I LOVE NA. To me, it feels the most relatable, at this point in my life. I still really love YA, but I connect with NA on a more personal level now that I’m a bit older and settling into paying taxes and buying furniture and a mattress. OK, so I know a lot of people who have done NA projects, but I’m taking kind of a personal spin on this one.
I don’t read erotica for personal reasons, so I’m on a journey to find the non-erotic NA out there. In no way did I read EVERY book that qualifies as NA, but I did try to read a lot and this is what I have so far. In addition, I looked for books that had low sexual content, so I don’t have a list of books with high sexual content; if you’re interested in that just go to the romance section of your local bookstore/library.
A (Brief) Discussion of NA and Its History
There’s also some discrepancies about what actually counts as NA, particularly as it is a newer category. When I think of NA I generally think of university students or people 25-30 with no kids. There’s some consensus on the university part, but there’s also a lot of other facts to consider. As you can see, a majority of people believe it’s about university students.
The term came about during a 2009 competition hosted by St. Martin’s press, but only attracted attention in 2012 after a few titles coined “New Adult” appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, writes Molly Wetta, MLIS student and YA librarian assistant in Kansas.
“These novels aim to bring the emotionally-intense story lines and fast-paced plotting of young adult fiction to stories that focus on a new range of experiences in life beyond the teenage years,” Wetta said.
This is usually how I categorize NA. Any issue beyond high school, where the character is dealing with issues of being on their own or transitioning to adult hood or figuring out their place in the world I consider NA. Also any issues I am experiencing or people my age are experiencing, I generally think of NA. The themes I see associate most with NA include acceptance from friends, family and society; finding careers; finding love; finding their place in the world.
Wetta said, “While explicit sexual content may feature in certain popular titles, it isn’t universal. And it’s not necessarily what draws every reader to the category.”
In 2012, the New York Times wrote a post about NA, “Providing more mature material, publishers reason, is a good way to maintain devotion to books among the teenagers who are scooping up young-adult fiction and making it the most popular category in literature, with a crossover readership that is also attracting millions of adults.”
Authors like Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire are mentioned in this first New York Times post. The article goes on to brand NA as sexed up Harry Potter and “significantly more sex, explicitly detailed.”
But as Dear Author points out, “If publishers are just looking for sexed up YAs, the New Adult lines of those houses will ultimately fail much like the erotic romance lines of those houses failed in the past.” Thanks to Dear Author for bringing the New York Times article to my attention.
So if you see a book you don’t consider NA on here please feel free to comment on why it doesn’t belong, I’d love to hear more opinions! I’m still going to be reading more NA and books I think fall into that category and will be adding to this list as I go. So if you have any recommendations let me know!
Most of the NA books I’ve found are e-books. I’m listing them by amount of descriptive sexual content and I’ll include a list of NA books I haven’t read, but likely will at the bottom. I’m not commenting on the plot/execution of each of these, to be clear. I’m just talking about sexual content. And just a disclaimer, everyone has a different threshold when it comes to everything. None of us are the same, these are just my preferences and I’ve talked to a couple people who have looked for non-erotic NA so this is what I’ve found. I’m not pretending nor am I under any delusions of knowing the most about NA books. I also want to give a shout out to Sue Hollywood and Sil (The Book Voyagers) because a lot of these books I heard about through them.
These books focus on non-sexual interaction between the two people. Whether that’s spending time with each other or conversation. Most books have a larger central plot and the romance takes a second, yet present, seat.
- Sounds like Summer by Six de los Reyes
- All’s Fair in Love and Blog by Chrissie Peria
- Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
- Interim Goddess of Love #1-2 by Mina Esguerra
- Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
- A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
- Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuck
- Vicious by V.E. Scwab
I know this only partly takes place in college, but I still think it’s worth including.
Kissing, But No Sex:
- A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (Shades of Magic #1)
There’s one very non-passionate kiss in this book.
- Sounds like Summer by Six de los Reyes
There’s a bit of kissing but it’s not overly descriptive.
Kissing and Implied Sex:
- Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes
There’s one make-out scene, and the one scene is quite intimate, but all their clothes stay on and there’s no excessive touching.
- A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab
There’s one make out scene, but it’s not extremely descriptive.
- Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, to be completely honest. There’s sex, but it’s not overly descriptive and there is not excessive kissing.
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This book has a relatively graphic kissing scene and implied sex. But it isn’t explicit at all.
- No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra
There’s a few kissing scenes that are very brief and not descriptive as well as one implied sex scene.
- Songs of Our Break Up by Mina V. Esguerra
There’s some kissing in this book and some scenes imply sex, but overall it’s very clean.
- Throne of Glass #1-3 by Sarah J. Maas
I remember most of the sex scenes in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series aren’t graphic. I know there’s some talking during the scenes, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable reading it, personally. It wasn’t very sensual.
- Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
There’s implied sex and some kissing, but for the most part it has very little sexual content.
Graphic sexual content:
- The Melody of You and Me by M. Hollis
This has a relatively graphic masturbation scene in it. It also has two graphic sex scenes. They’re easy to skip and see coming.
- Mister Romance by Leisa Rayven
This book has one distinctive, graphic sex scene, from what I could tell. But it’s relatively easy to skip over if that makes you squeamish. If you want to read my thoughts on it, I have the review on here.
- The Hating Game by Sally Throne
There’s quite a few steamy make-out scenes and a long graphic sex scene about 2/3 of the way through the book. So it’s kind-of in the middle in terms of whether it’s erotic or not. It’s hard to put a label on these things because everyone has a different threshold.
- The Duchess War/Brothers Sinister series* by Courtney Millan
The Duchess War features two masturbation scenes and two rather graphic sex scenes from what I could tell. I skipped over most of it.
- A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab
There’s some quite graphic foreplay that lasts for about a page in this book. It personally didn’t bother me a lot since it’s easy to skip, but just be aware of that.
- A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas
I know in each of the first three books there are at least two graphic sex scenes so be aware of that. The third also has two graphic sex scenes that are easy to skip over.
* I read a couple books in this series, and they all seem to have the same general trend. There’s usually one very steamy sex scene and one semi-steamy sex scene and some heated kissing.
Bonus: NA Webtoons/manga/anime
A note about anime/manga: It’s very easy to consume manga/anime illegally. If a manga/anime is released in the US (like on sites like Funimation or Crunchy Roll, buying from Amazon, or at your local library) please make every effort to consume legally. Technically, some of these aren’t don’t take place in college, but they deal with very mature “college-like” themes so I’m including them.
Manga and anime that are not specifically erotica, smut, mature etc. are generally very clean. That’s the culture of manga. None of the material below falls into any of these categories and so is very clean. Granted I haven’t read all of some of them (some are incomplete and some I can’t access legally right now).
- Nineteen Twenty-One by Yohan (story) and Hye-Jin Kim (art)
- Koi Inu by Coco
- ReLife by Yayoiso
- Yuri on Ice by Mitsurō Kubo
- Fluttering Feelings by Ssamba
- Something About Us by Lee Yun Ji (my personal favorite)
- We Broke Up by Ryu Chaelynn
- Orange Marmalade by Seok Woo
- That Summer by Kim Hyun
- The Origin of Love by Samsa
- Love Barometer by Samsa
- Consumua and Sudutist! by Dott
- Jane, Unlimited by Kristen Cashore (CW: problematic pansexual/bisexual rep in it)
- The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
- Dating You Hating You by Cristina Lauren
- The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
- The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin
- We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
I also want to talk a little about Romance Class. It’s a group created by Mina V. Esguerra who wanted to help up and coming romance writers. Most of the books featured under this hashtag (on Twitter and Instagram—as well as accounts on both platroms) are NA novellas and have sexual content, but not necessarily sex. There’s some kissing, but not a lot. If the books have sex, it’s non-descriptive and implied (like they both laid down or went upstairs—that kind of thing). This is a great place to start as a large majority of these books are NA and have low sexual content!