Wednesday, May 27, 2009

YA? MA? What the hay?

Question of the day: I wrote a novel that I thought would be deemed "young adult." My agent read it and said it was "middle grade." What's the difference and does it matter?

Truth told, I am not an expert in anything YA. At all. But I asked my trusty agent, and here's what she said: "I'm not totally sure, but my understanding is that there is not a hard and fast rule. But my experience if the protagonist/audience is 12 or younger, it is middle grade. Of course, the content can determine it too. If it's dark, it's YA."

She suggested asking a YA editor, but since I don't write YA, I didn't really have any contacts from which to pool. To answer your question, does it matter? I do feel like off the top of my head, most of the break-out youth set books have been firmly YA, but then again, I'm not an expert. The good news is that I run a blog with a lot of readers who know things when I don't. :) So if anyone can weigh in below, please do!


Amie Stuart said...

Not sure if this helps but most YA books are marked 14 and up. And in YA (i read a TON) the situations are more mature--you're more likely to have sex or drugs (Holly Black comes to mind), you might have darker characters/situations (Skinned by Robin Wasserman comes to mind as does Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series). You'll also usually have older characters (Rosemary CLement Moore's series starts w/a heroine finishing up HS).

I think of Rick Riordan (which my 13 YO read) as more middle grade, action/adventure for boys. Rick wrote adult fiction but really broke out with his Olympians series--they're making a movie of the first book.

Also keep in mind kids read up--my son also read Graceling which to me is more YA than MG (t also has sex in it though it's well done/not what you'd find in an adult romance book and it def has a romance!). Not sure I helped any LOL

Take a look at the age of your protag and the situations you've put them in. This might explain why your agent chose MG over YA. Hope this helped!

Trish Ryan said...

Funny to see this on your blog...I just read two of Sarah Dessen's YA books and thought, "I wonder if Allison ever thought of doing YA? Her voice would be great for this..."

Leah Ingram said...


Thanks for answering my question here on your blog. My main character is 14 so, in my opinion, she's on the cusp of young adult. From what my agent told me, though, the book is definitely middle grades (ages 8 to 12) because these kids like to read about kids a bit older than themselves, whereas 14 year olds want to read about kids like Bella "Twilight" Swan who is 17. Go figure.


Jeannie said...

Yep, middle grade is for readers 8-12, even if the protagonist is older than that. Sharon Creech, the Wimpy Kid books, Holes, some Sarah Dessen or Meg Cabot, a lot of the fantasy series, those are all considered middle grade. It's the content more than the age of the protagonist that determines it.

YA has been trending a lot more sophisticated in the last decade, so a lot of books that might have been considered YA a generation ago might be classed as middle grade these days.

(That's based on my experience as a sometime middle grade author and frequent YA reader with deep contacts in the YA world.)

Jeannie said...

Whoops, I typed in my url wrong above...

Eileen said...

The other thing to consider is that while YA is getting a lot of press/push there is talk that middle grade is ripe to have some break out books. Several writers have moved to YA so the market may have some room to grow in the MG area. Just a thought.