HEIDI: Since we’re starting our “Middle Grade March” themed blog posts, we thought it might be fun to begin with that most frustrating of questions – what is the difference between middle grade and young adult?
KATI: Many people think it has to do with the protagonist’s age, but that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve seen plenty of great MG books with older protagonists, like Janice Hardy’s “The Shifter.” In fact, we’re planning on dedicating a whole post to MG with older protagonists, so more on that later…
HEIDI: Spoiler! >: (
KATI: I think it’s really more of a teaser. 😉
HEIDI: Call it what you will. But no, the protagonist does not have to be younger, although typically MG seems to feature protagonists between the ages of 9-12. Really the key is the age of the reader, not the age of the character.
KATI: Another difference? Romance. In YA it seems to almost be a requirement. I can’t even think of any YA books off the top of my head that don’t include at least some romance.
HEIDI: Hmm…nope, can’t think of any, either.
KATI: On the other hand, MG doesn’t have to have romance.
HEIDI: But it can have romance, and in fact many good MG books do. Look at the love story in “A Wrinkle in Time,” for instance, between Meg and Calvin. The key difference is in the level of romance: more innocent, crushes, hand holding, first kisses, that sort of thing, whereas YA romance is usually more sexually charged.
KATI: True, true.
HEIDI: I think the number one difference between the two, though, is the tone. MG books have a very different tone, and a very different voice, than YA.
KATI: MG is usually much more light-hearted. There can be dark things happening in the story, but generally the voice of the character narrating is not so dark. YA, especially recently, is much edgier, grittier, whatever you want to call it.
HEIDI: And then there are the little things that help set that tone. Generally there’s no swearing in MG, and the violence isn’t as graphic.
KATI: Of course there are always exceptions. Every “rule” out there has been broken.
HEIDI: It’s more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules…
KATI: Nice quote.
HEIDI: I thought you’d like it. 😉
KATI: And if you want more info, there’s plenty out there written about the differences between MG and YA. A lot of it contradicts itself, but there’s still some great advice.
HEIDI: Personally I loved this post by Hannah Moskowitz, especially the bit where she defends Harry Potter as MG all the way, and not MG transitioning into YA. For what it’s worth, I think she’s right on the money.
KATI: “Right on the money?” So now we’re speaking in quotes and bad clichés? ;p
HEIDI: Heh heh. What can I say? When life hands you lemons–
KATI: Don’t even. >: (
HEIDI: …this is probably a good point to turn this conversation over to all you fine folks. What do you think? Did we cover the major differences between MG and YA, or is there something you would add? Please share!