Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books we highly recommend for not-quite-New-Adult

top ten tuesday                new adult

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

Whitley: Some number of years ago (I’m bad with time, okay?) I sat on my computer, reading about this emerging category: New Adult. And I thought, “Perfect! My age group has been missing out! I can’t wait to read about 20-somethings having adventures!” For years I’d been reading YA because 1) it’s frikkin awesome anyway and 2) it felt like my other option was jaded 30-40 year/olds starting the story already world-weary. Not quite true, but damn, those 20 year-old heroes were hard to find, and a label would make searching so much easier!

…and then NA happened. And it was mostly erotica. Now, I’ve no problem with this in theory. I like erotica. The category is spreading out to include more contemporary works. Self-publishers are taking advantage of the genre vacuum. But let’s face it, I’m impatient, and it’s irritating to wait for the NA label to trickle down to my preferred genres – sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, adventure.

So, today's topic is a list of books that I (foolishly) thought would be populating the NA label when it first came out. Some of these books legitimately have 18+ year-old protagonists, and some have younger protagonists in settings where…hm, I’m salty, so let’s just say “it doesn’t change the story to pretend they’re 20ish.”      

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten


Sorcerer to the Crown - Zen Cho 

Especially if you love A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, you seriously need to read this. It's set in an alternate London where magicians are the elite, the head sorcerer is a freed black man being haunted by his mentor, and they're all about to be baffled by a young Indian/British woman who wants to prove to the world that women can be just as magical as men. There are faeries, duels, murders, and talking caterpillars. You're welcome. 


Red Rising - Pierce Brown 

While it's marketed to the YA crowd, I've seen it on adult SFF shelves too--for good reason. This trilogy (one of my all time favs, if I haven't gushed enough) takes on the late teens and early 20s of Darrow, a former lower-caste drudge whose journey to infiltrate the elite leaves a trail of blood, bodies, and the ripples of revolution. 


The Uninvited - Cat Winters 

Cat takes her ever-brilliant mix of incisive feminism, historical accuracy, and supernatural mystery to the older crowd. This one is set during the Spanish Flu epidemic of the 1910s and it centers on a young woman who witnesses a murder of a German shop owner, and falls for victim's brother. But with WWI and flu on the horizon, there is no easy path to romance. It's vivid, atmospheric, and darkly romantic. 



The Mad Scientist's Daughter - Cassandra Rose Clarke 

While this sci-fi romance spans the main character's life from youth to early middle age, it spends a lot of time in her young adulthood and doesn't read too old or too young. It's about the gut-wrenching tragic romance between a human girl and her father's robotic creation, and what truly makes us human. 


A College of Magics - Caroline Stevermer 

This is an oldie and I don't think I've ever met another person who's read it. It's about a young woman who goes off to Greenlaw College, an exclusive and strange school for wizards where classes are optional (because you might have something better to do) and actual magic seems to be something you're supposed to just "get." Faris finds herself caught up in a mystical plot centered on the college, local royals, and an enigmatic young man. 


I couldn't help it. (Plus, some of these are more famous, but maybe you didn't know they're NA age.) 

A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E. Schwab 
Jane Unlimited - Kristen Cashore 
Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor 
Girls Made of Snow and Glass - Michelle Bashardoust

whitley's selections                        

The Agency series - Y.S. Lee
This quartet of books follows Mary Quinn, a orphaned thief who is rescued from the gallows in order to join an agency of all-female spies in Victorian-era England. It skips over her training and goes straight into her first mission as a fully-fledged agent. Although the protagonist is 17 in the first novel, the fact that it skips to the point of leaving 'school' and finding one's footing in a career makes it New Adult-y in my book. Plus, yaknow, murder and other fun stuff. :D (C.J.: I WANT THIS you've been holding out on me!) 
Will of the Empress - Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors, and WotE is one of my favorite Tamoras. :D The story follows four foster-siblings who were featured in eight previous books. WotE sees them all as 18-19 year-olds, reunited after years spent traveling apart from each other. They try to navigate settling into adult lives away from their teachers, as well as attempting to figure out familial relationships that have altered after such a long absence. Plus magic and court machinations and Briar is my first, forever, and ultimate Book Boyfriend.
Heroine Complex - Sarah Kuhn
Evie and Aveda are two mid-20-somethings with super powers living in a wold where demons occasionally cross over into our world to cause chaos. The two main ladies have a wonderfully complex and fraught friendship, and much of the book focuses on the two of them navigating how adulthood, responsibility, and their own self-imposed expectations have altered a childhood friendship. Plus there's (straight) romance, social media shenanigans, and demons hopping into things that logically should not be demon-possess-able. Fun times all around!

 (C.J.: @mythoughtslit describes it as "Superheroes, female friendship, demon cupcakes, great character development") 

A Criminal Magic - Lee Kelly
Prohibition Era, but with magic outlawed instead of alcohol! The story follows an undercover agent and a young woman with unique magic who both wind up working at a speakeasy for a mobster with some dangerous ambitions. Considering all the gangs and smugglers and double-crossers around, it's actually a pretty slow plot, but I still adore the characters, the setting, and the moral ruminations throughout the book.

five15993203Lady Helen - Alison Goodman
Part regency romance and part demon hunting, Dark Days Club follows Lady Helen just as she is coming of age. Her only concern is getting to have fun on her Season before her family finds her a beau, but instead she discovers she has supernatural powers inherited from her mother and there's a whole organization of demon hunters who want to use her. Also, demons exist. It's quite a lot to take in for a young woman still struggling with her scandalous family history! Admittedly, I was not a fan of the romance in this novel, but I loved Helen's relationships with her family, her maid and best friend, and many of the other characters.

Your turn!  What are your favorite NA books that aren't just about the romance? (Including older YA and younger adult!)   


  1. I need Jane Unlimited! It sounds so cool and interestinggggg.

    I agree that even though Red Rising is marketed as YA, it kind of gets gore-y, and also the sequel doesn't seem YA at all.

    1. Yes, you REALLY do.

      I think it's in that same weird limbo as A Court of Thorns and Roses, only with less porn and a lot more blood.