YA vs. NA vs. Contemporary
I have had a problem distinguishing new adult and contemporary reads. Ever since these two terms were introduced a few years ago, I didn’t delve too far into them or put much stock in the terms or new niche genres. Mostly because I didn’t understand them and how they were different. There’s been some contention about YA vs. NA that I’ve come across, too.
I’ve read some articles arguing that YA is not a genre, it is a category filled with a range of genres (romance, paranormal, fantasy, thriller, etc.). I don’t think I agree with that statement. YA is most definitely a defined genre that has seen exponential growth in the last decade, most notably with authors like Stephanie Meyer and Rick Riordan at the forefront.
There has been controversy over YA in recent years, with a negative perception of adults who read YA. There has been great backlash from adult YA readers, and I am in total agreement. You can read whatever you want to read. As an educator, I still use children’s picture books to teach middle schoolers. And they love it! Your age does not define what you are allowed or not allowed to read.
As a genre, YA is published for readers in their youth to bridge the gap between children’s literature or middle grades literature and adult literature. It is typically written for ages 12-18 and it may contain adult themes and topics. Often I have discovered there is a societal issue at stake in YA books.
NA and contemporary seem too similar to me to differentiate. What is the difference? NA is loosely defined as having protagonists aged 18-30. Researching more details, I found this great passage about NA:
Suddenly thrust into a wealth of new responsibilities and their own legal agency, it’s no wonder that new adults face struggles that both their underage peers and older adults with well-established careers, families, and lifestyles don’t.
Everything that takes place in the life of a new adult is, indeed, new; it can be difficult for them to find their footing in many aspects of their new adult life, which is exactly what NA books address…or rather, what you’d think NA books would address.
Unfortunately, when NA books emerged roughly ten years ago, they did so almost exclusively with plots that can rather unanimously be summed up as “Young Adult fiction with explicit sex.”
In other words, NA mainly consisted of erotica set most often within universities where Greek life clichés reigned and no one actually matured into adulthood.
Ultimately, NA is about the perspective of a new adult learning to navigate the world independently, including being responsible for one’s self. Settings like going to college or entering your first career are common for NA books. Other themes include exploring the depths of friendships and relationships, understanding about mental health or abuse, discovering local social issues. It is the adult coming-of-age experience that crosses that threshold from youth to full fledged adult.
What about contemporary?
Contemporary is a sub-genre of romance novels, set during the time they are written. Thus, they reflect the aspects of the time. So I’ve been using this term incorrectly for a couple years. I consider anything set in current times to be contemporary. Don’t you?
Then I’ve read that contemporary is realistic fiction depicting our world and society, growing up and confronting personal and social problems. Ultimately, a novel of understanding yourself and others.
So…is it strictly following the romance genre or not? The questions then arise, what do you all outdated contemporary books? Classic contemporary? Realistic fiction? As one individual put it, “Although classic seems to infer that the books are well-known and well loved, which may not necessarily be the case for just “old” books. ”
I’m still left wondering what exactly distinguishes contemporary.