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New Adult Romance Genre

What is the “New Adult” Romance Genre?

First labeled in 2009, but more solidly established around 2013, this is a relatively new genre of writing which extends the very popular “young adult” (YA) genre. It focuses on characters between the ages of 18-28(ish) and the various issues which address young adults who are no longer teenagers, but are not yet fully established in adulthood.

Interestingly, the creation of this genre was reader-driven – although books like Twilight and Hunger Games were written for young adults, a LOT of readers in their 20s and well beyond were also reading them. A lot of the books were first published as e-books, and reader demand brought them to publishing houses, sometimes commanding six figures for their authors. The result has been a lot of novels written about twenty-somethings, and their dramatic, angst-filled lives.

What to Expect in the “New Adult” Romance Genre

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  • Involves characters between the ages of 18-28 (or so)

  • Involve emotionally intense, soap-opera-esque plots

  • Usually involves first person narration

  • Potential warning: similar to the “college romance” genre, this genre can involve some (or all) of the traditional teenage “angst” categories including assault, depression, abandonment, drug abuse, suicide, etc. And often the characters have experienced significant trauma in their pasts that they are trying to put behind them when they leave for college.

New Adult Romance Characteristics

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  • Level of Angst

    On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is usually a 10. There are a lot of complex issues that the characters in this genre deal with en route to the relationship they are seeking (or which finds them). Sometimes it’s the hero who is dealing with his past, often it’s the heroine, and sometimes it’s both of them.

  • Character Development

    There is always some kind of “situation” with the characters – a lot of them have lost parents and/or siblings in a tragic incident, some of them survived assault/abuse when they were children, some of them were kicked out of their homes, or had earned reputations they didn’t deserve. The characters always have interesting lives that draw in the reader, but which are not so far-fetched as to be unrealistic.

  • Plot Strength

    There are no “rules” for the setting for these novels – they can have time travel, feature the supernatural, have mysteries, or just be “normal,” so the plot strength definitely relies on the imagination of the writer.

  • Romantic Tension

    The romantic tension for this genre is usually pretty high. As we are working through the various issues facing the main characters, we (the readers) become pretty invested in their getting together, which usually comes at a great cost.

  • Level of Eros

    This element is also usually pretty high – by the time we get to the actual sex scene, there has been a lot of teasing, lingering touches, heated gazes, etc.

  • Prose Quality

    As I mentioned above in “plot strength,” since there are no rules, the reader is at the mercy of the writer’s imagination (and prose skills). However, since the genre is largely reader-made, the writers who do break through are usually exceptional.

Related Romance Subgenres

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  • The main subgenre for this category is “college romance” since the characters in that genre often mirror the ones in this one. However, that genre is significantly more focused, and this one is more wide-ranging.

“New Adult” Romance isn't for you if

You like traditional, Regency-style romances. You like a lot of historical situations. Otherwise, honestly, everyone should like this genre

“New Adult” Romance is totally for you if

You like any kind of contemporary romance you will like this genre since it is so flexible.

Popular “New Adult” Romance Books
  • 1 My Favorite Mistake (2013)


    By Chelsea Cameron. Focuses on the story of the goody two shoes who meets her match in the “fight night” bad boy on campus. They soon find that they have met theor match in one another.

  • 2 Rush Me (2013)


    By Allison Parr. Tells the story of young woman trying to find her own after college who crashes a pro-athlete party and finds herself face to face with the hottest quarterback on the planet.

  • 3 Red Hill (2013)


    By Jamie McGuire. Is part love story – part coming-face-to-face-with-the-apocalypse and trying to decide who you want to be with.

  • 4 Wait for You (2013)


    By Jennifer Armentrout (writing as J. Lynn). Tells the story of a young woman escaping a traumatic past. She encounters a man who almost makes her forget. But when the past comes calling, will he stick around?

  • 5 Confess (2015)


    By Colleen Hoover. Tells the story of a young woman trying to overcome her past who encounters an enigmatic artist when she applies for a job. She has been working hard to combat the demons of her past, but is she ready to help him take on his?

  • 6 Strength (2013)


    By Carrie Butler. Is a kind of romance – new adult – modern day Samson and Delilah– supernatural novel where a woman meets a man who has everything she ever wanted except he cannot touch her due to the supernatural power found in his bloodline. She will have to decide if being with him is worth it, since she will be risking more than just her heart.

  • 7 Anywhere with You (2012)


    By Kaylee Ryan. Is the story of the orphaned young girl and the college football hero who thought he wasn’t ready to commit – but he can’t stop thinking about her.

  • 8 Losing It (2013)


    By Cora Carmack. Is about a college senior who is bound and determined not to graduate a virgin – she has somewhat awkward but mind-blowing sex one night only to find out 8 hours later that she just slept with her new theater professor. Oops!

  • 9 Taking Chances (2013)


    By Molly McAdams. Tells the story of a young woman’s struggle to decide between the two men she has fallen in love with.

  • 10 If You Stay (2013)


    By Courtney Cole. Is the story of bad boy-drug user/abuser who meets his match in a sweet, innocent girl who is a breath of fresh air to his buried-deep demons. Now he needs to find to way to make her stay…