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New Adult Romance: An Introduction

romancebutton_01New Adult is a romance subgenre that has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Despite this popularity, the phrase “New Adult” leaves most people scratching their heads. The basic, underwhelming criteria for New Adult is that the style falls somewhere between the Young Adult and Adult genres, and the age of the protagonist is between 18 and 30 years. This general description leaves a lot to be desired, but have no fear! I’m here to give you the low-down of what New Adult Romance entails.


The age of New Adult Romance protagonist is up for debate. Some say the range is 18–25, while others extend that endpoint to 30. As an avid reader in my late 20s, I lean towards cutting it off at 25, because the themes New Adult addresses are focused on those emotional and angsty developmental years after high school. When the protagonist moves past the age of 25, the lines between New Adult Romance and regular ol’ Romance start to blur. A 30-year-old woman’s story should read much differently than a 20 year old’s, and readers have Adult Romance to get their fix of that.

This brings me to the age of the New Adult reader. Of course, there is no set minimum or maximum age for any book, but I believe that readers aged 16-30 will enjoy New Adult Romance the most. Still, younger readers can bridge the gap between YA and Adult Romance, and older readers will enjoy the themes and issues of New Adult Romance. Have I mentioned that our New Adult heroes are every bit as sexy as their Adult Romance counterparts?


After reading scores of New Adult Romance novels, I’ve identified some common themes and plot lines. (You’ll notice there are a whole lot of firsts, which isn’t surprising.)

heartbreak• First love: This often involves teenage lovers who are torn apart, then reunite years later.

• First time: A protagonist finds that special someone, often from the wrong side of the tracks, with whom to shed her virginity. Experiencing sex for the first time is a common plot point, but not a required one.

• College life: These stories rarely delve into academic pressures, but do focus on being away from home, making new friends, and, of course, dating.

• First job: Our heroine navigates the workplace for the first time, and tries to avoid that pesky co-worker who just happens to look like sex on a stick.

• Heartbreak: These novels tend to be emotional roller coasters, so have your tissues ready!

• Tough topics: New Adult Romances very commonly address difficult topics such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and sexual assault. Readers should be aware of potential triggers.

• Sex: New Adult Romance can range from sweet to super spicy, with most books falling on the hotter end of the spectrum. This is where YA and New Adult really diverge. While YA novels sometimes contain sexual situations, in New Adult Romance, sexy scenes have a starring role.


Are you intrigued? If so, here are some essential New Adult authors with their books most recently reviewed in Booklist:

boomerang Boomerang, by Noelle August

Come to Me Recklessly, by A. L. Jackson

Forever with You, by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Honor: The Breaking Point, by Jay Crownover

I See You, by Molly McAdams

It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover

Red Hill, by Jamie McGuire

Twisted, by K.A. Robinson

Under the Lights, by Abbi Glines



About the Author:

Patricia Smith is a medical librarian at Northwestern University by day, and a reviewer for Booklist by night – she can usually be found with the latest Romance or New Adult novel in hand. If you ask her about the Romance genre, be prepared for an earful! Patty loves discussing the merits of different genres and steadfastly believes in Ranganathan’s laws of library science. When she is not reading or researching, you can usually find Patty cheering on her beloved Badgers and Packers.

1 Comment on "New Adult Romance: An Introduction"

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  1. Tia says:

    Thank you so much for this! Now I know the target audience for my working manuscript! Have a great day and keep on smiling! 🙂

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