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Thread: What is Middle School fiction exactly?

  1. #1

    What is Middle School fiction exactly?

    My creative writing teacher said that the tone, vocabulary, and sentence structure of my novel isn't for young adults (like I thought it was), it's more for middle schoolers. I'm okay with that (the class suggested that I make the main character 14 or 15 instead of 17 in high school...so I would assume that's a HS freshman...which I can do), but I'm just confused as to what "middle school" means, exactly. As in, does middle school fiction refer to upper middle grade, all of middle grade, low YA (is there such a thing as low YA)? Like, I guess I'm wondering because I've already written the whole book, but since she only read the first two chapters, she hasn't read the chapters that involve sex and some violence.

    So I guess my next question is, can middle school books have sex and violence? Neither of these things are super intensely written or anything in the book. Like, I don't describe the sex scene at all; I just say that they are making out and get undressed at the end of one chapter, and wake up in the same bed at the start of the next chapter (and one character says the word "sex" once, but that's it). And by violence I mean someone gets cut up on glass and has blood rushing from their body, and there's a school fight scene, but that's it. So should I delete all the sex (and I guess nudity) and violence (like they suggest in middle grade novels), or is okay to mention them without making the content too mature?
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW SheilaJG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B.Kantt View Post
    So I guess my next question is, can middle school books have sex and violence?
    Smarter people than me will be along shortly, but my understanding is:

    Violence, yes (I've seen decapitation and torture in MG books). Sex, no.

    (I'm not one to question authority, but I think the delineations between YA and MG (not middle-school, that's not a category, I don't think), are not about vocabulary, tone, and sentence structure, but about themes. Which is why sex is okay in YA, but not MG. Kids are easily separated into those two groups because they are going through unique periods of growth.)
    Last edited by SheilaJG; 11-30-2012 at 04:01 AM.
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    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Middle school fiction isn't a category, so my guess would be they meant lower young adult but didn't know what to call it. A 14-15-year-old who had sex really sounds more like young adult than middle grade (which is a category).
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  4. #4
    i luv you giant bear statue AW Moderator Kitty Pryde's Avatar
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    Middle school fiction is not a thing. Middle schoolers often range from about 11-14 or so (although where I work 'middle school' refers to grades 4-6, age 9-12, so it's not a very meaningful term, other than to mean Bigger Than Primary Kids But Littler Than High Schoolers)). Some of them will be reading middle grade fiction, and some will be reading young adult fiction. Maybe you should ask your teacher to clarify what she means by middle school fiction, and ask for a few examples of what she has in mind.

    Also, agree, no sex in MG. A bit of kissing is ok in the right context. Violence is ok but it has to be written in a certain way...read more MG fiction to get a better idea.

  5. #5
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B.Kantt View Post
    My creative writing teacher said that the tone, vocabulary, and sentence structure of my novel isn't for young adults (like I thought it was), it's more for middle schoolers. I'm okay with that (the class suggested that I make the main character 14 or 15 instead of 17 in high school...so I would assume that's a HS freshman...which I can do)
    No offense to your creative writing teacher, because I'm sure she's fine with the writing part, but she knows nothing about YA novels (and neither does your class) if this was the advice given.

    YA includes 14-15 year olds. It can even include 13 year-olds, but that's more common with series that start out younger and build toward YA as the characters age. 13 is an abysmal age for marketing because it can fall into MG or YA.

    , but I'm just confused as to what "middle school" means, exactly. As in, does middle school fiction refer to upper middle grade, all of middle grade, low YA (is there such a thing as low YA)?

    What it means, again, is that your instructor is giving advice on things with which she's unfamiliar. "Middle School Fiction" doesn't exist as a marketing category. MG, or "middle grade" fiction does. However, MG doesn't refer to readers in middle grade. MG is what you get between chapter books for young readers and YA.

    Harry Potter 1-3 are MG. Percy Jackson is MG. Artemis Fowl is MG. Etc, etc, etc.

    Like, I guess I'm wondering because I've already written the whole book, but since she only read the first two chapters, she hasn't read the chapters that involve sex and some violence.

    So I guess my next question is, can middle school books have sex and violence? Neither of these things are super intensely written or anything in the book. Like, I don't describe the sex scene at all; I just say that they are making out and get undressed at the end of one chapter, and wake up in the same bed at the start of the next chapter (and one character says the word "sex" once, but that's it). And by violence I mean someone gets cut up on glass and has blood rushing from their body, and there's a school fight scene, but that's it. So should I delete all the sex (and I guess nudity) and violence (like they suggest in middle grade novels), or is okay to mention them without making the content too mature?

    Get a beta reader and see if they agree with your instructor that the book is more suited for a younger audience. But if "younger" is referring to 14-15 years old, you've still got a YA novel.

    MG can be plenty violent, but you're dealing with kids who are either pre, peri, or barely pubescent, so sex isn't usually a part of their stories.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW ColoradoKate's Avatar
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    Aside from the middle school/middle grade confusion, though, there's still this:

    My creative writing teacher said that the tone, vocabulary, and sentence structure of my novel isn't for young adults
    Might it be that the story is YA in terms of theme and in terms of the age of the characters, but is written in too young a style? The OP might want to ask the teacher to clarify that, too, perhaps with examples...

  7. #7
    Writer Erin Kelly's Avatar
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    I agree with everyone else.

    I write both MG and YA, and they are quite different in both obvious and subtle ways.

    MG novels are typically more introspective, as far as the MC goes -- questioning who they are, how they fit in their world, their changing relationships w/adults (primarily their parents, of course), their changing bodies, etc. As everyone has said, there is rarely ever any sex, nor is there much overt talk of sex. MG is more of a first-kiss stage. Lower YA would be like second base. Upper YA, you're hitting home runs.

    Obviously I don't mean that literally, lol. But sex in MG? No. And it's unlikely that any MG novel would have a 14 or 15 y.o. MC -- because kids who are 14 and 15 have already kind-of figured out how they feel about their parents and they have a fuller understanding of their bodies, etc. It's still introspective, as most novels are in some degree, but it's less about the world inside of them and more about their relationship with the outside world. Parents are seen far less in YA than MG.

    All that being said, there are certainly middle-schoolers who read YA. Maybe that's what your creative writing teacher meant -- not necessarily the MG genre itself, but the age of the actual readers. In the case of middle school: ages 11-13. Unfortunately, there's a vast difference between books written for kids who are 10 going on 11 vs. one who's 13 going on 14. Hence, the marketing nightmare.

    Best of luck.
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  8. #8

    Thank you!

    Thank you all so much for your help! I really appreciate it!
    J.B. Kantt


    WIW (~70K), TZS (~83K), TSW (~50K), SP (~53K), and ZT (~52K) : Shelved ... For Now


    RAR: Now Available on Amazon! (~62K words)

    VAB: Outlined, will be written soon

    ZA: Outlining ... sort of




    Stop by my blog sometime!
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    It sounds like upper middle grade to me.

  10. #10
    I aim to misbehave Myrealana's Avatar
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    The MG fiction that my son reads has protaganists who are around 6th grade - 11-12 age range. Any violence tends to be on the level of fist fights, and no sex.

    A teenage MC in a story that includes even implied sex still sounds YA more than MG to me.

    I'd get a few second opinions. Your teacher may be steering you in the wrong direction. If your story and theme is solid, it might be better to revise in the other direction.
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  11. #11
    Maybe I should see someone . . . Tigerlilly79's Avatar
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    No. No sex. It's sounds like YA too me.
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