What is New Adult Fiction?

What is New Adult Fiction? Some have said New Adult (NA) straddles the line between high school (young adult or YA) and the adult world of work and family (adult literature) which is a great way to think about it. For many readers, there comes a point when they’re ready to dive into something a bit more mature—in content, voice, and perspective—but aren’t ready to jump from reading about teens to women already established in their lives (steady jobs, knowing exactly who they are, etc.).

NA is that in-between time for characters who are legally adults but still discovering their way to adulthood, untying from parents, heading off to college (or not), facing full-time work for the first time (or unable to find work), searching for love, and even starting families. It’s a time of trial and error, choices, and most importantly transformation. New adult is an extension of young adult fiction, dealing with many of the same issues of identity, exploration, and experimentation, but with a more concentrated path toward the breaking away from parental control and embracing (or defying) the imminent responsibility that goes with adulthood. It’s about new beginnings…and responsibilities. This in-between time can be messy and heartbreaking, fun and exciting, and shouldn’t be skipped over. New adult is about characters who are learning to fly, so to speak. Exploring new freedoms and discovering that being “grown-up” is kind of a lot of work.


  • Main character in the NA range (18-25). These are characters who have yet to delineate themselves enough to settle into adult circumstances (i.e. marriage, career, and starting families, which are the three markers of adulthood).
  • Journey of the protagonist revolves around self-discovery. Themes in NA fiction must be related to or focused on the main character exploring his/her identity, experimenting with life choices, and establishing his/her role in this new world.
  • The character’s independence drives the story. This consists of: a perspective focused on the “self”; the needs, wants, and desires of these new adults; their quest for individuality and freedom; and their growing self-determination.
  • Noteworthy romances. These relationships are less “first love” based, more intense, and more about sexual experimentation.
  • Relevant environments and situations for a new adult. Examples include: transitory or short-term living arrangements, part-time or temporary jobs, anxiety revolving around money and financial states, friendship circles that are peer-heavy and unsolidified.

This partial lecture came from the course Writing the New Adult Novel

In this course you will learn:

  • Key elements of a new adult novel
  • What separates new adult fiction from young adult and adult
  • Effective voice, perspective, and point of view techniques for the new adult category

Learn More About our Writing the New Adult Novel Workshop!

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