Sunday, October 11, 2009

VIEWPOINT: The difference between children's/MG/tweener/and YA

VBT - Writers on the Move monthly viewpoint:

This topic has come up several times in the recent past on several forums I belong to. The question posed was what is the difference between MG and YA novels. I've been following the postings and gathering information to distinguish the two.

There are no clear definitions as some YAs will overlap into MG and vice versa. There are age limits but even those don't seem to be true boundaries in distinguishing the two genres.

In our little town, elementary school is kindergarten through fourth grade, middle school is fifth through eighth gradea and high school is ninth through twelfth grade. In other towns, elementary may include fifth grade and even sixth grade. I even know one town that only has two schools, the elementary school and the high school so their high school includes seventh through twelfth grade.

So how is one to define the markers between MG, tweens and YA? As an author, I think content plays a big role. My books are classified as middle grade, ages 9 to 12, which is probably appropriate, because from the information I've gathered the last few years, it seems fifth graders are studying US History, which my books would fall in that category since they are basically historical (facts include some history and other types of info about the states that are not well known unless a student is actually doing a report on the state), and they are also part fiction in that the interaction between my characters is fictionalized.

I've written two stories that I call YA since the characters are a bit older and the themes seem to be more fitting for upper middle school girls, even into high school aged girls. But actually after looking through several definitions, I think I should reclassify these stories as tweens since they are geared for girls about ages twelve to fourteen, and YA classifications seem to include up to age eighteen or nineteen, with some folks including up to age twenty-one in the YA category.

My view on this would be that I guess it really depends on how the publisher classifies the book. What's your opinion of classifying books for children/young adults? What would you call your book, if writing one for this group?

Leave a comment and post your opinion on this topic.


Nancy Famolari said...

Good distinction between YA and MG. I guess my novels fall in the YA area, but I've been told that adults enjoy them. For more on the topic, visit my blog:

elysabeth said...

Thanks, Nancy. It seems there are no definite lines to distinguish any genre when writing. Always a grey area somewhere - lol. I guess it just comes down to the publisher in the long run.

Vivian Zabel said...

Teen pretty much covers ages 12 - about 16. Tween is also used for middle school grades.

A well-written book will appeal to all ages, but often the reading level determines the book level, even more than the author's perceived audience's age.

A middle grade book, for example, should be written on at least a fifth to sixth grade level. Often authors use a reading level of about third grade level, and that bores readers in middle school unless they are reading below grade level for some reason.

Young adult books should be written at an eighth grade reading level at the lowest.

I'm involved with too much to post a blog entry about this subject, so replied here.

elysabeth said...

It's nice to get another perspective on the subject since I can only go by what I've seen posted. Thanks for stopping by, Vivian.

Katie Hines said...

I'm glad to see someone mentioning the tween market, as I think that's where my book falls. I said middle grade, the publisher said young adult, but I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Thanks for a great article, Elysabeth.

elysabeth said...

And unfortunately in the publishing market, there isn't a TWEEN category. Books get dumped in either the MG or YA category, again based on grade level or age level as Vivian pointed out. It's interesting how set the publishing industry is on classifying books certain ways even though the genres have developed and evolved tremendously with so many new definitions coming out for everything, not just children's books or young adult books.

We just have to keep on writing the stories and hope our publishers do justice to them by putting them in an as close to category as they can be in.

Vivian Zabel said...

Many contests divide YA into juvenile and YA.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

I've had this problem - but with chapter and MG books.

It's a fine line in some cases.

Thanks for the explanation Vivian; I'm going to save it for reference.


Gayle said...

Thank you for clearing those up. I didn't even know there was an MG category.

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