Middle Grade Fiction: Is it a Genre?
Young Adult author Jennifer Walker has kindly contributed this, my VERY FIRST GUEST POST, as part of her virtual book tour for Bubba to the Rescue (reviewed here on March 9th). Does this mean my blog has arrived?
Welcome, Jennifer, and take it away!
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION: IS IT A GENRE?
By Jennifer Walker
When I was a kid, I think there was basically three main age groups fiction could fall into: children’s, young adult, and adult. Times were simpler then. I read young adult books by the pile, mostly about horses. The stories were pretty simple and wholesome, the characters were morally upright, and the formula was pretty predictable.
Now, life has gotten a little more complicated. Kids have lives that are more complex, they deal with mature issues when they’re younger, and they’re interested in more mature themes. You have vampires falling in love with mortals and getting married and having babies and werewolves falling in love with mortals and getting married and having babies, and wizards falling in love with other wizards and falling in love and making babies and God knows what else. These are definitely aimed at the older teens, but what about the younger teens and tweens?
That’s where I come in. I’m not into writing about vampires and wizards, I like to write about good little girls and horses. My characters do have their flaws, of course, and they deal with some modern issues like dead or absentee parents, parents remarrying, and first loves. However, it’s all on a scale that’s more appropriate and approachable for the younger set. While I have a good deal of readers who are young teens or adult women, there seems to be those few years in between where readers’ tastes want something a little different. I am happy to say, however, that I’ve had some 16- and 17-year-olds who loved it, and that was very gratifying!
So, how best to write for this tween audience? I don’t profess to be an expert, although what I’m doing seems to be resonating pretty well with most of my readers. My main strategy has been to read a lot of books read for this age, but since most of the ones I’ve read (Saddle Club and Thoroughbred) are a bit outdated, I try to update a little by adding in some character flaws (making bad decisions and learning from them) and modern issues (parents remarrying). I try to keep the language simple, although there are certainly a few words in there the kids will have to look up, and focus on what kids aged 10-13 or so might be interested in.
I really enjoy writing for this age group, because I really enjoy wholesome stories with good hearts. Writing them brings me back to my own youth, when life wasn’t so hard and when my biggest problem was whether I’d get to go to the big dance. I like writing characters that are a good influence on my readers, teaching them life lessons — hopefully without them noticing so it just slips into their subconscious and becomes a part of them.
Jennifer Walker is a freelance writer, editor, and novelist living in northern California. Her two books, Bubba Goes National and Bubba to the Rescue, are both available in print or digital editions from Twin Trinity Books and other online retailers.