MG vs YA: How Does Airstream Stack Up

Middle Grade vs Young Adult. Which have you written?
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I have to admit that when I saw the link for “The Key Differences Between Middle Grade vs Young Adult” I cringed. Did I want to see how well I had done making Airstream truly middle grade? Maybe, yes. Maybe, no. But I couldn’t resist so I clicked through to check out the article.

Here are some of the key factors.

Character Age

In Middle Grade, the character should be between 10 and 13. Young Adult characters range from 14 to 18. Remember, your characters are going to be slightly older than your readers.

Woo-hoo. My character is a mature 10 year-old. I say mature because she spends a certain amount of time in her head. That may become a problem farther down but we’ll get into that later on.

Content Check

In Middle Grade, avoid profanity and on screen sex and violence. In Young Adult, these things are okay but not essential.

The article in question didn’t say “on screen” violence but that’s how I’m interpretting it. There are a lot of things that happen off screen in a middle grade story. Think about The Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm. This is a SPOILER ALERT! A character dies off screen, actually in the book’s backstory. But it is something that the younger characters find out about and have to deal with.

I actually had to rewrite a scene in Airstream because of violence. Although the characters did not die “on screen,” my characters did witness the aftermath. I decided that this would be acceptable for young adult but not for middle grade.

So I’m giving myself points for this one as well!

In Your Character’s Head

In Middle Grade, your character should focus on family, friends and the character’s immediate world. Self-reflection isn’t a big deal. In Young Adult, characters are concerned with how they fit into the world beyond friends and family.

Hmm. I’m not as sure that I entirely agree and it is because I read, yet again, The Lion of Mars. Again, SPOILER ALERT! Not all of the adult characters dealt well with the pre-novel death, but how they dealt with it impacts the young characters. These same young characters have one or more near misses AND discover that some adults have dealt with the whole thing in a much healthier way which leads to a great deal of introspection.

Okay, not a great deal if it was a Young Adult novel but for a Middle Grade? Yep. My character is also going to be faced with a certain amount of introspection at pivotal points. I think fantasy and science fiction tend more toward this as they deal with various epic issues.

It seems like my story is, whew, solidly Middle Grade. Now I need to solidly finish it!