Discussion post: Where I confess to never reading NA

Discussion post: 
Where I confess to never reading NA
(like, ever)

So I’m just going to lay it out there. I have not read a single book that is classified as NA. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have several friends who love the genre (hi, there, I hope we are still friends after this), but absolutely nothing about the NA tropes are appealing to me.

These are the typical aspects of NA that seem to be prevalent based on multiple reviews I’ve read:

  • The bad boy who is covered in tattoos that is actually really sensitive deep-down, but who totally slept around with a ton of girls until he meets the protagonist who changes him. Because she is just that special.
 
  • Abuse in some fashion: the ex-boyfriend was abusive, the father, etc.
  • Rape. I’m just not ok with rape being used as something that propels a story forward. There are some books that take an honest look at rape and recovering–that’s not what I’m talking about here. I find it absolutely sickening when rape is used a story device. Entertainment Weekly had a wonderful article about how TV shows often use rape to propel the story line (the author was not a fan). The article can be found here.
  • Slut shaming. For real, when, as women, are we going to say that enough is enough? I don’t care how many men (or women) a woman has slept with. It’s none of my business. A woman should never be defined by her sex life–or lack there of. When I even see the word slut or whore I just get angry. Stop using those words to describe other women!

  • Gratuitous sex scenes. Listen, no judgement here. It just isn’t for me. I’m not against smut, but I don’t like it in my literature. To me, graphic sex scenes just take away from the story. 
  • Cheating/relationships that start through infidelity. It seems like at least one of the main characters is already involved with somebody when the two meet. Although this isn’t always a deal breaker for me (one of my favorite books is Something Borrowed which is totally about a woman who cheats with her best friend’s finance which is such a despicable thing…but I still loved the story).
 

What I do like about at least the idea of NA is the age group in which it is aimed. I love reading about college-aged people. For the most part, I loved my college experience. I hated being dirt poor, but it is such an awesome time. You are out of your parent’s house for the first time and meeting all these new and awesome people. Nothing is yet settled. Your whole life is wide open in front of you. So, yeah, I love to read about this time period and wish that there were more books that focused on the college experience.

 
College stories I have read and loved: 
16068905 9912 6080420 10047589
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I loved this story about twin sisters who are starting their freshman year at a Nebraska university. Complete with a cute romance, a snarky roommate, and HP-like fanfiction. 
Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis isn’t for everyone, but I went through a phase where I just couldn’t get enough of him. This short, affecting story takes place at a New England liberal-arts college in the 80s. It is one of my favorites.
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
This feminist novel follows 4 girls both during their time at Smith and after. 
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
This novel in short stories is really more about that period right after college, but I absolutely adore this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read about this age group.
So now I’m going to ask you: Are there any NA novels I just have to read. Please keep in mind that I’m really not at all interested in any of the above bullet-pointed tropes. Like, at all. Seriously. BUT if you have any recommendations about college-themed books that are different from the usual NA fare, I’d love to hear them.
Besides recommendations, I’d love to hear from you. Do you read NA? Are there tropes I missed? Do you think I’m just plain wrong? Let me know!

41 thoughts on “Discussion post: Where I confess to never reading NA

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  1. I have never read a NA book, either. EVER. I don't think I've even read one book based at college/university. *thinks* Well, except as the girls in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants grow up (but when I read those, I was only like 15, so I really don't think they count).
    But I agree with everything you said. I am not keen on the bad boy turns good because of precious girl, or abuse, or rape (used as a plot device), or slut-shaming (ohmygosh when characters call another character a slut just because their love interest likes them – I just NO NO NO), or uber graphic sex scenes, or cheating. Like, I would just read the novel and roll my eyes at the pretentiousness of it all. Which I guess is why I have steered clear of those kinds of novels.
    But I am with you on the age class. I am in university, and whilst I adore YA with a fiery burning passion, I kind of also want to read about people who are my age, and might be going through the same things and making the same choices. I am SO KEEN on Fangirl because I write fanfic, and the story just seems amazing, but I have never seen it in a store!
    So, unfortunately no recs from me, sorry!

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  2. I have only read 3 NA books and they were all HORRIFIC experiences. For one thing, I don't like books that are only propelled forward by sex. It's just not my thing, no. So one was just about violence and abuse and the other was JUST about sex and I felt my intelligence packing it's bags and leaving. After that I swore I wouldn't touch NA. Buuut, Fangirl. I LOVED FANGIRL SO MUCH. Is it really NA, though? I mean, it's college, but it's not all about sex (I was beginning to think that was a prerequisite to being NA) and it has a YA voice feel to it. But I digress! At any rate, I don't feel like I'm ever going to dive into NA again. Unless a miracle happens. 😐

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  3. I've actually read quite a few NA and I agree with you about your points. In a way, they all tell the same story. I do have recommendations of ones I liked better than others (Easy by Tammara Weber) but if you want NA that break that mold, I would recommend If Only by A.J. Pine (although it does hit one of your points, sorry) Third Degree by Julie Cross, and Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park. I reviewed all of those if you want to read my reviews. Also, for a completely different NA, I recommend Darkside Sun by Jocelyn Adams (it's paranormal). Let me know what you think if you read any of those! ~Pam

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  4. I'm not a huge NA fan either, which is funny cause I'm working on one right now. But it doesn't have any of those tropes that bother you and all the stuff you said you liked! Lol. The only NA book that I've read and really loved was “Faking It” by Cora Carmack! It's really really funny. I think you'd like it, but I could be wrong, but as someone who doesn't love the NA trope I did like this one.

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  5. I've read a couple NA books, but I didn't enjoy them much. It was mostly the slut shaming that turned me off. Sometimes, I want to scream BE NICER TO OTHER WOMEN (I got so passionate about this that I wrote a whole post on it a few weeks back.) I also especially dislike when protagonists are almost raped, and then the afore-mentioned secretly sensitive bad boy comes and rescues her. When used as a story device like that, it's meant to make the love interest more appealing, but seriously? There are so many other ways to convey his protective instincts (another gag) without adding. more. sex.

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  6. I have read about five NA novels and they haven't blown me away. They actually all include the bulled points you mentioned above. I think I gave all five books 3 or 3.5 stars out of 5….just ok reads. You are right that they all follow that formula. From now on, I am only willing to pick up NA novels that sound fresh and don't follow that whole bad guy meets good girl, etc. I should probably check out Fangirl since I loved E&P. Great discussion post!

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  7. I've read a little NA, and I'm not a huge fan either. BUT, I did read and LOVE One & Only by Viv Daniels, which is Diana Peterfreund's pseudonym. It does contain one of your bulleted tropes — cheating — but the way in which it's handled is *almost* respectable, and since you were okay with Something Borrowed, which I also enjoyed, I think you could be okay with this one, too. I honestly don't recommend NAs normally, but I really enjoyed that one. You're right, though, the standard NA fare is so formulaic and tropey. I wish NA was more about the traditional college-aged experience, like Fangirl. That's true NA to me, but I'd hate to really lump that wonderful book in with so many awful ones.

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  8. You are not missing out on anything by not reading the New Adult that is being published right now. I have pretty much given up on it because it's all the same, it all features abuse and negative messages and I am so sick of it!

    I do have an Aussie rec for you: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo – it's about a girl in her early 20s, she's just finished uni, she's moving out of home with her bf, and has a job and it is wonderful! If you can't find it overseas, I will totes buy and send you a copy, ok?! 😉

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  9. I'm not into NA either. I attempted a popular one and couldn't get past 20%. It was painful for me. Not my cup of tea. The age group doesn't bother me…just the tropes as you said. I'm happy to see I'm not alone 🙂 I want some science fiction and fantasy NA.

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  10. The only NA books that I have read are Tammara Webber's, and I really enjoyed them. I would recommend Easy to you, actually. Rape is a huge factor in this book, but it's not dealt with lightly or only used as a plot device. The main character is almost raped, and Webber handles her recovery from the traumatic experience very well, with the other characters giving their support and encouraging her, and, probably most importantly, telling the MC that it's *not her fault*.

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  11. I love the Sisterhood books. It is a shame that almost all of the books aimed at college-aged students are NA. It would be awesome if there were more books like Fangirl. Speaking of…have you checked your local or even school library? I know that my college carried some fiction and the title is fairly popular. I obviously don't know where you go to school, but if it is in a larger town, do you have access to a public library? Even if they don't carry something, the librarian will probably take purchasing suggestions. Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. That's exactly what I'm afraid of. I'm just not at all interested in stories that are propelled by sex and abuse. I really don't consider Fangirl to be NA. It isn't really YA either. It is just an awesome book and I wish there were more stories like it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. Thanks for the suggestions, Pam! I have heard good things about both Easy and Flat-Out Love, so I may give them a chance. I have to admit, I'm not reading a whole lot of paranormal these days, but I may look up Darkside Sun, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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  14. I'm excited to read your book! (Even if it is NA. Lol.) If it doesn't have any of the same old tired tropes, I wonder if it would even be classified as such? I have good things about Faking It. I may give that one a try. Agreed on Santana. She's a bad-ass. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Slut shaming is the worst. I could go on and on about it, too. I forgot to mention the way the girl always needs to be rescued! Such a good point. I completely agree that there are other ways to portray the hero–and are protective instincts something that need to even be shown? Thanks for stopping by!

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  16. It's really like any other genre. You have certain tropes that authors feel like they have to make to be successful, but it's definitely a double-edged sword because eventually people get sick of reading the same old story and start looking for something different. Fangirl really was great…but I kind of hated E&P to the point where I couldn't even finish it. I did love her other book Attachments though, and cannot wait for her newest book. Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. I'll put One & Only on my TBR list. I remember seeing you talk about that one in you and April's post about NA. Yeah, cheating isn't always a big fat no for me. There have been a few books I've enjoyed where that was a major plot point. Exactly on Fangirl, I don't even consider that NA because the whole genre just seems…cheap to me and Fangirl is awesome. Thanks for stopping by!

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  18. I love you. You are seriously awesome. I do remember seeing that book floating around GR when it first came out and being bummed that it wasn't available to me. I'll see if I can find it now that it has been out for awhile and will let you know. 🙂

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  19. I've had a couple of people suggest Easy, so I may give that one a try. Although I have to admit that I'm really just not down with rape period, even if it doesn't make me angry if it is a legit look at recovery. It sounds like a good one, though. Thanks for stopping by!

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  20. Great post! I haven't read many NA books, and mostly for all the reasons you mentioned. I have read a couple and ended up absolutely hating most of them. I have only had a few exceptions, Colleen Hoover being one.Her book Slammed was one I ended up really enjoying it – it had no bad boy, no abuse, no cheating or gratuitous sex scenes. It had some things I had issues with but for the most part I thought it was an interesting story. It also had a ton of Slam poetry and I had never encountered that before, it was a really great addition to the story.

    But, for the most part I am not a fan of NA. Most stories all sound the same and it's hard to tell the books apart. Great topic 🙂

    I read Easy and quite enjoyed that one BUT I wasn't really okay with how rape was used in that. To me it did feel like it was used as a plot device and a way for the male love interest to swoop in and rescue her, not once but twice. I just didn't think the whole issue of rape was handled very well in that book. It had moments where it was but other times it just made me feel uncomfortable.

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  21. Yup, “real” NA holds no interest for me. But in my own head I have my own definition of NA, which I would love for more books of, about young adults (not teens… more like early- to mid-20s) trying to figure out real life. These are both post-college, but if you like books like that, I'd recommend Rowell's Attachments and Lauren Graham's Someday, Someday, Maybe. These are the books I think of when I think of “my” NA… even if I've never seen them classified as such.

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  22. Books generally classified as NA, like the type you described in this post, don't interest me much either. Though I like the age group aspect, to I am inclined to label books with characters between 18 and 25 or so as NA on my blog anyway. It's just something I do, so I don't need to slap disclaimers on YA books about content not being suitable for younger readers. I'm in my early 20s and just recently out of uni though, so I hardly think I have young teens reading my blog but I feel responsible that way anyway *shrugs*

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  23. I've only read a handful of NA, but they all contain the tropes you've mentioned. It's probably why I've only read a handful of NA, since I can only handle those tropes in small doses.

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  24. NA does appeal to me, because it seems to center solely on sex sex sex. I like a good romance, but that is not the main reason why I read a book. I'm over the whole lovey-dovey squishy love propaganda in books.

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  25. I've heard a few people talk about Colleen Hoover's books. Good to know that they are a bit different. I've also had a couple of suggestions for Easy, but I just really have a had time stomaching rape. It isn't always a complete deal breaker for me, but I'd prefer not to read about it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  26. I've actually read both of those–and I did enjoy them. I just don't really consider them NA. I know they could be labeled as such, but to me, NA really is this separate category that holds all the tropes I discussed. Thanks for stopping by!

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  27. Hmm. That's a good point. I always just assume my audience are mostly adults who enjoy YA like me. It's possible that younger teens may stumble across this blog, but I've never thought about putting spoilers. Hm. Thanks for stopping by!

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  28. The sex thing is definitely part of it. It just veers too much into Harlequin romance territory. Which is fine, just not what I'm personally interested in. It seems like the emphasis is on the wrong aspect of the relationship and sex takes the place of plot. Thanks for stopping by!

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  29. No, they're not NA as defined by the industry… but they do fall into the gap that I'd hoped NA would fill. I wish NA could be as diverse a category as YA, rather than just a subgenre of romance.

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  30. I love this post. I agree with all the reasons you do not read NA. I actually feel like when I get asked why I don't read “Adult” books some of the reasons above are what I tell the individuals judging my YA reading. (Since just loving YA isn't enough for them 🙂 ) Unless someone tells me that I absolutely have to read the NA book, it just isn't going to happen. I loved Fangirl. I do really enjoying reading about stories post college but they do seem to be far and few between. Great discussion post 🙂

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

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  31. I'm the same exact way, about everything you mentioned, honestly. I think that's why I still only read YA. I haven't ventured out into the adult book world and probably won't ever. I absolutely loved FANGIRL but I'd almost consider it mature YA because it's the complete opposite of everything that defines NA. And the thing is, it seems like every single NA novel is about the same damn thing. I read my friend's reviews on NA, and seriously, the books all sound the same! I couldn't handle it.

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