Pub Rants

Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 2 – The Difference Between Young Adult And Middle Grade

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STATUS: We folks here in Denver like to take the Groundhog seriously. If he says 6 more weeks of winter, we say let’s kick it off with 2 feet of snow. Bring on the winter. I’m the only who made it in today. Of course I have an advantage. I walk to work.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WE ARE YOUNG by Fun.

Invariably when I’m at a writing conference, I always get asked this question. So last weekend, I sat down and organized my thoughts on what I believe to be the core difference between the two.

And today’s entry is simply the first in a couple of videos I’ve recorded on this topic. Enjoy!

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23 Responses

  1. ramblinbess said:

    Nice–thanks! I’d never heard it explained that way. Now I’m frantically trying to work out whether my ms’s fit into that framework. 🙂

  2. Michael G-G said:

    As you said at the beginning: ten different people, ten different explanations. This explanation, however, was not one I’d heard before. So thank you for the food for thought.

  3. D. Robert Pease said:

    Great perspective, Kristin. I wonder though, how do publishers handle books in a series where the protagonist grows up, e.g. Harry Potter? The first book tends to lean toward middle grade, but by the end you are definitely in YA territory. I’ve published my first book, and the MC most definitely is still a child at the end, wiser as you say, but hasn’t passed that threshold. However by book three in the series, he will. I’m just not sure if I’ll be turning off young readers because he grew up, or turning off older readers because the first book is too childish.

  4. Farmer Kidd said:

    This explanation resonates with me. I love the coming-of-age, Campbell-esque hero’s journey that distinguishes YA from MG. Having written 2 manuscripts (1 in each genre), this feels true – although when I was creating these stories, this definition was not forefront in my mind! A happy coincidence then 🙂 Great vlog. Nice to know what you sound like, Kristin.

  5. JeffO said:

    Great explanation, Kristin. Now I’ll have to go back and re-read all those books I used to read with my kids and see how they compare!

  6. Joseph Ramirez said:

    Wow – you nailed it. I’m going through the books I’ve read in my head… and yep, this is true, as far as I can figure. I think that’s why I love YA so much, growth and change are crucial to it.

  7. Rashad Pharaon said:

    Interesting blog, thank you. I’m just glad young ones are reading in this day and age, what with all the distractions vying for their attention.



  8. May Myers said:

    Thanks for the explanation, Kristin. I totally agree.

    I know publishers don’t really recognize New Adult as a genre (yet), but what I’d really like to hear is your opinion on that versus Young Adult. My current work’s main characters are 19 and 17, both with a lot of growing up to do.


  9. Carrie-Anne said:

    Nice explanation. I’m glad to hear not everyone thinks of age as the be-all and end-all of distinctions between the two, and that some YA can have protagonists who are as young as 12. I’d love to hear your opinion on the so-called “new young adult” category, what would’ve been considered preteen novels when I was that age 20 years ago. Lately, it seems like there’s a big gap between books for older teens and books for older children. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been encouraged to age their characters up or down, when back when I was growing up, it wasn’t considered a death knell to have characters between the two major age groups.

  10. Gina Black said:

    This is truly helpful. Thank you.

    I can’t find an email link besides the one for queries–which I didn’t want to use, so I’m going to post my suggestion here. When you reference a client’s book you could take the opportunity to dissolve to a full screen graphic of it while continuing the audio track underneath. Leave the graphic up for at least 3-4 seconds. You can add any titling to it you’d like (for instance, “YA 12 and Up” for Ally Carter, “YA 14 and Up” for Simone Elkeles).

    I have other small notes if you want to find me through my Blogger contact info. I worked in television production in a major market for 20 years and lived in a dark edit bay for the last 5.

  11. Mindy said:

    I’m Repeating a question that was already said above. What happens if the character grows up in the series making the first book middle grade, but by the last book they’re practically grown up and have more an adult view point?