The Difference Between MG and YA (Guest Blog Entry)

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The Difference Between MG and YA (Guest Blog Entry)

Post by WritersBlockNZ » October 4th, 2010, 4:56 pm

There seems to be a bit of confusion about what makes middle grade novels "middle grade", and what makes young adult novels, "young adult". A common misconception is that children in middle grade read MG novels, and young adults read YA, however, there is a lot more to the two genres than that.

The age of the readers:
Yes, the age of the reader does come into account, but it is generally a little more broad than simple "middle grade" or "young adults". There is a bit of debate over this, but MG readers can be aged between 8-12 years old. YA readers are approx aged between 12-18. Obviously there are exceptions and just as many young adults read middle grade fiction, many adults read both young adult and middle grade novels.

The age of the characters:
As a general rule, young readers tend to read up in age. A 12 year old will probably read books with 14 year old characters, and a 15 year old will probably read books with 17 year old characters.

As a result, MG characters tend to be aged between 8 and 14 while YA characters are often aged between 15 and 18 years old.

YA novels challenge the reader, and can use almost any word that an adult novel can. The difference, is that the 'voice' of the words are of a teenager, as opposed to an adult. When done tastefully, a young adult novel can be filled with foul language, sex and graphic violence. Anything goes, as long as it sounds like the character is using vocabulary associated with his or her age.

MG novels have a few more vocab restrictions. Swearing is generally a no-no (and if it had any it would have to be essential to the novel), as is sex or graphic violence. The word choice is also important because while MG novels should encourage a wider vocabulary for the reader, it's important not to intimidate, or isolate the young reader from the novel by using incomprehensible words.

The novel's central conflict:
YA novels, are about young adults, facing adult problems for the first time. The conflict in the novel is drawn from this. Adult problems can include grief, revenge, death, love, sex... the list goes on. MG novels, however, tend to focus on broader ideas like fitting in or saving the world.

Internal vs External conflict:
Let's face it: teens are often thought to be selfish, and that's what drives most YA novels. YA novels are often based on internal conflicts that the characters face, eg falling in love, experimenting with drugs and alcohol or getting revenge on an old boyfriend. Of course there are external conflicts too, but the internal conflicts tend to be stronger. With MG novels it is often the other way around. The characters are thrust into an external conflict and their internal conflicts (while present) take a backseat.

Plot vs Character:
This is a bit of a broad assumption, and there are most definitely exceptions to this, but YA novels focus on the character and relationships, while MG novels focus on plot. The reason for this is that YA novels have a higher word count, and more time to peruse the MC's intimate thoughts, feelings and associated relationships. MG novels however have a limited amount of words to get the story across, so they tend to be a lot more "action packed" and plot-based.

Word count:
Speaking of word count, it's important to note that MG and YA novels do have different word count requirements. There seems to be some debate on this, but middle grade novels can run from 25-50k, while young adult novels can be between 45 and 80k.

As a general rule, the older your character, the higher the word count.

How to tell if you have written a MG or a YA novel:
If you've read the above points, and you are still confused, it really comes down to personal opinion. Sometimes a novel just "feels" more young adult than middle grade, and in the end its up to you as an author to put some definition on it.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

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Re: The Difference Between MG and YA (Guest Blog Entry)

Post by Pen » October 7th, 2010, 6:55 am

This is really helpful, thanks!

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