I'm confused about these two categories, 'young adult' (YA) and 'new adult' (NA).  Maybe someone can help me.


I thought these categories referred to 1) the age of the target audience and 2) the age of the characters highlighted in the book. What I've heard is that generally YA is for the 18 yo and younger set while NA is for those 19-25 yos on both accounts.


I'm far far removed from my high school days so the YA category provides a much-appreciated distinction that allows this 30-something to steer clear of books targeted toward the adolescent demographic. When I read romance novels, I prefer reading about adults with adult issues/conflicts. Furthermore, I prefer a certain level of "heat" or eroticism that understandably most would not recommend an adolescent read about.  I've read a few YA novels here and there that I liked but I knew upfront what I was getting into. Usually I read YA books more for research purposes to recommend to two of my teenage nieces who are avid readers like myself.  


Then came along the NA category a few years ago.  The lead characters are a little bit older; typically college-aged (though they are not necessarily students) instead of high school. These novels are also a little spicier, though usually only skirting the full on adult erotic subject matter. Lastly, the issues/conflicts the characters face are not quite the same as that of older characters but still relatable on some level to most adults regardless of age. Again, I knew what I was getting when I decided to pick up an NA title. 


So what's my problem? 

Well...it seems as time goes by and these genres become more popular, the lines are blurring A LOT. I was on Goodreads earlier this week looking for new books and came across a few books that just don't fit into my well-ordered definitions for YA and NA. One book's blurb detailed a college-age heroine and a hero in his mid-30s. Then another, also categorized as NA, had a 40 yo heroine and a 26 yo hero. If I take the term 'new adult' (i.e., newly adult) literally, only one of these characters fits the bill...yet I still wouldn't define the book as NA based on the blurb describing its subject matter.  


Then I ran by 3 books with 20-something hero/ines categorized as YA. Technically, yes 20-somethings are young adults, but if a 15 year old (or younger) mistakenly picks up a book with explicit sexual situations or other mature themes, most parents would definitely feel some kind of way about their child reading something beyond their level of maturity. The same goes if I get a book labelled 'adult' but is about young, immature characters. 


These categories were created to help younger readers, parents, and people like myself find the books we want to read. I'm by no means suggesting that books with mature content need to be removed altogether online so that kids can't get their hands on them. Categorizing books appropriately will definitely help in the effort of mature content landing in the hands in which it was intended.  


I just want to know when I should pass on a book in advance so I'm not disappointed or wasting my money.