Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

AUTHORS' CORNER > Can a story ever work equally well as MG or YA?

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message 1: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Writers of MG: Do you think it’s possible a story could work equally well as MG or YA? Or are there too many inherent differences that a story should definitely be targeted at one age group and not the other.

I just started writing my 2nd book and I’m torn. Since my 1st book was clearly MG, I assumed this one would be too. It’s definitely darker than my 1st book but not necessarily too dark to be MG. There’s no romance or explicit violence (but there is some violence that is talked about). I think my biggest reason for considering YA is that I keep picturing my main character as a teenager. But YA is kind of out of my comfort zone. Thoughts?

message 2: by Rio (fairy circle ink) (last edited May 16, 2018 10:26AM) (new)

Rio (fairy circle ink) (fairycircleink) | 14 comments personally i think MG needs darker books, bad things happen people need to understand that. I am currently working on a MG dystopian and its dark, my sisters are also working on MG books that are dark.
I'ts fine as long as you don't go crazy with blood and gore or cussing. And I've read MG books with characters that are teenagers. Write the story you want to write and crush the annoying stereotype that everything in MG has to happy, bad things happen that is just the way things are. Hope that helped :)

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm struggling with a similar problem for my second book. First book was clearly MG. Second book, the protagonist is clearly older. I think, from what you said, that you can still get away with MG. If your target audience is 8-12-year-olds, then a teenager who's a few years older, maybe 13 or 14, should be fine. The YA books I've read always have an emphasis on love relationships, even the sci-fi and fantasy ones. I think downplaying that aspect will keep you in the MG range. My MG novel is certainly dark. Harry Potter got darker and darker with each new book. As Rio said, bad things happen. Kids know that. They expect that. In fact, one ten-year-old friend, reading a MG novel, said it was boring because everyone was so happy and she wanted adventure and mystery!

message 5: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Thanks! This gives me a lot to think about. After I posted I convinced myself that it has to be YA but now I’m back to thinking MG. Maybe it’s premature to decide. I only have 3k words and a rough outline so who knows what direction it’ll take.

message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1674 comments Mod
MG can have an older protag.

I'm not sure what books people are reading to think that MG is all about happy people. It does tend more to happy endings--or at least endings as happy as they can be. I've read some pretty devastating historical fiction in the MG area, where peoples' lives are overturned and will never be the same.

I'm not sure that I think darkness for the sake of darkness is appropriate, and I'd be hesitant to give a kid a book that suggests that there's no hope or happiness. Adventure and mystery, absolutely--and there's lots of it out there.

And lest you think that it's only recently that MG books have begun dealing with hard things, try reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

message 7: by Bonni (new)

Bonni Goldberg | 8 comments I think the question is, why are you asking the question? Is it related to potential readers, the mainstream publishing world, your current readers/fan base, something else?

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I like Bonnie's question. When I wrote my first (and so far only) book, I didn't worry too much about the grade level. I knew I didn't want to write about boy/girl crushes and kissing etc, and I don't like huge battles in fantasy generally, so that kind of made my book middle grade. BUT it also has a growing adult fan base. So these categories can be misleading.

message 9: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1495 comments Mod
I liked it when I found the word 'crossover' coming into genre fiction. MG/Fantasy crossover is where it's a fantasy directed at MG but enjoyed by adults. Like most of mine ;)

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, Jemima, I didn't know that was a thing. OK, so I write MG/Fantasy crossover. Great to know. I'm going to change my amazon categories and keywords. 😜 But seriously, why didn't anyone tell me that that's what I've been writing?

message 11: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I think I’m asking just because I’m still a newbie and it would feel more comfortable to know who I was writing for from the start. Which I admit is probably a bad habit. I’ve heard plenty of writers say they don’t worry about anything to do with marketability until much later in the process.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I think your question is a good one, Cheryl. It is advisable to know your target audience when you're writing. The audience you end up with may be broader than the one you target, but there's no harm at all in writing with a particular audience in mind.

message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Mendonca (sarahjmendonca) My personal opinion is that a book can't be both MG and YA at the same time. I think the age of the protagonist is generally a good way to decide which genre it is, but not always.

For example Finding Audrey clearly was YA despite the main character being 14 because of the romantic parts of the book, and issues she was dealing with. In contrast I put The False Prince in the middle grade category despite the character being 15, because he is immature.

I've noticed that MG can be super dark and violent (i.e. Darren Shan), though as soon as the romance starts to be more important it flips over into YA.

How old is the character you are thinking of? I've heard middle grade characters typically are 11-13, and YA are 16-18. Though obviously the two examples above broke both those rules. And I'd be hard put not to mention series where the character grows up over time like Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl. But unlike Harry Potter which went from MG to YA, those two series consistently stayed in the adventurous MG vein.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with Sarah here. I've always felt that what really separates the mg from ya is the mushy stuff.

message 15: by Mark (new)

Mark Buxton (buxtonm) | 10 comments I think a difference between YA and MG is the detail and depth of the content. Both can have violence and romance, but YA will develop or describe them in more detail. Characters can die in MG, but YA will describe more about the process/killing. MG can have romance, but YA will spend more time developing/describing the feelings and emotions.

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Mark wrote: "I think a difference between YA and MG is the detail and depth of the content. Both can have violence and romance, but YA will develop or describe them in more detail. Characters can die in MG, but..."

Hmmm. I don't think the depth and detail make the difference. Harry Potter was all MG, and she went into some pretty exquisite detail on feelings and there was certainly depth to her content. I do agree completely that the process of killing (aka the gory details) and of romance (the mushy details?) in MG are not as detailed for sure.

message 17: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1674 comments Mod
I'm not convinced that the last couple of HP books WERE MG. I think they were YA, in part because they were very dark, as well as violent.

In general, with romance in MG you have mild stuff, and definitely no sex. YA gets mushier and usually more graphic.

With violence, I think you have it--MG leaves the details out.

message 18: by Mark (new)

Mark Buxton (buxtonm) | 10 comments I think Harry Potter was MG, but the later books pushed the boundaries of YA. After all, the characters became young adults, so the books morphed into more mature content.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Mark wrote: "I think Harry Potter was MG, but the later books pushed the boundaries of YA. After all, the characters became young adults, so the books morphed into more mature content."
Very true. But there was still no sex or gory details of murders.

message 20: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1674 comments Mod
Mark wrote: "I think Harry Potter was MG, but the later books pushed the boundaries of YA. After all, the characters became young adults, so the books morphed into more mature content."

It's a problem for a series that follows a kid all the way to adulthood. Tamora Pierce has the same problem with her books.

message 21: by Leone (new)

Leone Anderson (lcanderson) | 55 comments I've always consideed my two historical novels MG. Some might feel the themes make them YA, but thoush Sean's age is not mentioned I visualized him as age 12. Since the stories take place during the Black Hawk War, he does witness battles and a death. He does work in the lead mines. He does agree with his Norwegian stepmother that "Indians are people just like us," despite his father's hate of them. He does feel their quarrels are his fault. And in the sequel he does take off across country to bring his stepmother back home. In researching, I felt children grew up quicker under the hardships of those times and learned how to deal with them. But even today I feel middle-grade readers can identify with Sean's problems and how he tried to resolve them. I guess we as authors determine who we're writing for, and I believe mine are for middle-graders.

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