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24 Apr 2013

U is for University

Recently the topic of a New Adult genre has been floating around a bit for quite a while.  The writers at NA alley created a whole blog dedicated to inspire NA writing and reading

I love the idea NA and one thing that made me supportive of the genre is university.  When I was a teen and slowly moving towards leaving home and living independently to further my studies I wish I could have had a few books focusing on a character moving to university.  I had no idea what to expect and thought most of my coming-of-life experiences had passed and I missed it completely because YA makes out like all your coming-of-age experiences are in high school.  But there were plenty of opportunities and even more at university. 

For some it is, for some it isn't.  But I think I really came into age when I went to university.  YA is good for first experiences but it's those times between 19 and 25 where most people discover who they really want to be, where they want to be, and who they want to commit to.  I know a lot of people who met their partner at uni.

I learnt to live by myself.  There were more chores to do, food shops to think about and do, budgets to live on, and learning to live with other people.  You were an adult who could start a relationship without dealing with curious parents for a while, who could go down to the local pub and have a pint with friends, vote, get to places yourself etc. You were creating your own rules to live by in your own, yet rented, homes.

And if uni isn't in a person's life they're still working towards finding out who they want to be.  In the UK teens can go from college into jobs and work their way up like that.  That's another coming-of-age experience.  Finding the career they want to do.  Teens can have dreams but I know from experience that a lot of of the jobs me and my friends all dreamt of doing didn't become the career most of us have today.  I knew wannabe surgeons, lawyers, and then there was me the wannabe journalist.  This changed to studying acting, being a freelance graphic designer, and other jobs completely different to their original dream.  I ended up going from: 'I would NEVER work in a primary school' to 'I love primary school'.  Seriously I never thought I would enjoy teaching and its completely pushed aside my dream to be a journalist.  In fact I really didn't like what I saw when I did a local newspaper placement at university.  It wasn't the job I thought it was.

So I'd love to see more NA.  More books where young adults are really starting to find themselves and going down a path that may or may not have been the one they wanted.  I think it's important for teens to be able to read about life after high school, to know what to expect, and read about stories that they could relate to as they take the next step into becoming independent adults. 

How do you feel about the NA genre?


  1. I feel like I need to be given a list of the best NA books out there because I just can't settle on an opinion. Sometimes I think it's great, other times I'm not sure I see the point. I read an article on The Guardian that referred to NA as "The Steamies" and whenever I see a NA title, all I see is an extension of YA romance and all its sub-genres. If there is a wealth of non-romantic NA sci-fi, I'd be all for it.

    1. I'll admit most of the NA books I've seen seem to be about steamy romance. But I think the market is starting out so I don't see why writers wouldn't start going for NA Horror, NA Fantasy or NA Sci-fi. I actually jotted down an idea for a NA Fantasy where a group of university students discovered a hidden fantasy world near their campus. I'd like to write some NA Horror in the future.

  2. You're right, Robin--there is a difference between the teenage years and the university years (whether or not you actually pursue higher education). The 13-18 year old is discovering who s/he is. The 18-25 year old is figuring out what s/he wants to be and what to do with the person s/he is. I'm generalizing, but I think that basic division holds true. As you point out, the teen still has to deal with life under authority (teachers, parents, guardians, etc.). The 18-25 year old is learning to take more responsibility, set their own rules, and so on.

    I think books with 18-25 year old MCs have always been around, but it's like YA. There have always been YA books, even before it was a recognized genre. I think the thing to beware of is falling into stereotypes, as often seems to happen with YA. Not all YA has to have romance, and neither does NA. Sure, that's an important aspect of the YA/NA experience... but it's also an important aspect of the post-NA experience. People tend to get romantically involved with each other. That's how we get more people... ;)

    YAs and NAs are going to deal with relationships differently... most of the time. I've known some NAs and post-NAs that still behave like they're in high school. But generally speaking... But romance is not the sum total of either the YA or the NA experience.

    All that said, I'm sure some of the books I've read would be considered NA, but I've not read something that was marketed as NA. I'm open to recommendations. :)

    1. It's been quite recent since the 18-25 age group has been given the title NA. I prefer that to properly calling it adult fiction. Do we really feel like adults during this age period? ;)

      Like I pointed out to Cole above, I have had a look at all the books on goodreads marked NA and most of them seem to be about steamy romance. A shame because I don't think the market deserves to be known like that. You can take all genres, horror, thriller, comedy etc and make it work in NA. The sinister roomate, the urban legend on campus... I'm going for very cliched plots here but it's just to show that NA can and needs to be more than steamier romance.

      Thinking back to my teen self I definitely would have liked to have seen a few contemporaries out that explored university or post-high school just so I had stories and characters to relate to. We all stepped in university blindly with not a lot of help from fiction or teachers.

  3. I like the distinction Collin made. I still wonder if it will be fully embraced, but it seems like a good idea to have that space for this age group.

    1. I would like to see a NA category being more recognised. Being fresh out of university I would, at the moment, like to write about characters more my age without stepping completely into adult fiction. Post-high school years are incredibly interesting, I think. :)