Kaye: Marilyn, you've had books published for the younger crowd. I'm working on a Young Adult series at the moment, but only because a few readers suggested my Neanderthal mysteries should be YA. Can you explain this market to me? Are the distinctions clear-cut?
Marilyn: Picture books, chapter books, middle grade books, YAs. Children's books come nicely compartmentalized into different categories -- or so you'd think. Picture books and chapter books are self-explanatory. Middle grade fiction refers to books written for kids in second to fifth grade. Or is it third to sixth? And YAs are about teenagers. Or does that
include twelve-year-olds? That's the problem. Everyone has a different age variation in mind.
Kaye: So, no consensus! What's your own opinion on the classifications? Middle grade first because that's what you've published.
Marilyn: Actually, I have published a YA. A PLACE TO START, which is out of print, is about a high school boy who discovers his mother's having a relationship with his computer teacher. But more about YAs later. The way I see it, middle-grade books are about kids in elementary school. The middle-grade protagonist deals with friends, bullies, family, pets, school, projects. My out-of-print book, THE FOURTH-GRADE FOUR, is about a boy who needs to wear glasses but won't get them because he's afraid his friend will make fun of him. In middle-grade fiction, as in all juvenile fiction, it is the child who resolves the problem, not an adult.
Kaye: That sounds like a good definition. How about YA?
Marilyn: The Young Adult novel is something else. The YA protagonist is a teenager and the subject matter can be abuse of any kind, romance, murder. You name it. I'd say the Harry Potter books are YAs. So is THE BOOK THIEF, a novel narrated by Death about a girl growing up in Germany during World War Two. Yet adults read both Harry Potter and THE BOOK THIEF. So what makes them YAs, you might ask. I'd say the protagonist's age, no explicit sex, and the fact that the novel is seen and experienced from the young person's perspective.
Kaye: Ah! I see now why my readers think my WIP can be for the YA market. Young protagonists and no (very) explicit sex. And I myself like to read YA books, too. Thanks for the clarifications, Marilyn.