11 "New Adult" Novels to Get You All Hot & Bothered

Remember the episode of Friends where Joey goes to take a nap in Rachel’s bed and discovers her “dirty book” about Zelda and the chimney sweep? At the time, it seemed so cheesy — burning loins, heaving bosoms, and all that. But, after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, we aren’t ashamed to admit that some explicit scenes can definitely, um, enhance the reading experience.
Our only hang-up (pun intended) is that Fifty Shades tries way too hard to be provocative, almost completely sacrificing plot and plausibility in its efforts. Meanwhile, those bodice-rippers still feel tawdry, and Nicholas Sparks…well, does a character’s secret terminal illness always have to ruin things for the two lovebirds in the third act? Even the ever-popular, YA dystopian trilogy can leave those of us who no longer stop at breathless makeout sessions unfulfilled.
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Luckily, there’s a new genre in town. “New Adult” books aim to fill the void for readers who no longer feel like they’re on the same page as YA heroines. Since the characters are a little older, they also have the deeper level of emotional understanding and perspective that come with a loss of innocence. Now, that's not to say that this genre can't get a little lost in Twilight-y ,“I am his, and he is mine” territory, but hey, even Seal sang “I belong to you, and you belong to me.”
So, think of these 11 New Adult novels as the literary equivalent of a Lifetime movie that promises infinitely more blushing on your morning commute. Forget all about Four, Gale, and Christian — it’s about to get a much steamier in here.
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Photo: Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.
Losing It by Cora Carmack
Bliss goes to a bar called the Stumble Inn (love a good drinking establishment name pun) on the night before her final semester of college with one goal in mind: to lose her virginity. The dashing British man she chooses for the job turns out to be her theater professor. Of course, they don’t realize this until she arrives to class the next day, when the ball of undeniable mutual attraction has already been set in motion. As you can imagine, the end of Bliss’ senior year turns out to be way more intriguing than our own.

The lovers: Bliss Edwards and Garrick Taylor
The setting: A college in Texas
Movie-of-the-week issue: Student-teacher romance
Blush factor: Pinkish-red
Does Garrick have a motorcycle? Of course; Bliss burns herself on the exhaust pipe the first time she rides it (that is not a euphemism).
How about tattoos? No.
Companion books: Faking It, which focuses on Bliss’ best friend Cade, and Finding It, about her other best friend, Kelsey.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group.
Down London Road by Samantha Young
After her abusive father abandoned the family, Johanna was forced to drop out of high school to care for her alcoholic mother and younger brother. She’s made a career out of dating wealthier older men, but of course, they leave her unsatisfied. When Cameron “Cam” MacCabe, a scorchingly handsome graphic designer (the most rugged of design-oriented careers, apparently), coincidentally moves into the flat below hers, well, you can probably assume what happens next. Bonus points if you can read all the dialogue in a proper Scottish accent.

The lovers: Johanna Walker and Cameron MacCabe
The setting: Edinburgh, Scotland
Movie-of-the-week issue: Child abuse, alcholism
Blush factor: Here’s a sample Cam quote: “I'm going to f*ck you so hard, sink so deep inside of you, you'll never work me out from under your skin. Never.” So yeah, we were pretty scarlet on the subway ride to work that day.
Does Cam have a motorcycle? No, but he does do judo.
How about tattoos? Of course.
Companion book: This is the second book in the On Dublin Street series. The third book, Before Jamaica Lane, came out in January.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group.
Easy by Tammara Webber
After she’s almost raped by her ex-boyfriend’s fraternity brother, Jacqueline goes to self-defense classes, deals with psychological trauma, and helps get her attacker expelled from school. While this sounds like an extremely depressing, very special-episode-of-Degrassi setup, Webber manages to weave this plotline with a compelling love story. The result is a book that’s interesting and will hopefully help readers understand what to do if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

The Lovers: Jacqueline Wallace and Landon Lucas Maxfield
The setting: College
Movie-of-the-week issue: Rape
Blush factor: Mauve
Does Lucas have a motorcycle? Of course! What kind of loner economics TA with an artistic side would he be without one?
How about tattoos? Again, see above. He’s a loner with an artistic side. His body is his canvas, too. He’s also got a lip ring.
Companion books: Lucas’ story, Breakable, comes out this May.
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Photo: Courtesy of Atria Books.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Call it Tyler Durden — The College Years. She appears to be a regular gal from Wichita and the only one at Eastern University who’s immune to underground fighter Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox’s boyish charm and sexual magnetism. But, appearances aren’t always what they seem (which is good, because she’s a little boring otherwise), and it turns out Abby had to run away from home to escape her father, a world-famous poker player who claims his daughter “stole his luck” when she won a big tournament at 13. And, just when Abby’s finally getting somewhere with Travis, her dad puts a shark from Vegas on her tail. How nice of him.

The lovers: Abby Abernathy and Travis Maddox
The setting: College
Movie-of-the week issue: Gambling, underground fight clubs
Blush factor: Reddish
Does Travis have a motorcycle? Of course he does.
How about tattoos? Not only does he have tattoos, he gets his nickname for Abby — "Pigeon" — inked to show his devotion.
Companion books: A sequel from Travis’ perspective called Walking Disaster, and Beautiful Oblivion, the story of his brother Trent, comes out this July.
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski
Have you ever wondered if you could meet the love of your life by absentmindedly deciding to take a bus from North Carolina to Idaho because you just need a break from everything? No? Well, The Edge of Never will have you second-guessing that decision, because that’s exactly what happens to Camryn and Andrew. They meet-cute when she’s on that aforementioned bus trip to nowhere, and he’s going to Colorado to say goodbye dad to his dad.

Since Camryn doesn’t actually have a destination, the two of them decide to road trip it back to Andrew’s home in Texas. The only rule of the road? Camryn has to do whatever Andrew says. No, not sexually…that part comes later when he offers to go down on her in a hotel room, as you do when you’re on an impromptu road trip with a guy you met three days ago. But, before you go booking any bus rides, we’ll throw in that this one does have a Nicholas Sparksian third-act twist. Keep tissues nearby for the end.

The lovers: Camryn Bennett and Andrew Parrish
The setting: A cross-country road trip
Movie-of-the-week issue: Terminal illness
Blush factor: Burgundy
Does Andrew have a motorcycle? No, but he does play guitar and sing. He also has a vintage Chevelle, the official car of non-motorcycle-having bad boys in New Adult novels.
How about tattoos? They’re kind of a big deal in this book.
Companion books: The Edge of Always
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Photo: Courtesy of Atria Books.
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
This one goes to extreme serioustown, population Sky and her horrible father. It’s definitely one of the more intense books on this list, issues-wise, but the plot twists will keep you hanging on, hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel. It reminds us of a more grown-up version of one of our favorite childhood books, The Face on the Milk Carton.

The lovers: Sky Davis and Dean Holder
The setting: A Texas suburb
Movie-of-the-week issue: Child molestation, suicide
Blush factor: Pale pink
Does Holder have a motorcycle? Nope, just a regular car.
How about tattoos? Of course — he has the book’s title scrolled on his arm.
Companion books: Losing Hope, which is told from Holder’s perspective.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell is well-known for her YA books Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, but she also wrote this sweet, near-period piece for slightly older readers. Attachments takes place at a newspaper that’s first going digital in 1999, so just imagine how hilariously dated all the references to Y2K, what the Internet will mean for journalism, and how an office is dealing with incorporating email into their lives can be.

That’s the basis of the plot: IT guy Lincoln is hired by the paper to monitor employees’ email, and he falls in love with Beth, the entertainment reporter, through her correspondence with her best friend, a copy editor. He doesn’t even know what Beth looks like, he just loves her words. If companies still do this, we can only hope there’s a sweetie like Lincoln at the other end of the red-flagged words.

The lovers: Beth Fremont and Lincoln O’Neil
The setting: A newspaper in Nebraska
Movie-of-the-week issue: Catfishing (albeit unintentionally)
Blush factor: Pale pink
Does Lincoln have a motorcycle? Nope.
How about tattoos? No, but he does play Dungeons & Dragons.
Companion books: None, but Rowell has a forthcoming novel called Landline hitting shelves this July.
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Photo: Courtesy of Random House Publishing Group.
Deeper by Robin York
After Caroline's scummy ex-boyfriend posts explicit nude photos of her on a revenge porn website, she decides to essentially disappear, keeping her nose to the grindstone and focusing on school. She just wants the pictures to go away, but her tactics of reverse Google searching are only filling her head with more disgusting, lewd comments from porn sites. During her nightly insomniac drives, she finds herself at the bakery, where West, the campus drug dealer and general hustler, works. He invites her in, shows her how to make bread, and more. West also helps her find the strength to confront the disgusting ex in a much more productive way.

The lovers: Caroline Piasecki and West Leavitt
The setting: College
Movie-of-the-week issue: Revenge porn
Blush factor: Even the phone sex in this one will make you turn a deep shade of crimson. The title isn’t innuendo; it’s exactly what’s in store.
Does West have a motorcycle? Surprisingly, no.
How about tattoos? Yes.
Companion books: The sequel, Harder, comes out in July. We’ve already preordered it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tammara Webber.
Between the Lines by Tammara Webber
This one is total wish fulfillment. A quasi-ordinary girl gets cast opposite a fictional Zac Efron in a big-budget studio adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called School Pride. Once she’s onset, Emma is pursued by both the film’s mega-famous star (Reid) and Graham, her enigmatic, loner costar (you know he’s mysterious because he “normally does indies”). When both options are clearly so heinously vile, how is a girl supposed to choose?

The lovers: Reid Alexander, Emma Pierce, Graham Douglas
The setting: California, a movie set in Austin
Movie-of-the-week issue: Teen pregnancy
Blush factor: Beige...this one is pretty tame
Does anyone have a motorcycle? Reid has an obnoxious yellow sports car, and Graham lives in New York City.
How about tattoos? It’s not explicitly stated.
Companion books: Where You Are and Good For You
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Photo: Courtesy of Ember Chase.
Denial by Ember Chase
A typical conversation between two female friends in this book boomerangs from detailing one of the friend's BDSM sex-slave training and how her boyfriend will kill her because she doesn't like the demeaning act he wants to perform on her, to whether or not the new highlights she just got look "totally cute," and does the other friend think her sex-slave trainer with whom she's fallen in love will be into them?

Oh, and then back to how Maya is only becoming a lawyer because her controlling boyfriend and terrible-with-men mother "brainwashed" her into becoming one. It's like a steamy, beyond-explicit, Fifty Shades of Grey-wannabe trying to pass the Bechdel test, too.

The lovers: Maya and Isaac
The setting: An apartment where Isaac is supposed to train Maya to be submissive
Movie-of-the-week issue: Lifetime hasn’t covered the whole “So, your older, wealthier boyfriend wants you to undergo hardcore BDSM training” thing yet, have they?
Blush factor: Oh god...what’s past crimson? Someone get out the Pantone swatches.
Does Isaac have a motorcycle? No.
How about tattoos? Nope.
Companion books: Not yet (Denial came out in January), but it ends with a cliffhanger, so we’re sure one is on the way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gallery Books.
Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens
We’re not gonna lie: This one can be a very frustrating read. Kiera has about as much agency as a marionette, and even when she cheats on her boyfriend with their rock-god roommate, it’s still somehow written as if it’s happening to someone else. We mostly stuck with it for some quality lulz in carnal descriptors.

The lovers: Kiera Allen and Kellen Kyle
Movie-of-the-week issue: Child abuse
Blush factor: Red
Does Kellen have a motorcycle? Nope, but we hear a lot about his “sexy Chevelle.”
How about tattoos? We don’t want to ruin anything, so we’re pleading the Fifth.
Companion books: Effortless and Reckless
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