Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult: How do you categorize your novel?

PFFlyer

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Reading a ton of MG and YA while writing my first book (originally conceived as an adult novel), I was surprised at how adult the voices are in many MG/YA books. "This is how it all begins. With Zephyr and Fry - reigning neighborhood sociopaths - torpedoing after me and the whole forest floor shaking under my feet as I blast through air, trees, this white-hot panic." That's the open from one of my favorite MG/YA books, an award-winner - the narrating character is 13. I've stopped worrying about writing down to young readers, at least in words or style. So long as the attitude of the characters, the soul, fits with their age, it feels like we're at a point where the language isn't much different from adult fiction. Is that correct?
 

B.D. Skunkworks

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I've always benchmarked YA novels by the age of the characters involved. If they're 17-20 years old, boom YA novel. My three player characters are 17, 18, and 18 and-a-half respectively.
 

teeheesrw

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Hi, I've been reading through this thread (there's a lot) and from my skimming I didn't see any posts involving stories with multiple MCs such as a daughter and a father. I rotate between 3 different POVs - an 18yo girl, her love interest, and the girl's father. Does anyone foresee that being an issue in publishing it as YA? 'Cause I'll be honest - I started this story when I was in high school and didn't really give a thought to who my MCs were, and now that I want to publish it, I don't want all publishers to be like "ahh this MC is too OLD since he's a dad" and reject it. :(
 

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Unfortunately, if the dad is a protagonist, it won’t be YA. If he’s just an occasional POV character, it’s probably okay.
 
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Kahtai

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I'm just finishing a novel with a 12 year old MC. I have multiple POV characters but mostly it is the 12 yo main character female, a 14-16 yo major character male and the other characters mainly being fantasy characters (i.e. not humans). This is a portal fantasy (I just saw that classification in this forum and think it describes my story perfectly) and it's just under 60k words. I'm not sure if this would be considered upper MG or YA. I don't write about sex (MC is as the first kiss stage more than anything) but there is death, identity issues and moral dilemmas that are a more advanced that typical middle school issues. Any thoughts on how you all would categorize this?

Also, slightly unrelated question--I was thinking of have small illustrations at the beginning of each chapter and occasionally a full page illustration throughout the book. Is that something that translates well into eBooks? I'm not an eBook reader so really have no idea.
 

Brigid Barry

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12 yo protagonist is too young for YA so I'd say MG. And there are a lot of deep themes in both MG and YA.
 
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Kahtai

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12 yo protagonist is too young for YA so I'd say MG. And there are a lot of deep themes in both MG and YA.
That's good to hear, as that was my thinking as I wrote the book. Do adults read MG frequently?
 

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That's good to hear, as that was my thinking as I wrote the book. Do adults read MG frequently?
My vague understanding is that a lot of adults read YA for pleasure. Fewer adults read MG for pleasure but they may read it with their children, or prior to giving it to their children.
 

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I’d say a 12yo protagonist puts you squarely in the MG category. It might get a little sticky having the older POV character, especially if it’s a 16yo, not a 14yo. 14yo is that tricky spot between the two age categories so can go MG, especially with a 12yo protagonist, but a 16yo POV character would be a harder sell to an MG publisher.
 

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That's good to hear, as that was my thinking as I wrote the book. Do adults read MG frequently?
Speaking as an adult who sometimes reads MG, I can say that at least one of us old folk do read it. There's anecdotal evidence I've seen online of parents/caregivers reading MG along with, and even ahead of, their MG kids. And of course many adults screen material before letting their children get it, and read it that way; MG is still an age where there's likely to be a gatekeeper involved in book selection, though not always.

As for why I, a childless adult, still read MG, they can make nice palate cleansers, and sometimes seem able to just do fun and interesting things for the sake of being fun and interesting. (And, yes, they can tackle some pretty thorny stuff, if not graphically or grotesquely, because life's never been bubble-wrapped and the kids who read MG can also be dealing with some pretty thorny stuff... The best stories don't talk down to or preach at their audience, no matter that audiences age.)
 
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Kahtai

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Thanks, all. This is very helpful.
Speaking as an adult who sometimes reads MG, I can say that at least one of us old folk do read it. There's anecdotal evidence I've seen online of parents/caregivers reading MG along with, and even ahead of, their MG kids. And of course many adults screen material before letting their children get it, and read it that way; MG is still an age where there's likely to be a gatekeeper involved in book selection, though not always.

As for why I, a childless adult, still read MG, they can make nice palate cleansers, and sometimes seem able to just do fun and interesting things for the sake of being fun and interesting. (And, yes, they can tackle some pretty thorny stuff, if not graphically or grotesquely, because life's never been bubble-wrapped and the kids who read MG can also be dealing with some pretty thorny stuff... The best stories don't talk down to or preach at their audience, no matter that audiences age.)
That makes a lot of sense to me and I’m glad to hear that you read it truly for pleasure rather than hate keeping, etc. I think adults would enjoy my book and would hope the classification would not deter readers. Do you happen to have any experience reading MG eBooks with illustrations? Or perhaps you primarily read print books in the MG genre?
 

Kahtai

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I’d say a 12yo protagonist puts you squarely in the MG category. It might get a little sticky having the older POV character, especially if it’s a 16yo, not a 14yo. 14yo is that tricky spot between the two age categories so can go MG, especially with a 12yo protagonist, but a 16yo POV character would be a harder sell to an MG publisher.
I do have an occasional POV narrative from the MC’s mother, actually at the beginning of the novel to develop the MC’s character. Do you think this will be seen as an issue? I could turn that chapter into a more third person omniscient POV if you think that would be more easily accepted? As for the boy, his age isn’t stated—he’s just a few years older than the MC.