After my last post on Young Adult (YA) fiction, I decided Middle Grade (MG) should come next in my series of genre articles. I’ll start by posing a common question, what is the difference between Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction?
The easy answer: MG is for tweens, older elementary and middle school students, while YA is for high school students.
You may notice there’s a fuzzy spot in the middle of this answer. A given person doesn’t suddenly turn into a more sophisticated reader upon graduating middle school. Older tweens may want to read YA and younger teens may still be reading MG. This middle ground also gives some wiggle room for the age of the protagonist. While typically no younger than eight or older than twelve, a MG protagonist can be as old as fourteen.
So, what defines a Middle Grade book? The protagonist should be the same age as the target readership. The voice should be that of a young person going through the awkward stages of puberty and adolescence. A MG protagonist is a child becoming a teen, not a teen becoming an adult. This involves a protagonist finding his place in the world while his body is growing and changing. Family and friendship have more emphasis than romance. There will be little to no sexual references and what there is will not be explicit. The books also tend to be shorter in length.
MG books can be about serious, controversial subjects that are of issue to that age group. “Choke” is about an eighth grade girl drawn into the Choking Game, a recent phenomenon where kids choke each other to get high.
Like YA, MG is a wide umbrella with many subgenres such as literary, horror, science fiction, mystery and humor. Examples, in order of genre, include “Wonder,” “A Tale Dark & Grimm,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Liar & Spy,” and “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.”
Certain MG novels appeal to tweens, teens and adults, such as “Harry Potter,” “Artemis Fowl” and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” It’s interesting to note that these are all series where the protagonist ages from tween to teen. As they grow older, their issues and self-identity change as well. Does this mean the later books become YA fiction? No. They become that magical word, “crossover” and the series will probably be placed in more than one section in a library, bookstore or online store.
I recently had a conversation with a library worker. She told me that the Harry Potter books fly off the shelf in the teen section. However, in the middle grade section, the earlier books in the series are always checked out, while the later books remain on the shelf. While this is hardly a scientific study, it is an interesting indication that younger readers prefer a younger protagonist.
Interested in learning more about MG or finding good books to read? Check out these websites.
HarperCollins Children’s is offering a free sampler of Middle Grade fiction. It’s available for download in a variety of formats.
Awesome Adventures for Kids Middle Grade Sampler
Embark on a totally awesome adventure with excerpts from six extraordinary stories in one comprehensive ebook sampler! Experience magic and mix-ups with Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver; enter the enchanting wilderness of Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis; meet an unlikely hero in The Otherworld Chronicles: The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton; learn recipes with a twist in Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood; prepare to save the world with Cold Cereal by Adam Rex; and go on a wild family road trip with The Genius Files #2: Never Say Genius by Dan Gutman.