Awesome post at WriteOnCon about what differentiates middle grade and young adult. Author Claire Legrand talks about levels of swearing, language, violence–the movie rating approach. But she also talks about less quantifiable aspects of novels, like the character’s internal/external experiences and how they approach what happens in their lives. One part I especially liked, about journeys:
“At the end of a MG book, the main character has experienced something, in her own world, that has changed everything. She now sees her world in a different way. The MG protagonist has started the process of becoming who she will grow up to be. Anything could happen now; her journey has only just begun.
On the other hand, at the end of a YA book, the main character’s world has collided with the outside world, changing everything. He now sees his world as it relates to the outside world. For a long time, the YA protagonist has been trying to figure out who he will grow up to be. What he believes in, what he wants, who he is. This experience has helped start to answer these questions. He still has many other questions, of course, and who knows what life beyond high school will bring? But now, at last, he’s finally getting somewhere.”
I don’t tend to write middle grade, but I love this look at the difference in emotional core. MG characters are beginning to figure out their places in the world and how they can interact as individuals. YA characters are establishing themselves within the larger context and deciding who they want to be. This shift is subtle but vital to tween and teen characters.
And I think this is another reason I like MG and YA so much. It’s very easy to relate to characters who are learning about themselves and establishing themselves in the context of the larger world. Even if the action required to do so isn’t big, the emotional reprecussions are huge and, again, it’s easy to sympathize.
Claire shares lots of other excellent thoughts about the MG/YA divide, so make sure to check out the whole post.