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Is it Middle Grade or Young Adult? Thirteen Considerations to Clue a Reader In

Even though I’m a voracious reader and like to read everything from adult mysteries to picture book fantasies, I’m still learning the categories and genre classifications of fiction. Perhaps, like me, you’re a talented but struggling padawan in sorting your literature. I can help. Let’s start by looking at the differences between middle grade (MD) and young adult (YA) stories.

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  1. Typically, MG readers are between eight and twelve years old while YA readers are between thirteen and eighteen.
  2. MG books are between 30,000 and 50, 000 words although some might be as short as 20,000 words. YA novels can be between 50,000 and 75,000 or even 80,000 words; however, fantasy might be longer in either age group because of the world-building required.
  3. Generally MG tales don’t have profanity whereas YA novels might.
  4. The protagonist in a MG story is usually between ten and thirteen. YA tales can feature a hero who is fourteen to eighteen.
  5. Commonly MG adventures are written in third person. YA stories are often told from the first person perspective.
  6. MG novels often end on a hopeful happily-ever-after note, which is not necessarily so in a YA book.
  7. MG heroes focus on the external—what is happening to them, which often means more action and adventure while YA protagonists are more internal, more introspective and in their own heads.
  8. Sexual Attraction is sweet, a first kiss or a crush in MG tales, but it might be more involved and developed. A dating relationship can be explored in a YA story.
  9. MG protagonists think about their friends and family, their own personal bubble while the main characters in YA stories are trying to figure out how they fit in the world outside their family and friends.
  10. MG protagonists often focus on their personal struggles and all the story events are seen in light of how they affect the protagonist whereas YA heroes frequently focus on the struggles of others whether or not those struggles affect them.
  11. Although not always true, a general rule of thumb is a MG novel won’t have graphic violence. A YA novel might.
  12. Often MG readers have to go through a gatekeeper, a librarian, teacher or parent to obtain a story selection. Typically YA readers have more freedom and possibly a driver’s license. This means MG writers might want to consider how an adult guardian might view the MG novel.
  13. It wouldn’t be fair to say that there are no similarities between YA and MG books. Here’s one thing they have in common. The “read-up” phenomenon. Both YA and MG readers want characters that are older than they are. They are eager for glimpses of what life could be a year or a few years from their present.

As I said before I’m still learning to sort my fiction into YA and MG categories. Can you think of any other distinctions that should be mentioned? Please leave a comment.

 

Works Cited

Backes, Laura. “The Difference Between Middle grade & Young Adult.” WriteForKids Writing Childrens Books. 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://writeforkids.org/2014/01/the-difference-between-middle-grade-young-adult/>.

Lamba, Marie. “The Key Differences Between Middle Grade vs Young Adult.”WritersDigestcom. Writers Digest, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult>.

Lo, Malinda. “An Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, Part 1: Definitions – SFWA.” SFWA. 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.sfwa.org/2013/02/an-introduction-to-middle-grade-and-young-adult-fiction-part-1-definitions/>.

Rosen, Judith. “Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line?” PublishersWeekly.com. 18 July 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/63358-middle-grade-and-ya-where-to-draw-the-line.html>.