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Monday, February 7, 2011

The White Mountains - For kids or young adults?

I'm reading Fool by Christopher Moore (really, I AM!) and I'm enjoying it. But I'm cheating on Fool with a couple of other side-books. It's my 'one book constant never' nature.

So I've been spending time with John Christopher's Tripod trilogy, which my husband left on my desk as a reference to my current WIP. The series, if you haven't read it, is great. like the Wrinkle in Time Books or the Narnia books, they resonate forever with a specific ring of childhood.

Which made me think - how old is the reader of this book? I don't count myself, I read children's books of all kinds for fun, and not only since I've had children. But who is, to use a hateful term, the demographic?

This mulling comes from some feedback I got from my crit group that my WIP seems middle-grade. To me, writing it, it always seemed young adult. My main character seems to be younger than I want him to be - more like Will in the Tripod series than, say, Katniss in the Hunger Games series. (I don't know what possessed me to write a boy protagonist, it didn't even occur to me that a 16 year old would shave - thanks, Greg, for pointing that out!)

Is the age of the protagonist the indicator of the age range of the reader? Well, that may be a starting point I guess, but Lyra Silvertongue in His Dark Materials starts out age twelve, but most of the people I know who have read and adore those books are adults. So, topics? Depth? Complexity? What are the general parameters of these designations, and how fixed are they? (I'm not talking to myself here, I'm asking YOU! What do you think?)

I certainly don't know. I didn't decide to write a children's book (I didn't even think about it as a children's book until I got an forwarded info on the NJ SCBWI conference this summer) I had an idea about a book about a teenage boy. Then I decided it would be in the first person and then the story came out. Voila, a children's book. So, after an exhaustive google search lasting about 2 minutes, here are some links to publishing definitions of genres:

Children's Books Genre Definitions (from write4kids.com)

Interesting definition of YA - which spans a broad range from 12-18

Anyone got any other resources they can share? Not just on children's books genres but genres in general? Seems to be a hard beast to pin down.

3 comments:

  1. If a novel touches upon some human truth, it doesn't matter what age group it falls into. I have books for all ages over crowding my shelves. It all depends on what mood I'm in. Now if you intended to write the novel from the perspective of a teenager, maybe you need to change some details and character behavior. If you like Finn the way he is now, go for it. Don't let the labels drive you crazy.

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  2. thanks laura, I appreciate it, because god knows I let enough things drive me crazy. But I want to know more about how the industry defines these labels. The YA rage, for example, seems huge to me at 12-18 - how many 12 yr olds and 18 yr olds have a lot in common? I did come across a term I'd never heard before, 'new adult' but I'm not sure what that means. Anyone have a definitive source?
    BTW, I was shocked to discover that 'teenager' and 'toddler' are terms made up by Madison Avenue to sell kids products. I've always just accepted those terms as 'official'!

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