Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Adult--- What in the world is it and can Christians write it?

Have you heard of the "New Adult" genre?

It's a newish genre that is being bantered around lately and stirring a wide range of opinions on the matter.

I did lots of searches this past week on the New Adult genre and came up with quite a few different definitions.

A common perception is:

"New Adult is just YA with sex scenes added in."

If that is the case, it leaves those of us who write fiction from a Christian world view in a bit of a conundrum. Can we adequately write "New Adult" fiction if the key difference is graphic sex scenes that are usually missing from our novels?

My answer: YES YES YES!!!!

OF COURSE we can.

The thing is, I don't agree with the definition of New Adult being "YA + SEX." And many authors who write "new adult" fiction agree that it is an unfair over-generalization.

New Adult is more about creating fiction that addresses the lives/issues/struggles of those who have left teenagerdom behind and entered the world of adulthood--ages 18-26ish. College, first real jobs, first true loves, and yes, even figuring out how sex plays a roll in their adult life.

I have this secret for you...shhhhh... don't tell anyone...

(I know... you're shocked... You TOTALLY thought the whole stork thing, didn't you...)

And Christian "new" adults, especially in our current hypersexualized society, have a struggle in front of them went it comes with dealing with this issue. Ignoring sex and the desire/temptation thereof does no one any good.

Writing "New adult" fiction from a Christian worldview has the ability to SHOW not TELL... show the struggles--the failures--the consequences. There are a lot of great non-fiction books out there for Christian adults on the topic of sex, both for singles and married couples. But in story form? Not-so-much.

And as mentioned, the new adult genre is really NOT all about sex. There are a lot of things new adults have to tackle. Drugs/alcohol/integrity at a job/bullying--while these aren't narrowed only to new adults, they are big topics for that age group, and we should not be afraid to throw the realistic life issues at our characters and see how they handle them. We have fascinating concepts we can weave in there too. Things like God's GRACE and MERCY and REDEMPTION. Even forgiveness-- both of others, and learning to forgive ourselves.

Discussion: What are your thoughts on this new "genre"? Have you ready any books from a Christian perspective that would fit? Do you think it is possible to tackle tough issues that new adults are facing in fiction without crossing "CBA" lines?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance (which just so happens to feature a 20-year-old heroine, GO FIGURE!) She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner.


Unknown said...

Krista, I'm so glad you tackled this. I write contemporary new adult fiction. My novels are written from a Christian worldview, but in a way that would be marketable as mainstream fiction. In some ways, I feel at a disadvantage (1) for choosing this "newish" genre to begin with and (2) for purposely approaching issues that young adults face everyday, but from somewhat of a counter-cultural paradigm.

But on the other hand, I'm excited to be a voice of encouragement. My books speak to real issues that young adults (& really, all of us) wrestle with. Questions of self-esteem, identity, premarital sex, wondering if your life has purpose, wanting desperately to believe you have value and are worth waiting for.

So, I think this genre has a phenomenal opportunity to impact culture. And I couldn't be more inspired to continue writing in it.

Krista Phillips said...


I totally agree-- it's a hard "sell" if you will because of the unique positioning at time, but I think the rise of new adult in the general market is going to be overall helpful.

For me, I don't write 100% NA. My first book featured a 20-something and it was the book of my heart and I wrote it, and it just so happens that it fits nicely in the age-group and true definition of new adult. But I've written others (not-yet-published) with older characters too.

I think it's important to mention that new adult, in my opinion, is not just for new adults. I think it will appeal more to a younger audience, but a lot of my readers are in their 30's and 40's or older. The definition is more in the age group of the characters, not always the audience.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I like the idea and wonder if it is a trend or here to stay. I think we need more "messy" fiction that meets people where they are for unbelievers/new Christians. Then to be honest I feel like certain authors do tackle these issues but it is more about the controversy of it. I like books that have "messy" characters (aren't we all in some ways) and doesn't leave them where they are. Another issue I have rarely seen dealt with is homosexuality. I would like to see this dealt with in a grace-filled way but one that points back to the Bible. There, I said it.

In studying the trends in CF, I see that we are still very slow to embrace change as a genre (in general). And by change, I don't mean we should change our Biblical values at all, but be open to some more new mediums and styles. And I see it gradually happening, but I think we are still behind. OK, now I wrote a book for you. Great post, Krista. Thanks for keeping us informed about this trend.

Krista Phillips said...

Julie, agreed. I think it is just the nature of the business for CBA that we have to dip our toes in the water a little bit and see how OUR audience is going to take it.

Personally, I think of it less as a trend and more of a market, if that makes sense. They've always been written, but it was just hard to place them in bookstores and such. The reason I say this is because it's less about a style of writing (or 'one subject' like vampires/amish/time-period fiction) and more about an age group. While it may increase and decrease in popularity, I don't think it'll go away completely, but then again, all any of us can do is take an educated guess, right?

To your point of tackling tough issues, I TOTALLY AGREE. It's a super hard line--I've seen tough issues handled in NOT so great of ways, but then again, some of those issues inherently divide the church instead of bring us closer to God. So the challenge is tackling these issues in a real way that is more than just "issue" fiction and serves a purpose other than just division. Does that make sense?? I'm not even sure it does to me, ha ha ha!

Angie Dicken said...

I think we definitely need more real issues presented in our is not all pretty and black and white decisions about what a Christian lifestyle looks like. However, I do not want to read graphic scenes...that is why I choose inspirational fiction over secular. Honestly, I have read many wonderful secular books, but when I get to those scenes, I just don't feel right reading on. There's something to be said for guarding your heart and what you put into it. Yes, I like romance, but please leave the bedroom door closed. I would rather not have those images in my head! But I may be more conservative than most...I don't watch those kinds of movies either.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Krista, such good points you bring up. I don't think I've read any NA novels, mostly because I don't know anyone who writes them.

I love the idea of tackling the issues people in the 18-26 bracket face with reality but with hope infused in the story line as well.

For what it's worth, I think (don't quote me) that the ladies over at Books and Such did a post on this topic within the last few months. It sounds like something people/agents/(publishers?) are open to if it's written well.

Thanks for this thought food. :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

My first manuscript is Christian New Adult, but when pitching it at ACFW this year, the general consensus is that the name probably wouldn't catch on in the CBA world because of its strong ties to sex. (Silly 50 Shades of Gray!)

Regardless, I definitely see a huge need for that age group to have a quality Christian alternative. As far as I know, the only author with that "brand" is Erynn Mangum. All of her characters are in the New Adult age group and struggling to figure out their future. Yet her work is labeled as Young Adult, go figure!

Ashley Clark said...

I REALLY hope New Adult takes off in CBA because it's something I definitely would be interested in writing. Also, spending so much time with college students makes me realize how how very needed this genre is in CBA. Thanks for writing about it today, Krista! Enjoyed reading what you'd found! :)

Krista Phillips said...

Angie, I TOTALLY agree--I guess that's my point. I think we can address the issues without scenes that glorifies (or sensationalizes) sin-- or crosses a line--or bedroom door--that needs to remain closed.

Krista Phillips said...

Jeanne--- yes you do! ME! HA!

Seriously, sandwich wasn't marketed as a NA, partially because I had no clue the genre existed at the time, and had written it purely as a romance. But my heroine is 20 and has a pretty rough past. So yeah, they are out there, but currently in the Christian market, are "mixed in."

Krista Phillips said...


That darn 50-shades!! Although I gotta say--50-shades is more labeled "erotica" than new adult.

But again, I think we can meet the market, even without the label. And you know what they say about trends and things--they change!! Next year they might all be begging for new adult!

Krista Phillips said...

Ashley, I do to! And I think you'd make a GREAT NA writer!!

It only takes one HIT... :-)

Angie Dicken said...

Yep, that's right! Our fiction can meet the trends in a way that its a breath of fresh air for those who are used to the graphic onslaught elsewhere!

Ashley--you could totally write it!:)