What is the difference between a middle grade book and a young adult book? I researched several websites, one of which surveyed editors and agents who work with both Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) writers to find the answers.
I summarized the findings and compared it to my novel to see where my fantasy novel would fit.
|Age of Reader||8 to 12||13+||Not entirely sure…|
|Word Count||Up to 60,000||60,000+||Currently 82,000 but still editing|
|Age of Protagonist||10 to 13||14 to 18||13|
|Point of View||Third||First||Third|
|Protagonist’s Concerns||Own experience||Others as well as themselves||Others as well as herself|
|Inciting Element||Single inciting element that throws their world into chaos||Find out world is more complex than they thought||Finds out world is more complex than she thought|
|Romance||Does not play a large part in the plot; first kiss||Takes up much more of the story; can involve sex||Plays a small part in the story; first kiss|
There is some overlap in the readers ages since some novels with milder plots and a 14 year-old main character could appeal to middle grade reader even though it would be classified as YA in the chart above.
The story line of middle grade protagonists tend to focus on what happens to them than with internal growth. Young adult story lines are more complex and generally have a character arc that shows how the events in the novel changed their attitudes and thinking.
Most of the editors and agents surveyed agreed that no topic is taboo, whether it is sex, drugs, violence, domestic abuse or any other risque subjects.
What is important is how the subject matter is handled. A middle grade novel should not contain any graphic descriptions, but shouldn’t avoid difficult material either.
In fact, young people can use books as a safe way to explore these sensitive or edgy subjects.
However, there is one important difference that should be noted: parents, librarians and teachers are the gatekeepers for what books middle grade readers will be exposed to. I am not sure how an indie middle grade writer finds their audience. It must be a hard slog.
For that reason, I will think long and hard about going indie with my book. If there are any indie MG writers out there willing to provide some advice, I’d be glad to hear it.
Authors of young adult novels have no such issues since most teens have their own spending money and have unfettered access to ebooks.
The Author shouldn’t be worrying about any of this, anyway — the author should just write the book that the novel in question was to be. – Micheal Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary
So where does my book fall? It looks like it falls into the ‘tame’ young adult category, written for the young YA crowd. But as Mr. Stearns says, I’m not going to worry about it for now. I don’t want that to affect how my characters react to certain situations. If a writer thinks about these issues while writing, it can create stiff and unnatural dialogue, reactions and relationships within the novel.
If anyone has any comments regarding middle grade and young adult books and how they are marketed… or if you have any other comments, please feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.