Coeds and cliffhangers and coming of age—that’s what new adult (NA) fiction is made of. This cutting-edge, emerging genre bridges the gap between teens and adults. Aimed at the 18- to 25-year-old audience and focusing on firsts—first love, first job, first sex—these are titles that tackle tough issues such as self-harm, suicide, rape, and addiction with more drama, heat, and sexual explicitness than even the most audacious YA novel. The moniker “new adult” was coined during a 2009 contest by St. Martin’s Press, established a foothold in the self-published market, and has gone on to attract a dedicated, loyal legion of fans every bit as obsessed as the most rapacious romance reader. Not surprising since these reads are addictive, often part of a series, and readily available as ebooks—the literary equivalent of a Netflix binge-watch. So grab the Kindle, curl up on the couch, and get ready for a long, long night with these backlist and recently published titles. [This growing genre will be examined in an LJ September 15 feature.—Ed.]
Carmack, Cora. Losing It. Morrow. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9780062273246. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062273253. F
Who knew losing one’s virginity could be so tricky? At 22, college senior Bliss still has her V-card firmly in hand. Determined to cash it in, she goes in search of a one-night stand and finds Garrick, a hunky blond Brit with a penchant for Shakespeare. Bliss brings him home, indulges in some steamy saliva swapping, then freaks out once she gets him naked in her bed. “Stop! Cats! Stop,” she shrieks, fleeing her apartment sans shirt and shoes at three in the morning, shouting that she has to pick up her (nonexistent) cat from the (fictional) 24-hour cat vet. The humiliated Bliss thinks she’s hit rock bottom, but she hasn’t—yet. That comes the next day, when she arrives at class and discovers that the hot British hunk whom she so spectacularly dumped is her new theater professor. VERDICT Carmack bills her work as “new adult romance with a side of awkward goodness,” and she’s not kidding. She has a voice that’s fresh, flirty, and funny. Her debut novel belongs on the very top shelf of the NA canon along with the rest of Carmack’s “Losing It” series (Keeping It; Faking It; Finding It; and Seeking Her). [LJ Xpress Reviews, 12/14/12.]
Grace, Elisabeth. Rumor Has It. CreateSpace: Amazon. (Limelight, Bk. 1) 2013. 306p. ISBN 9780992106812. pap. $10.49 F
Ellie Wagner has had her 15 minutes of fame and now she can’t escape it. After an embarrassing YouTube video goes viral, everyone knows her face, including the HR manager of the dream job that now she’ll never get. Reviled, humiliated, forced to live with her spaced-out mother, and working as a drudge in a real estate office, all Ellie wants is her obscurity back. She’s not looking for romance, but when a dreamy hunk with a heart of gold enters the picture, Ellie falls—literally—head over heels. There’s a problem, though—Mr. Perfect is Mason Nash, a hip-hop star soon to launch his own reality TV series. VERDICT Ellie and Mason are utterly captivating, with humor, sensitivity, and hot-as-hell chemistry. Debut author Grace hooks and holds her readers while shining a beacon on the ploys and pitfalls of today’s online culture. The second series entry, Picture Perfect, published in March 2014.
Hoover, Colleen. Maybe Someday. Atria. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781476753164. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476753171. F
Music maker Sydney’s pitch-perfect life falls apart when she discovers her boyfriend cheating with her best friend. Devastated, she moves in with the next-door neighbor, Ridge, whom she’s noticed playing guitar out on his balcony. Everything’s platonic since Ridge has a girlfriend and roommates, but something about Sydney strikes a chord deep within him. They begin writing songs together and assure each other that the relationship is strictly about the work, but the attraction between them is on the rise. Soon enough, their connection has moved beyond the music and is approaching a more intimate boundary, one they both know they must not cross. VERDICT NA staple Hoover (Slammed; Point of Retreat) has done it again, weaving a passionate, powerful, and utterly absorbing tale of betrayal, friendship, and love, told through the voices of two people who make beautiful music together. The book has its own original soundtrack, created by Hoover and musician Griffin Peterson, which can be accessed online.
McGuire, Jamie. Beautiful Disaster. Atria. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9781476712048. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476712055. F
Nineteen-year-old Abby Abernathy is embarking on a new beginning at Eastern University, one she hopes will mark an end to her troubled past. Enter bad boy Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox, the physical embodiment of all that Abby seeks to escape. By day he’s the campus charmer with his quick wit and the smile they call the “Panty-dropper.” By night he earns his tuition fighting for money in a clandestine campus ring. He’s all alpha, all about sex appeal and bravado, and all over the virginal Abby, who can’t help responding despite the warning bells he’s setting off. VERDICT Get ready to burn the midnight oil with this addictive read, told from Abby’s point of view. But never fear, Maddox mavens! There is a treasure trove of Travis awaiting you in McGuire’s 2013 follow-up, Walking Disaster, which is told from the oh-so-hot hero’s perspective.
Ryan, Kendall. When I Break. CreateSpace: Amazon. (When I Break, Bk. 1). 2014. 226p. ISBN 9781494443252. pap. $9.99. F
Knox Bauer is a hot mess. At the age of 22 he’s legal guardian to his three younger brothers, and, when not working to support them, he blows off steam by drinking, fighting, and having sex with every female within striking distance. After a DUI lands him in court-ordered therapy, he is identified as a sex addict and begins attending Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). Right away he notices McKenna, the group’s counselor, who has a few issues of her own. She lost her parents in a tragic accident for which she feels responsible and ever since has been trying to make amends by volunteering in shelters, trying to fix every hard-luck case she comes across, and not having sex (she’s a 21-year-old virgin—who knew there were so many of them?) She falls hard for Knox, which one would think would be an issue since he’s one of her clients. In the story told in alternating points of view, Knox is utterly captivating, McKenna somewhat less so since her neediness can be annoying at times (during one SAA meeting Knox admits that it’s been a week since he had sex and McKenna is so upset she bolts from the session she’s supposed to be running). VERDICT While the premise of a sex addict hooking up with his SAA counselor is a little hard to swallow, forbidden relationships are familiar territory for Ryan, and her fans will devour it, groan over the cliffhanger ending, then rush right out for the next book in the “When I Break” series, When I Surrender.
Webber, Tammarra. Easy. Berkley. (Contours of the Heart). 2012. 338p. ISBN 9780425266748. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101618011. F
After Jacqueline Wallace follows her longtime boyfriend Kennedy to college, he unceremoniously dumps her to sow his wild oats. Jacqueline is devastated and spends two weeks avoiding him, even refusing to attend the economics class they share. When she finally summons the nerve to venture out, she is assaulted and nearly raped by one of Kennedy’s fraternity brothers, only to be rescued by a bad-boy classmate, the brooding, tattooed Lucas. As Jacqueline plunges back into her schoolwork, she engages class tutor Landon to help her flagging economics grade. A flirtation develops as the two email back and forth, although Jacqueline has yet to meet her online mentor in the physical world. Meanwhile, Lucas seems to be popping up everywhere: in class, at the coffee shop, as an assistant at the self-defense workshop she signs up for. VERDICT While not without flaws—Jacqueline seems curiously unmoved by the attempted rape, choosing not to call the police for fear of getting the party busted and continuing not to call despite a repeat attempt by her assailant—there’s plenty here to keep the pages turning till the wee hours. And for those who just can’t get enough of the luscious Lucas, they can read his backstory in Webber’s 2014 follow-up, Breakable.
Wilder, Jasinda. Falling Into You. Seth Clarke. 2013. 356p. ISBN 9780989104401. pap. $14.29. F
Kyle and Nell grew up together and were best friends since babyhood. It seemed preordained that they fall in love. They are destined for each other, at least until Kyle’s young life is cut short by a tragic accident. At his funeral, Nell encounters Kyle’s older brother, Colton, for the first time in years. He’s the family’s black sheep, the bad boy to Kyle’s golden child, but he offers Nell comfort without question or judgment. Two years later in New York, the two meet again. Nell, still haunted by the loss of Kyle, has begun cutting herself to deal with the pain. Colt, having struggled with similar ghosts of his own, sees, understands, and extends a hand to help her through it. VERDICT Riveting from the very first sentence, Wilder’s poignant, lyrical story of love, loss, and healing addresses tough issues like self-harm and learning disabilities, all swathed in super steamy sex and infused with romantic passion. Gorgeously written, emotionally powerful, this NA novel will stay with readers for days.
Wolfe, S.A. Fearsome. S.A. Wolfe. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780991019786. pap. $12.95. F
Jess graduated high school at 14, earned a master’s degree from MIT at 19, and, at 20 has a high-powered career as a computer software developer. She works 60 hours a week, but it’s an okay life. A busy life. A lonely, sexless life (yes, she’s a virgin), until she receives the news that a distant relative has died and left her a house in the small rural town of Hera. Jess has no recollection of her great-aunt Gin, but memories come flooding back when she arrives in Hera, especially of the strapping Blackard brothers, who were once her playmates. Younger brother Dylan is flirtatious, fun, and fascinated with Jess, while the elder Blackard, Carson, is more reserved, equally sexy, and just as smitten. Each carries his own set of baggage, each is determined to win her heart, and the inexperienced Jess finds herself falling fast, but with which brother? VERDICT At its core Wolfe’s debut novel is about growing up and learning to love, but it also delivers the passionate sex and superstudly heroes that NA fans hunger for. Those who want a bigger helping of Blackard beefcake should check out 2014’s Freedom.
Wood, Heather Topham. Falling for Autumn. CreateSpace: Amazon. 2014. 248p. ISBN 9781496191830. pap. $9.99. F
When Autumn arrives at Cook University the last thing she’s looking for is a boyfriend, especially not campus lothario and star running back Blake. She had enough of that kind of guy when was she was a popular high school cheerleader with a BMOC boyfriend and part of the in crowd, at least until the betrayal that left her traumatized, ostracized, and homeschooled for the final semester of her senior year. Blake is precisely the type she wants to avoid, but he’s suddenly everywhere, offering the no-strings, nonjudgmental friendship that Autumn so desperately needs. Blake has secrets of his own, though, ones that could cause Autumn’s past to collide with their future and destroy the fragile love they are trying to forge. VERDICT With well-developed, likable characters, emotional depth, and a shocking 11th-hour reveal, Wood, who also writes paranormal romances, injects new life into the “girl runs away to college to escape her painful past” cliché and does so with neither a cliffhanger nor a sequel. Her latest is a breath of fresh air, one that will keep you reading well into the night.
By day, Jeanne Bogino is Director of a small but busy library in rural New York. By night, she writes at her western Massachusetts homestead. She’s published short horror, fantasy, romance, memoir, and gay fiction, and is a regular contributor at LJ, where she was named 2011’s fiction Reviewer of the Year. An expert on zombie lit and horror films, Jeanne has published articles and appeared on panels devoted to these subjects. Jeanne is the author of the new adult novel Rock Angel, which will be published by Prashanti Press on September 16.