speculative, contemporary, romance, Dino love, etc and whatever.
Young Adult Romance is not a genre. Young Adult is the category, romance is the genre.
New Adult Science Fiction Steampunk Romance isn’t a genre. New Adult is the category. Science Fiction is the genre, and steampunk is the sub-genre, romance is the other sub-genre.
This is my only huge, massive issue with the writing world. All the other things that happen in this industry I can handle, or shake off, or chalk up to a difference of opinion, but THIS is my thing. I don’t believe this is an opinion. I believe this is fact.
It’s not hard to tell if a book is YA or NA, but for some reason readers and writers alike struggle with it. Shelving NA books under YA and vice versa because of content instead of character.
Bringing me to point number two: CONTENT does NOT dictate category. Ever.
Picture this: We have a book in one hand about a sixteen year old girl who is the councellor of her summer bible camp. No swears. Hand holding only. Super sticky sweet. It’s YA.
We have a book in the other hand about a sixteen year old girl who is addicted to meth and sells her body to older men to score her next hit. Vulgar, graphic, and very very dark. Gritty. It’s YA.
Why are both books YA? Because the character is sixteen.
Now we have two different books. One is about a twenty two year old girl who’s about to graduate college from a culinary program. She’s a virgin. She’s naive and innocent, bordering on immature. No swearing. Mild content. Super sticky sweet. It’s NA.
The other is about a twenty two year old girl who is an alien-fighting badass, avenging the death of her true love by seducing the commander of the enemy army. Sex, violence, language. Dark and Gritty. It’s NA.
Why are both books NA? Because the character is twenty two.
Categories are actually quite simple. Or are they?
Then what happens if the character STARTS the story at age sixteen and ENDS the story at the age twenty two?
Then you have a YA/NA crossover. It doesn’t matter AT ALL what the content of the book is. Swearing/no swearing, sex/no sex, violence/no violence. It doesn’t matter.
What about Upper YA and Lower YA? That’s a thing, isn’t it?
Upper YA is 17-18, almost NA but not quite crossover. Lower YA is 13-14, almost Middle Grade but not quite crossover. These are still categories based on ages, not content, although Upper YA does tend to have more mature themes, and Lower YA does tend to be quite tame but it’s still based on age.
This is a belief that I hold rather close and rather forcefully (as you can probably tell, ;) ). I don’t like to give too much advice about how to write because it’s so subjective and so individual (and really? What the heck do I know?) but this is something I think ALL authors/readers need to understand. When it comes to book categories is not about content, it’s about character.
And the terms Young Adult and New Adult belong ONLY in the first line. The Category.