Among us three bloggers at Will Read for Feels, I’m the resident NA fan. As I said in our “niche” wish list post for NA Alley, I love how I can relate to the characters in NA books and how authors present relevant issues in candid ways. Surprisingly though, when Liana asked me to recommend new adult books that I thought she might enjoy, I found it hard to name specific titles. That discovery weirded me out, so I got to thinking about the books I’ve read that would be good introductions to this genre that I’ve grown to love. Thus, this NA “starter kit.”
This list isn’t based on a poll or on Goodreads ratings. The titles included are just a few of my personal picks in no particular rank. Most, but not all, are among my favorites. I tried to represent as much sub-genres or “flavors” as I could in hopes that you’d find at least one book that appeals to you.
Do you agree with my picks? Want to add something else to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!
1. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…
That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past she wishes could just stay buried.
Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.
I’m gonna buck the trend by recommending Hopeless instead of Colleen Hoover’s debut novel Slammed. Though I liked the latter, it really was Hopeless that cemented Colleen on my list of must-read authors. She broke my heart and mended it again with Sky’s journey of self-discovery. I loved how Colleen had me guessing at Sky’s past yet still managed to surprise me at the end—which was the same for her recent novel Confess (another 5-star reco!). And of course, she wrote an amazing book boyfriend in Holder, whose interactions with Sky gripped my heart something fierce.
Colleen’s books are always such sweet, surprising, utterly satisfying reads, and she never writes the same story twice. Also, don’t forget to read Ugly Love, which is currently being turned into a movie.
Two words—Nick Bateman.
2. The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen
The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?
She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.
Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.
Also, he’s taken.
Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.
They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.
But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.
If you read my review of Sarina Bowen’s latest novel The Shameless Hour, you know how I feel about this author. I’ll quote myself in saying, “She writes stories that haven’t been told and tackles problems that aren’t often seen in mainstream romance but are relevant to us. And yet she does that without being overly emotional or dramatic. None of her stories and characters are cookie-cutters. Each of them are unique and lovely and filled with depth.”
The Year We Fell Down explores so many vulnerabilities—entering college, being handicapped, liking your friend who’s in a relationship, figuring out how to overcome your limitations. The story and characters are so relatable, the writing’s excellent, and the feels are plentiful. Plus, the series just keeps getting better with each new book.
3. Isn’t She Lovely by Lauren Layne
The rules are clear—until they’re broken. The first book in Lauren Layne’s Redemption series gives a classic love story its edgiest twist yet.
“Who knew that pretending you’re not falling for someone would be so much more difficult than pretending that you are?”
Stephanie Kendrick gave up her whole summer to ace her NYU film school screenwriting course, so she’s pissed to be stuck with a preppy, spoiled frat boy as her writing partner. Then again, with her piercings, black-rimmed eyes, and Goth wardrobe, Stephanie isn’t exactly Ethan Price’s type, either. He’s probably got his eye on some leggy blonde with a trust fund . . . or does he?
As the summer scene kicks off in the Hamptons, Ethan is desperate to make his snobbish mother forget the pedigreed girl who broke his heart. While Stephanie’s a stretch as a decoy, the right makeover and a pastel cardigan just might do the trick. She may not love the idea of playing Ethan’s brainless Barbie girlfriend, but the free rent and luxurious digs make a tempting offer. So does the promise of a ready-made screenplay idea inspired by their charade.
But when Stephanie steps into Ethan’s privileged world, the “acting” begins to feel all too real. The kissing and touching that were intended to fool the Hamptons crowd wind up manipulating them. And Stephanie faces a question she’s too afraid to ask: Is Ethan falling for the real her or for the dolled-up princess he wants to see?
I first discovered Lauren Layne through her contemporary adult romance Sex, Love, & Stiletto series, and I immediately fell in love with her smart yet sexy and sassy heroines and her casual, almost friendly writing style. So when I learned that she had a new adult series too, I pounced on those books like Pooh Bear on a jar of “hunny.”
The books in her Redemption series are a bit more emotional than her adult novels, but they’re no less enjoyable. Each of the books put a unique, contemporary spin on a classic tale, with Isn’t She Lovely sexifying Pygmalion. My favorite in the series is definitely the last book Crushed (read my review), but I’d recommend all of ’em to anyone who loves modern retellings and fun reads.
4. Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase
Samantha Rousseau is used to getting her hands dirty. Working toward a master’s degree in wildlife biology while helping take care of her sick father, she has no time for celebrity gossip, designer clothes, or lazy vacations. So when a duchess from the small country of Lilaria invites her to dinner, Samantha assumes it’s to discuss a donation for the program. The truth will change the course of her life in ways she never dreamed.
Alex D’Lynsal is trying to keep his name clean. As crown prince of Lilaria, he’s had his share of scandalous headlines, but the latest pictures have sent him packing to America and forced him to swear off women–especially women in the public eye. That is, until he meets Samantha Rousseau. She’s stubborn, feisty, and incredibly sexy. Not to mention heiress to an estate in his country, which makes her everyone’s front-page news.
While Sam tries to navigate the new world of politics and wealth, she will also have to dodge her growing feelings for Alex. Giving in to them means more than just falling in love; it would mean accepting the weight of an entire country on her shoulders.
After the birth of HRH Princess Charlotte, we’ve got royalty on our minds. If there’s one NA tale of royalty that stands out the most for me, it’s Nichole Chase’s Suddenly Royal. It was the first book of hers that I read, and it turned me into an instant fan. I love Sam and her dedication to her career. Her chemistry with Prince Alex sizzled from their first meeting, and their relationship was just so enjoyable.
This book has cute banter, passionate characters, and roguish royals. What more can a girl as for? Plus, I saw somewhere online that Chris Hemsworth served as Nichole’s peg for Alex, so try reading it with him in your head and tell me if you don’t swoon. I’d especially recommend this light read to fans of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries (yay, Princess Mia!)
5. Ready. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli
Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.
Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?
Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.
With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.
With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.
Despite not being a huge sports fan myself, I had to include Game. Set. Match. in the list because: a) It’s different from most NA books in that it focuses on three girls instead of the standard single hero/ine or a main couple; b) It’s not just about romance—in fact, it centers more on the girls’ passion for their sport than their love lives, which is a great shift; c) It’s a well-written debut novel.
This is the first book in the series, and I think it would be the perfect intro to NA for sports lovers or those who want to try the genre but don’t want it to be all about hearts and roses.
6. Full Measures by Rebecca Yarros
She knew. That’s why Mom hadn’t opened the door. She knew he was dead.
Twenty years as an army brat and Ember Howard knew, too. The soldiers at the door meant her dad was never coming home. What she didn’t know was how she would find the strength to singlehandedly care for her crumbling family when her mom falls apart.
Then Josh Walker enters her life. Hockey star, her new next-door neighbor, and not to mention the most delicious hands that insist on saving her over and over again. He has a way of erasing the pain with a single look, a single touch. As much as she wants to turn off her feelings and endure the heartache on her own, she can’t deny their intense attraction.
Until Josh’s secret shatters their world. And Ember must decide if he’s worth the risk that comes with loving a man who could strip her bare.
Gosh, this novel. When it comes to military-themed novels that gave me major feels, Full Measures ranks up there with Kate McCarthy’s Fighting Redemption (which I’m not sure is completely NA but is one of my all-time favorite reads and will have a separate post). It doesn’t take place right in the thick of war, but it explores the consequences of war on a soldier’s family and, in a way, on a soldier himself.
Rebecca Yarros is one of the discoveries I made last year, and she’s a gem of an author. Despite me not having similar experiences to Ember’s and Josh’s, I related so deeply with their story and found characteristics to love in both of them. At the same time, the secondary characters were written such that I was interested in getting to know them better—which is good, because some of them will have their own book in the series.
7. Nocte by Courtney Cole
SAVE ME AND I’LL SAVE YOU….
My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole.
My other half– my twin brother, my Finn– is crazy.
I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me.
I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline.
He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me.
He has the power to destroy me.
Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt.
Why? Because of a secret.
A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming.
You won’t either.
Doesn’t that blurb sound all sorts of puzzling? I approached this book tentatively, only giving it a try, because I enjoyed Courtney Cole’s Beautifully Broken series. I ended up getting sucked into Calla’s sad, tangled brain, Dare’s air of mystery, and most of all, Courtney’s utterly compelling storytelling. In the blurb, Calla spoke of trying to figure out a secret. That’s exactly what I did. And just as Calla warned, I was completely stunned by her discovery.
I won’t say any more, because this is the kind of story that’s best read without expectation. Suffice it to say that it kept me up ’til 5 in the morning. Oh, and Calla’s story doesn’t end in Nocte. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger, but I was left with unanswered questions at the last page—which reminds me that I should get to reading Verum, its sequel, as soon as I clear up my TBR lineup.
8. Inspire by Cora Carmack
Kalliope lives with one purpose.
As an immortal muse, she doesn’t have any other choice. It’s part of how she was made. Musicians, artists, actors—they use her to advance their art, and she uses them to survive. She moves from one artist to the next, never staying long enough to get attached. But all she wants is a different life— a normal one. She’s spent thousands of years living lie after lie, and now she’s ready for something real.
Sweet, sexy, and steady, Wilder Bell feels more real than anything else in her long existence. And most importantly… he’s not an artist. He doesn’t want her for her ability. But she can’t turn off the way she influences people, not even to save a man she might love. Because in small doses, she can help make something beautiful, but her ability has just as much capacity to destroy as it does to create. The longer she stays, the more obsessed Wilder will become. It’s happened before, and it never turns out well for the mortal.
Her presence may inspire genius.
But it breeds madness, too.
Fantasy is something I’ve yet to see more of in NA books. I’ve seen some indie titles, but none of them have captured my interest thus far. I am a fan of Cora Carmack’s though, so I got excited when I heard she was releasing a fantasy NA novel. I loved how she didn’t go the mainstream route of featuring vampires, werewolves, angels, and demons, and whatnot. Instead, she wrote about a muse who inspires artists. How cool is that? The pull between Kalli and Wilder was electric, but the paranormal element wasn’t quite as evident as the romance was. It seems like things will change in the sequel, Inflict, which picks up where Inspire left off. Note that this book does involve a cliffhanger.
If you want something that’s more out-of-this-world, give Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Wicked or The Return a go. I haven’t read these titles yet, but I’ve read most of her paranormal YA and contemporary NA books and enjoyed them a lot. In fact, The Return is a spinoff of her YA series, Covenant, which was my introduction to Jennifer’s YA writing. As a side note, I’ve got to give this author props, ’cause she is super prolific.
9. Bully by Penelope Douglas
My name is Tate.
He doesn’t call me that, though. He’ll barely refer to me at all, and he’ll hardly ever speak to me.
But he still won’t leave me alone.
We were best friends once. Then he turned on me and made it his mission to ruin my life. I’ve been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got worse as time wore on. I even went to Europe for a year, just to avoid him.
But I’m done hiding from him now, and there’s no way I’ll allow him to ruin another year. He might not have changed, but I have.
It’s time to fight back.
When one brave young woman stands up to her best friend Jared, now tormenter, the consequences go beyond anything either of them ever would have imagined….
Of course I couldn’t write this list and not include Penelope Douglas. I’d actually read a lot of positive feedback about Bully prior to reading it, but for some reason I can’t remember now, it took me a while to decide to pick it up. It wasn’t long before I found myself completely engrossed in Tate’s battle of wits against Jared. This book is about the fine line between love and hate and about childhood ties that stay with us.
It’s not a light and cheerful read. Penelope Douglas’ books are full of angst, sizzling chemistry (and yes, smoking sex), and they often venture into forbidden, semi-dark territory. The characters are just so interesting and their conversations so entertaining that things balance out in the end.
10. Burying Water by K.A. Tucker
Left for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him?
Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.
The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.
I can’t think of a better author to conclude this starter list with than K.A. Tucker. She’s published an NA contemporary romance series entitled Ten Tiny Breaths that I definitely recommended, but for readers who prefer some suspense in their books, Burying Water‘s the way to go. Not only does it have the whole forgotten identity thing going for it, there are mobsters and cover-up schemes afoot.
Of course, there’s romance too. K.A. does an excellent job of stirring up the butterflies in my stomach with her book couples without making them seem cheesy. Each of the books in this series are standalones featuring interrelated characters, and from my experience, K.A.’s writing gets better with every new release.