5 New Adult Novels that Saved Me from My Post-High School Reading Slump

Reading SlumpThe summer after I graduated college, I had an awful realization: I did not particularly appreciate reading.

As someone who graduated with a B.A. in English, this was heartbreaking. How could I have spent four years taking literature classes I loved only to realize that I didn’t get the same thrill from reading a book for pleasure as I used to?

Something was wrong.

The change itself took place while I was in college. Instead of having hours each night to read before I fell asleep, exhaustion would seep at the moment I let myself lay down in bed. Over summer breaks I’d spend far more time playing video games, while I slogged through library books at a snail’s pace. During school, it felt strange to take a break from reading for class… by doing more reading.

However, now that I was out of college, my love of reading hadn’t returned. As I browsed the shelves of available books at my local library, a myriad of emotions bubbled within me.

  • The confusion that I didn’t relate to the middle-aged protagonists in the Adult sections. The adults who had their lives together and weren’t struggling to afford groceries.
  • The embarrassment that I felt closer to the teen protagonists in YA fiction and more comfortable with their voices and stories.
  • Anger that I couldn’t find any characters like me: characters in college or recent graduates struggling to navigate a world that doesn’t seem set up for our success.

Maybe you are a young person in your twenties, and you’ve had the same thoughts and emotions? If you are, keep reading, because I found the books that pulled me out of my post-high school reading slump.

New Adult Fiction: A Developing Genre

New Adult is a genre of fiction books featuring characters between 18 and 30. Because it is still a developing genre, I had no idea New Adult books existed until I actively began looking for them. There isn’t a New Adult section at my local library or bookstore, and the category also isn’t available as a search option for many online vendors.

The other issue? An extensive sub-genre of romance and erotic fiction has developed beneath the New Adult umbrella. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can be overwhelming if that’s not the type of book you are looking for.

Although some New Adult novels do explore sex in more explicit ways than YA fiction, not all New Adult books focus exclusively on sex or romance as a plotline. Because the genre is still developing, it can be hard to tell which books are sex-focused and which are not when you are browsing.

Even though the New Adult genre is difficult to navigate, once I discovered it I spent much time hunting down novels that I might enjoy. Here are the ones that made me fall in love with pleasure reading again.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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This is the first New Adult novel I read, and I couldn’t believe that I was reading a book about a character attending college instead of high school. This was the first book that made me feel like I wasn’t alone in wanting to read about characters attending college. Fangirl gave me hope that I could find similar books to love.

Do you need more reasons to read? This book also:

  • Features a main character that writes fan-fiction about the in-world equivalent to Harry Potter
  • Focuses on navigating change in family relationships and making new friendships
  • Subtly and deftly deals with mental health issues such as social anxiety and bipolar disorder

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

It Ends With Us
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I read this book during snippets of my lunch break at work and boy did it make me blush. This book has some sexy, racy parts, but it was Hoover’s emotive storytelling and characters that made me fall in love. It was the first book since college that moved me to tears: both happy and sad. My recommendation? Go into this book knowing as little as possible. You’ll be glad you did.

More reasons to love this book:

  • Flashbacks to a high school romance, which is an excellent transition from YA to NA
  • The main character begins writing letters to Ellen Degeneres

Roomies by Christina Lauren

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Listen. If you’ve been in a reading slump for a while, you probably miss those days where you sit down intending to read a book for a few minutes and look up to find that hours have passed.

Christina Lauren will fix that problem. Start her books on a rainy weekend or a quiet evening because you won’t want to leave your reading nook. If you love YA fiction with contemporary romance, then this is the book I’d recommend you start with.

 

More reasons to love this book:

  • This is a romance with a lighter tone than Hoover’s It Ends with Us
  • The main character is working to pay her bills, but isn’t sure how to make her real career dreams come true… relatable for any millennial
  • Features a Broadway musical

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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Author Nina LaCour writes fast-paced books that, like Christina Lauren’s, are incredibly hard to put down. We Are Okay felt different from her usual fare, but I still loved it. We Are Okay is a raw, character-driven story about a college student dealing with grief. Save this one for a time when you have some emotional headspace to delve in. We Are Okay may not be the perfect introduction to the New Adult genre, but it’s worth your time when you are ready for some more substantial fare.

More reasons to love this book:

  • The narrative is almost entirely character driven
  • Although it mentions a past romance, focuses mostly on friendship
  • A quiet, thoughtful read

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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The fact that Alice Oseman is a young author is so apparent in this book. I mean that in the best of ways.

She gets it. She understands what it’s like to be a young person thrown into adulthood. She understands what it’s like to feel like you missed out on reading the instruction manual about how to be an adult. If you are overwhelmed with the stress of being a millennial and need to feel like someone else understands: this is the book to start with.

More reasons to love this book:

  • Platonic friendship (romance is not between the main characters)
  • Characters with diverse sexuality, abilities, and ethnicity
  • The internet, podcasts, and memes play an active role in the story

You can and will fall in love with reading again.

Being a young millennial can be strange. We are still growing up. We are facing the reality that our future may not look the same as it did for our parents. We don’t quite fit in at the kids’ table, but we don’t feel comfortable sitting with the adults either.

Here’s the thing: there are books out there that can make you laugh, cry, and spend all day lost in the pages like you used to. Books with characters your age, with your problems, with your sense of anxiety (and occasionally hope) for the future. I found them and you will too. You just have to keep looking. (And maybe bother your local libraries and bookstores about whether they have a New Adult section).

And while you’re searching for your New Adult book crush, you can go ahead and throw that shame about still loving the style of YA fiction out the window. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like we aren’t quite grown up.

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About the Author


Josephine Just
has a B.A. in English and lives in Texas with her husband.  She can often be found folding origami cranes, baking cookies, and writing letters.    

 

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