My question was basically:
How can I be sure of the age bracket my novel fits into?
Is it MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult)?
What is the difference?
Well, that's three questions, but you get the idea. This is what I wanted to know.
I'd been pretty sure my novel fell into the genre of YA fantasy fiction until I posted a very basic draft query at The Query Slush pile, noting the sorts of books I thought it was similar to.
Someone there pointed out that those books were in fact MG not YA.
Oh no! I panicked and started searching the net to find out exactly where those book fit. Problem was the more I looked the more confused I got. Some people were labeling them YA others calling them MG, some saying they were cross over books. So how could I be sure where my novel fit?
I then started looking at definitions and guidelines for YA and MG.
This is what I discovered:
Middle grade: 10-12yrs (typically 20,000 - 40,000 words)
Upper middle grade: 10-14yrs
Young adults: 14 and up (approx 125 - 250 pages long)
The lovely people at write4kids.com had this to say (go there to read the whole article).
Characters are also a key element to young adult novels, but these books often have more complicated plots than those for middle grade. Protagonists experience an internal change, but this change is triggered by external events and fits into a bigger picture. They begin to step outside themselves and see how they influence, and are influenced by, the larger world. They go beyond their backyard and encounter adult problems for the first time.
The author of the true, classic middle grade novel does not worry about vocabulary choices or simple sentence structure; once children are ready for these books they are good readers. Middle grade novels are characterized by the type of conflict encountered by the main character. Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world. They are solidifying their own identity, experiencing the physical and psychological changes of puberty, taking on new responsibilities all within the boundaries of their family, friends and neighborhood. Yes, your character needs to grow and change during the course of the book, but these changes are on the inside. Middle grade readers are beginning to learn who they are, what they think. Their books need to mirror their personal experience.
This place has some great hints for understanding YA fiction. I've pasted a bit here, but do go there and see what else they have to say.
Don't let its name fool you: Young Adult fiction is not watered down adult fiction. It's also not children's fiction with older characters. It is literature that doesn't waste a breath. YA fiction moves at a clip that keeps pace with busy teens who are pressed for reading time, whose attention spans are brief, who are accustomed to and crave instant gratification. YA lit is the movie version of a great story... gripping from the first line, never slowing down, with all the slow parts edited out. YA literature is crisp, lively, and hip.
Now, if you haven't already, go read Natalie's post.
So what have I learnt on this roller coaster journey?
- That peoples ideas of what is YA or MG can be subjective.
- The libraries ideas about what is YA and what is not is not necessarily the same as the option of random folks on the net (So far, in my reading, my library has been right).
- Read a book if you're not sure, then classify it.
- My novel is YA. I was SOOOO right!