Sheri had a great question on the conference notes on Alan Gratz's workshop on MG vs. YA:
I wonder what Alan would say about this "new" age range they are calling the 'tweens, the official grey zone bridging MG and YA?I emailed Alan this morning, and he was kind enough to send me this reponse:
The "Tween" age range is, indeed, a gray zone between middle grade and young adult. Look up "tween" and you'll get a variety of definitions, but I think the "tween" market is the upper end of middle grade--that 11 to 12 age. One of the best descriptions I've read of it is, "kids who desperately want to be teens, but aren't ready to stop being kids." To my mind, a majority of the Disney "teen" programs (shows like Hanna Montana and High School Musical) are aimed squarely at these kids. "Tween," like most categories, is a marketing device--another way to sell media to a very specific group of people. and yet there usually isn't a "tween" section in the bookstore. Most books that use some kind of age range coding system on their covers put "tween" books in the middle grade category, coding them as 8-12 or 9-12, while I think their appeal will be the upper end of that range.
I ran into a similar coding problem with Samurai Shortstop. The book deals with more mature themes--suicide, death, hazing, loyalty, honor, political tensions--but it also has no sex, drugs, or profane language. Most bookstores put it in the young adult section, which is where I think it belongs. Barnes and Noble shelved it in their "Young Readers" section, which is essentially their middle grade section. While I think it can be read by both ages, I think its core readership may fall into that 11-12 "tween" demographic. Off the top of my head, other books I think work as "tween": The Spiderwick Chronicles, the Sammy Keyes mysteries, Lauren Myracle's Eleven and Twelve, the Molly Moon series, Flush, Skullduggery Pleasant...
I'm interested to hear what others think though. There's certainly no industry consensus....
I, like Alan, would love to know what you all think. As Alan points out, there's not a set definition for this relatively new genre, and it would be wonderful to get some real dialog going on the subject! So...
What do YOU think?
The tween terminology makes sense to me. Many of the MG books I see are for younger readers. I see the tween as the slightly older kids who aren't ready for sex, drugs, and R&R.
Thanks Beth! That is so awesome that you asked him my question for me and that he answered it! And I love the simple terms he used to define this age range, it makes perfect sense... "kids who desperately want to be teens, but aren't ready to stop being kids."
This age range really appeals to me and I believe is the ultimate target audience for my WIP. I think that is why I get so many conflicting responses to my WIP that it should be MG, no, it should be YA, no MG, YA... I think 'tween would be the ideal spot.
And I identify with this age group too. I think it is an age span that is riddled with conflict and growth - what a perfect audience to write about and for, in my opinion.
I think tween books can be set in high school or middle school, but shy away from heavy topics.
For example, my publisher wants us to add some tween books to the SCREWBALL series. Ashley will be in middle school, but she'll be thinking about her first kiss and her friends and sports take up the majority of her time. While in high school, she was dealing with much heavier topics - drinking, overdoses, first love, etc.. The tween books will be sweeter, lighter.
This is such a tricky issue... think Judy Blume! But, I feel as long as these heavy issues are delt with in a graceful way (rather than salaciously, just for the sake of scandal), they all have a place in YA!
PJ--I think along the same lines as you--take out the sex, drugs, and RR.
Sheri--I'm in your boat! My work started as a YA, readers felt it was more MG, but I'm rewriting it now as a tween novel--basically, I'm keeping the same story, removing the (very small) love interest in the story, and lowering their ages. It works much better.
Keri--I'm not sure about setting a tween novel in high school. I honestly don't know. At the conference, the agent I worked with suggested that I rewrite the novel I was telling Sheri about as a tween novel. The kids had been in 10th grade, but I've moved them to 8th.
Susan--I agree entirely!
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