2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: New Adults

Sorry this wrap-up is so late, dear Hubbers – conferences always knock me out for at least a week after. Anyways, I was happy to attend the “New Adulthood: Literature & Services for NA Patrons” presented by Meg Hunt Wilson, Teen Librarian & Reference Librarian in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (my home state!) and our own Hub member manager, Molly Wetta, Collection Development Librarian at the Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library. They focused on  four aspects of the NA market – what is new adult, appeal and marketing, booktalks, and library services. I was thoroughly fascinated by their presentation, and without further ado – here’s the highlights of their talk at the 2015 YALSA YA Services Symposium.



So – what is New Adult?

New adult titles are geared towards teens who are just past high school life – 18-25 years of age is the common age range. NA books began as a self-publishing phenomenon, but eventually move on to the “regular” publishing world. The books are mostly set on college campuses, are relationship centric, fast-paced, and emotionally intense. And, oooh! Are they ever steamy! As one of my teens told me when I told her about this panel: “aren’t those the books with a lot of sex in them?”

Yes, missy. Yes, they are. They have some straight-up steamy YA appeal and feature lots of “sexytimes” – I had to work their definition into my write-up!

Even though they seemed to hit their peak in 2013, NA is still going strong with publishers picking up the “big names” of the game and leaving everyone else to the self-publishing world which has been working fine all this time.

Be aware of some common tropes in theses novels; one might define them as “problem” novels similar to teen books that deal with problem issues. Bad boys, differing economic situations between characters, drug abuse and mental illness all play heavily in NA books. One trope to be aware of: rape and sexual assault is featured often in NA books. Oftentimes, the hero of the story steps in and stops the attack; yet, the incident is usually never discussed further and could be a trigger to some readers. Unfortunately, there are other pitfalls in the realm of NA books – a lack of editing, formulaic plots, one-dimensional characters and the use of traditional gender and class stereotypes are often cited as problems within.

Molly and Meaghan gave some great booktalks. You can find the slides from their presentation on Molly’s blog, along with an even longer list of New Adult titles and additional resources. Seriously, check out all the books they talked about! I was really surprised to see a lot of YA authors also writing NA fiction – I guess I wasn’t surprised, I just didn’t know!

One list of books I will include is a list of YA titles that have some major NA appeal:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (this one has graphic sex, ya’ll)
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  • Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
  • The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (this one’s angsty & dramatic!)
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (steamy!!)
  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lise McBride
  • What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
  • Dirty Little Secret by Jen Echols (also steamy!!)


So, why should YA Librarians care?

Well, for one thing – information seeking behaviors of college students mimic or are more similar to teens than other age groups. Those of us who work well with teens will also work well with new adults.  Guess why?  Because they were literally just teens!  Also, what about new adults who don’t self-identify as “new adult”? They actually identify more with teens as opposed to adults. The thing is, we’re helping these kiddos – it’s hard moving from teen to suddenly adult. We can be there for them to help move them up the adult ladder until they’re standing there with us!

After booktalks, Meg and Molly gave some great ideas for programming – homebrewing, weeknight dinner planning, writing workshops and book groups, financial literacy, retro gaming and digital services. You can see even more examples and ideas in this post on Molly’s blog. And, you know what? New adults aren’t always in the library. They might be in the pub on the corner, so think about your outreach and how it translates to new college students or those new to the workforce.

Meg and Molly both had some really great closing thoughts as well.  Meg: NA acknowledges and occupies a gap in between the literature and services for teens and the very different interests and behaviors of adults. Molly: NA won’t ever break outside contemporary romance and a special designation is unnecessary. But, we need to catch those patrons because we’re losing them.

Yup – we’re losing them. And, I think teen librarians and other adults who work with teens are the gateway between children’s & adult services that will help not only teens, but new adults as well. Thanks, Meg & Molly for such an entertaining and informative presentation!

— Traci Glass, currently reading Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo