There has been much discussion lately about the difference between MG (Middle Grade) and YA (Young Adult). In fact, it was the topic of last Thursday’s #MGLitChat discussion on Twitter. Many people jumped in with their ideas about what attributes of a novel cause it to be placed in which category. Some found the presence or absence of romantic or sexual content to delineate between categories. Others thought length was the most important determinating factor.
My response was content. MG readers struggle with the world, YA readers struggle with their place in it. What does that mean? Children from ages 9-13 are trying to reconcile the rules they were taught as young children with the real world where not everyone says please and thank you, and some people get away with being mean or bad. They are making the transition of choosing to do the right thing because it is the right thing and not just to avoid negative consequences.
What does this mean for MG writers? This life transition is a complicated and difficult process that allows for faults and stumbles to shine, making characters relatable. It is a wonderful time when readers are exploring reality but still willing, eager even, to engage in the most fantastical fantasies authors can spin.
One last word about age classifications. Adult readers should ignore them. Children’s literature can be well written, exciting, surprising, heart-wretching, and informative. They are also sometimes shorter! Don’t let the kids have all the fun! Pick up a middle grade or young adult novel and enjoy the ride.