I have been struggling with this question for well over a year… Where to categorize my book Terra Incognita… I always felt it fit better into the YA category but, unfortunately, my MC is 23 years old. Hm… conundrum, indeed. Of course, I have (very briefly) considered changing her age… but that would involve a number of other changes, especially to her backstory… so, in effect, I would be changing WHO she was and not just her age… At least, that’s the way I see it. So, while I believe the story should be the defining factor in determining whether it is YA or adult fiction, most people in the publishing world go by the protagonist’s age (for YA, ages 12-18, approximately).
I’ve been doing research into this over the last year and have somewhat recently discovered a fledgling category that St. Martin’s Press (as well as a few other publishers) had/has been trying to push since a contest they held in 2009: New Adult. After reading as much about this as I could find, I realized it is the perfect category for my story.
A step up from YA, it still focuses a lot on the “coming-of-age” theme because – let’s face it – we aren’t automatically adults just because we’re no longer teenagers. There’s a lot to deal with in the late teens and early twenties: college, relationships (old ones end, new ones begin), being out on your own for (most likely) the first time, etc. … etc. Anyway… not nearly enough stories focus on this “in-between” phase, the necessary step between being a teenager and being an adult… New Adult is about becoming an adult and finding our place in the world, whether it’s reality-based or fantasy.
Based on the blog posts I’ve found, it would seem New Adult would be a welcome category for both readers and writers.
Find out more about the “New Adult” category and judge for yourself. Here are a few links:
Postadolescent or “New Adult” Fiction – even if you go to no other site, visit this one.