Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Age Genre Crossovers MG-YA-NA

Is your latest project middle grade? Is it young adult? Is it new adult (new title for 20-somethings who like to read YA)?

This topic is of particular importance to me, as somebody who once wrote a YA novel with a 23-year-old protagonist. (And now has a MG book with a 17-year-old protagonist.) I know, I know. You're thinking: Why can't you just make your character the right age?

And the answer isn't that I'm a rebel without a cause, or that I am doing it on principle to stick it to the man (though I do sometimes like to stick it to the man). I'm doing it because that's the age the character is. Cop-out much? Yeah. Yeah, I do. But here's my justification:

23-year-old Eric is a boy-man who witnessed his father's death at age 5, bought his first house at age 13 and never completely grew up.

17-year-old Robert is a naive, innocent teenage boy who doesn't fit in at his school for villains, and has to deal with his evil twin, Rupert, slashing his tires every day after school.

If I made Eric younger, he wouldn't be the savant sci-fi novelist who never grew up. He'd just be another kid. His "advanced" age doesn't change the fact that this book is about coming of age, which is a YA theme.

If Robert were younger, he would still be trying his darndest (and failing miserably) to be a villain, without ruffling too many evil feathers. He wouldn't be growing at all as a character, which kills the MG theme of finding one's place in the world.

Writing this, I realize something. I have a new WIP that's also about a late bloomer. *Update: Point of clarification, she's the right age for the genre this time.

I write books about late bloomers. Hah. Well, that explains it.

Now if I could only convince agents and publishers that kids don't only pick up novels about somebody their own age. :-}

Seriously, people. Crossover appeal is not as rare as some people seem to think. Here's some more fascinating reading material on this subject.


On New Adult Fiction -an interesting beginning to a discussion about 20-somethings and their reading preferences.

Dude Looks Like a YA -wherein Nathan Bransford says, in 2007, that these categories are more about voice and pacing than they are about age or theme.

The Difference Between MG and YA -wherein themes are discussed as the divergence between the genres.

In my defense, my word counts are spot-on.


  1. While I do think its possible to succeed with a 17 year old in an MG (especially since yours is fantasy)... a 23 year old has NEVER been done in a YA novel. Not as a main character. Particularly if he owns a house, has a job, etc. Those just aren't teen-centric concerns.

    *shrug*. I'm not saying its impossible, I'm just saying: Publishing is really freakin hard, so do you really want to try to be teh first ever to do something, knowing that a lot of agents/editors will say no immediately without giving it a shot?

  2. Just one moment...

    *OMGoodness, Mandy Hubbard came back to my blog!!!!*

    Okay, I'm back.

    You are right, especially about the 23-year-old YA (though there were other problems with that novel aside from his age). I've moved on from that one, which even Eric (my protag) agreed was a good decision. :-) If anything, that would fall under the New Adult category, if that picks up.

    As for my MG, I'm working hard to get it ready for your eyes. Got it out with Betas, including my cousin, who happens to be a little boy. I'm the most eager to see what he thinks. So far, adults love it, but that doesn't necessarily help the chances of the book in the kid's market. :-)

    Did you happen to check out the link about New Adult as a genre? I'd be very interested to get an agent's take on that.

  3. Well, new adult really isn't a genre. It is a marketing decision made by one publisher for how to market their ADULT books. They are hopign they will have significant crossover into the YA audience.

    But I would never write a book thinking "I am writing a new adult book." I would write the best damn adult book I could write, and if the characters were younger and had potential crossover, I'd submit it to the new adult line in addition to the traditional adult imprints.

    One imprint does not a genre make.

  4. Very helpful! (as always) Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Publishing is so complex. I learn something new every day, literally.

    And I have no desire to be the first ever to do something in publishing. My mistakes and choices come out of an honest (but apparently easily remedied) misunderstanding of markets. :-)

    So again, I thank you for the education! I know your time is scarce and valuable.

    *exhales finally, and hopes no one is offended by her ignorance*

  5. Reading your post and Mandy's comments have been incredibly useful. My characters normally fall within the "safe" range for YA (upper YA), but I can imagine the difficulties of trying to sell an MG or YA with older narrator. Good luck with your MG, though! I'm sure it'll work out. :)

  6. Thanks, Sandy! I hope so. Superheroes aren't quite like the rest of us, after all. Neither are super villains. Buwahahahaha!

  7. i have to agree with Sandy -- it was really helpful to read your exchange with Mandy. i've heard so much about "New Adult" as well, and i know it's a tricky space to navigate.

    but i wish you luck with everything!! i hope you find your perfect niche :D

  8. Hi, Tahereh. Thank you for your comment and the good luck wishes. I wish all the best for you and your work, as well! It looks like you're going places!


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