Aug 15 2013 8:30am

Author Monica Murphy on What is New Adult?

Crave by Monica MurphyToday we've asked author Monica Murphy to weigh in on the differences between the romance and the new adult genre. And Monica, who's published in both genres, knows what she's talking about. Monica's first foray into New Adult, Crave, launches her Billionaires' Boys Club series, and was released this week. Thanks for joining us, Monica!

Romance. New adult. What’s the difference, people ask? From what I see, what’s being labeled in today’s new adult category does have strong similarities to your typical contemporary romance novel. The covers tend to look similar. The stories in both a contemporary romance and new adult novel are usually about two people who are trying to navigate their way through the ups and downs of a relationship. And it can never be easy, so there’s plenty of conflict for these two to deal with before they finally get that happily ever after they deserve.

So let’s focus in on what new adult is exactly. I consider it a time of firsts. The age group is 18-25 and it’s during that period in life when you’re out on your own for the first time. You’re dealing with first love, first real job. Oh, and that first major screw up you need to handle with no help from mom and dad…

This is such a relatable time for pretty much everyone. We were all once in our late teens or early twenties (or we’re going to be), ready to tackle the world and make it our own.  Our emotions were heightened, everything we’re doing feels so momentous and huge. There’s so much drama…and most of it we created within ourselves. We struggled for what we wanted because really? We had no idea what that even was.

Whereas in a contemporary romance, the hero and heroine are usually a little older, a little more established in their lives, their careers, etc. They know what they want. And when they latch eyes on each other for the first time, they want each other. Then they have to deal with all the external conflict that comes their way.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s also plenty of internal conflict for a couple in a romance to deal with. One of my favorite romance authors ever is Jill Shalvis. She writes a contemporary romance like nobody’s business and they all feature deliciously sexy heroes and the smart, strong women who eventually fall in love with them. Her characters are independent, they’ve been on their own for a while and they’ve pretty much figured who they are and what they want (well, mostly). While her characters are definitely not perfect (wouldn’t that be boring?), they become better people once they realize they can’t live without their other half. And they always get their happily ever after.

Within the parameters of a new adult book, sometimes the characters don’t get that happily ever after. It’s not necessarily guaranteed. They’re still dealing with the residual effects of not quite being a grown up but they’re definitely not a child anymore either. Navigating through all that adult-type stuff is scary and while they believe they’re ready to embrace it, they tend to want to run back home and hide under the covers when the going gets tough…but they can’t.

In a contemporary romance, the romance is the central conflict in the book. Without it, it couldn’t be labeled a romance (of course!). Whereas within a new adult book, the romance isn’t necessarily central to the story. There are other things to deal with. Sometimes the books focus on quite shocking, traumatic subject matter that leaves the reader with a heavy heart yet eager to read more.

I remember when I read Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. Yes, there’s romance (hello Holder) but there’s so much more. Sky’s trying to figure out who she is. There’s mystery in her life, things she doesn’t want to face and as the reader, you’re taken on this journey with Sky and Holder as he helps her discover the truth. He’s there for her, helping her pretty much the entire way, but the story is more about Sky than anything else. And what a fabulous story it is…

In a recent article on (entitled ‘What is New Adult?’), I think Margo Lipschultz (senior editor at Harlequin) said it best in regards to new adult and contemporary romance: I view New Adult as really bridging that gap between traditional young adult and contemporary romance.”

I agree. New adult touches on that in between time in your life where you’re not really a kid and not quite an adult, even though everyone tells you that you are. It’s the perfect transition for a reader who wants something more than a YA book but can’t quite relate to a traditional romance yet.

New adult is like contemporary romance’s younger, edgier little sister who tends to get into trouble. But you know eventually, she’s going to turn out just fine…and get that happily ever after.


Monica Murphy is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of new adult and contemporary romance and writes for Avon and Bantam. She also writes romance as Karen Erickson. A native Californian, she lives in the foothills below Yosemite with her husband three children. Please visit her website at

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Thanks for this post! It's been cool to see the rise of New Adult and I look forward to seeing it continue to evolve.

I think I enjoy NA so much in part because it does tend to be pretty contemporary romance-like, even if--as you said--the romance isn't central and an HEA isn't guaranteed. Most of the YA I read is romantic YA, so NA is perfect for me in that way.

Because the HEA isn't guaranteed too, sometimes NA can really keep me on the edge of my seat/flipping pages like crazy to figure out how it'll all end, and I have to admit that's fun sometimes (though other times I need the comfort of a guaranteed HEA, it's true, which is why I'll always be a fan of traditional romances as well).
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
This is one of the best explanations for what New Adult is that I've seen--thank you. I love reading New Adult, even though I am far from being one (I also love the show Girls, too, but that's a different conversation!).
3. carmenlire
This is a great post! I realized when H&H started posting about New Adult that I'd read a few but had assumed that it was just YA only a little steamier. The explanation of just what New Adult is is great and I really get from this. Thanks!
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