Why Middle School Is The Best (Worst) Time Ever

As I polish up the sequel to The Salt Machine, I can’t help but think that my next project will also be a similarly themed novel, at least as far as intended audience is concerned.  I’ve always been drawn to fantastical novels, and specifically those that are targeted at ages between 12 and 18.  Typically, in publishing, Middle Grade is the classification for books with intended audiences of 10-12 or so, while the ubiquitous Young Adult genre (YA for short) is generally targeted at 13+.

What is it about MG/YA fantasy that I love?  It’s a very specific thing for me, personally.  I love the sense of discovery. Especially insofar as this age, this awkward, voice-cracking, face-that-doesn’t-quite-fit-the-head age is the one where children start to become adults.  Suddenly all the old stories about the way things are or aren’t start to fall apart, and kids start to come around to a new reality.  They are no longer children, but now on the path to adulthood.  They are learning that soon they will enter the world as adults, and discover who they are, themselves.

Middle school is this beautiful, wonderful, and almost universally agreed-upon absolutely terrible time in everyone’s lives, when children start to metamorphose into adults.  Bodies change, interests change, emotions change (sometimes every minute).  Unlikely friends are found in new places, and old friends might lose touch as they branch out into different social groups.  And MG / YA lit really speaks to that change.  It comes out and says “there’s this mysterious, hidden, secret otherworld, and you’re about to get thrown into it, whether you want to or not.”

And all of this is great! Your teenage years are what ultimately set the mold for the person you will be when you grow up.  Which is what draws me to the genre.  That we can watch these characters cross over into that crazy other-world of adulthood, with all of its freedom and, ironically, responsibility is something I could read and/or write over and over again.

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