For today’s Writing Corner, I’m going to talk about categorising your novel by age. I see a lot of people on Twitter and forums who aren’t sure where their novel fits, or how much it matters. If you want to be published, it does matter, because that is how the publishing industry categorises fiction, but don’t get too hung up on it.
Middle grade (MG)
MG is generally written for, and features characters, aged from around 8 to 13 years old. These books are usually shorter than young adult books, and don’t have as much romance or violence. They often (but not always) have fun adventures and although they can touch on more serious subject matter, don’t explore it in as much detail as young adult books.
Young adult (YA)
YA is aimed roughly at those aged 13-18, with characters in that same age range, though characters are most commonly 15-18 years old. YA explores more serious subject matter than MG, including more mature content, with romance playing a much bigger role. YA also has more self-reflection and focuses more on the personal evolution of a central character. These novels are often coming of age, looking at the ups and downs of being a teenager. They can explore relationships, sex, mental illness, death etc. far more than MG. As well as this, they can often present more of a reflection on our society and current issues, and explore the characters finding their place in the world.
New adult (NA)
New adult is supposed to be for the 20 somethings. But it has become associated with erotic fiction and doesn’t have a great name. This is a real shame as it could be a really good way to provide more novels about university life, and the transition into adulthood. It’s also the case that some YA books would have perhaps fit better into the NA category if it didn’t have a negative reputation. Some YA books seem to be on the border between YA and NA, and hold back so they can fit into YA which is much more ‘sellable’.
Adult books generally explore themes and issues more prevalent in the lives of ‘grown-ups’, e.g. keeping down a job, marriage and parenthood. They can also include more sexual content and violence in some cases, though adult books don’t have to include these things.
Books can be enjoyed by people of all ages, regardless of how they are categorised. An adult reading YA isn’t ‘reading down’. Teenagers can read adult books, and adults can read YA books. Some YA books would probably be enjoyed more by adults than others, and this is where you get the term ‘crossover’. A book described as ‘crossover’ is one that’s been written for children or young adults but which has considerable appeal for adults too. These books may be marketed to both young people and adults, and you may even see them in more than one section of a bookshop.
Do you agree with these definitions? Is there anything else you would add? Let me know what you think in the comments!