YA or NA?

Recently I’ve been asked about what I like to write and if I’m writing a young adult book. These questions made me realize that I don’t really know what the heck I’m writing. I mostly read YA fantasy, and my characters, aside from the ageless paranormal beings, tend to be in their late teens and early twenties. I figured, maybe I am writing young adult, but there was still a disconnect in my mind between the stories I write and the YA I’ve read. Then I remembered the New Adult genre. I’ve only read one book that’s considered New Adult, and I absolutely hated it, and this thought didn’t do much to answer my own questions. So I did what anyone living in the 21st century would do and turned to Google to find out the differences between YA and NA. Here is the synthesis of my findings:

1) The audience

We know anyone can read anything they like, but from a marketing perspective, YA is geared towards teens, and NA is geared towards ages 18-25. This pairs well with that in-between stage that goes with your mid-twenties. You know you’re not a kid anymore, but you don’t entirely feel like an adult, so it’s cool there’s a genre that reflects that.

2) The characters’ places in life

The characters should be old enough to be out of high school and usually living on their own. They have a good, or at least better, sense of who they are, and their main struggle is finding their place in the world. They tend to think about the future rather than the present. This makes sense, as high school is like its own little bubble where everything seems like life or death. Having characters past this age allows you to let them make choices that might have higher stakes and shape their lives in more impactful ways.

3) Romance and sex

My biggest beef with NA is that, according to everything I’ve read about it, it must include romance and sex. While these can also be elements included in YA, the big difference here is that NA is allowed to have more explicit sex scenes which focus more on the physical aspects of romantic relationships. This is all fine and dandy if you’re into that, but what if you’re not? Or what if your characters aren’t? If my protagonist is, for example, a 24-year-old running their own bakery in a new city, but they’re not interested in getting into a relationship, would that not be considered NA? I’ve seen comments stating that getting into a serious relationship, or having the freedom and opportunity for more sexual encounters is pivotal to NA because those are the experiences real people that age are having. Quite a broad statement which is absolutely not true for everyone.

After all this research, I’m still not really sure if I’m writing YA, NA, or a combination of both, or neither. Not every story will fit perfectly into a genre mold, and that’s OK. Getting over my initial distaste for the genre and reading more NA might help me figure things out. If you’ve read any NA books you think I should check out, please let me know!