Before the 4th, we were discussing differences between MG and YA rites of passage, which led me to ponder the differences between the two age groups in general. (In case you’re wondering, I’m torn between making my current WIP MG or YA.) So I Googled and came across many posts enumerating the differences. Here are two of the main ones:
(1) Age of target audience and/or protagonist—but not always.
Middle grade usually includes ages 8-12-ish; young adult includes 13 and up. However, some publishers may target tweens (10-12). And as a rule, kids like to read up. That is, the reader likes to read about older protagonists.
However, the division is more complicated than that. Just because the protag is a certain age (let’s say 11), doesn’t mean it’s MG—and not all middle grade (or young adult) fiction features a hero of the same age as the reader.
Eleven-year-olds and seventeen-year-olds have very different concerns. Middle graders are more focused on outward things—friends, family, belonging to a group, etc. Young adult heroes are more inwardly focused on issues like identity.
Other lists talk about differences in word counts, darkness, and subject matter complexity. However, most of these—in my opinion—seem like generalizations (for lack of a better word) rather than actual differences. There are many fantastic middle grade exceptions to all of these. The Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is 870 pages long. Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book is about a boy with a murdered family living among the dead. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a complex middle grade fantasy that’s ultimately about the nature of God and the universe.
What do you guys think? What are the main differences between YA and MG as you see it?
(btw, I still haven't decided about the WIP. Guess I'll know when I get farther into it! )