UAny middle child will tell you how awkward it is to be in the middle. You aren’t the first or the baby, you get all of the hand-me-downs, and you seem to get lost in the mix a lot. The 12-14 year old reader group has become a sort of middle child in the children’s book world. Like Goldilocks, they are a bit too old for most middle grade novels (Harry Potter excluded because you are never too old for Harry Potter), but they aren’t quite old enough to be reading some of the steamier YA out there.In an interview with Amy Bearce, she explains first why she decided to change her debut novel, Fairy Keeper, from young adult to upp middle grade:

“There’s sometimes a fine line between upper middle grade and young adult. My editor and I both felt that the voice of the piece was just more MG, but the basic premise seemed more YA…so we merged them until both fit upper MG. While Sierra grows and changes, the focus is on the adventure itself. There was also a sweetness to the story, according to my publisher, that felt younger than what you’d expect with YA. This is especially seen in the romance area. Less heat, more sweet, you might say. J So we changed the age of the character and tweaked a few scenes so that her responses were more consistently appropriate for a 14 year old (granted, 14 year olds in this world have more responsibility than the same age person in ours.) Plus, I wanted something my girls could read and my oldest isn’t quite ready for YA yet.”

From an author/publisher standpoint, it’s a struggle to categorize the books too so that the 12-14 readers find them. Says author Shannon Hale:

shannon hale tweet

This is a good point. It’s not a huge stretch for a 12yr old to read about a fifteen yr old, which is what publishers see happening. What about when the MC is an 18yr old though? The difference in maturity and life priorities of a 12yr old versus an 18yr old vast, and many parents don’t want their kids learning too much from novels at such a crucial age. To which I say to the parents in the room, if you’re kids are learning about mature things from a book and not first hand, they are doing ok so let’s leave them alone. However it is a bit disparaging when none of the characters you read about are your actual age. How do we make categories that fit everyone’s age group and needs?

New Adult has surfaced, and while that brings a world of it’s own issues, it at least bridged the gap between teenagers and people in their twenties that didn’t want to read about 35yr old adults. Younger adults in the 12-14 age group don’t have any bridge to cross between MG and YA at all. One would argue, (by one, I mean me) that it also doesn’t make sense to have young adult and then an older ‘new’ adult category, that is just grammatically confusing in and of itself.

Here’s what I propose:

categorizing reading levels, young adult, middle grade, new adult


Who’s with me!?

*Note: Open to better naming conventions, let’s be honest these are mediocre at best*