Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Time Happens: Middle Grade + Young Adult

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series and the latest Riordan book, House of Hades.

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If you know me IRL, you probably know that I like reading children's fantasy novels. Yep. Judge me.

The nice thing about such series is growing up with them: I got the first Harry Potter book for my seventh birthday, and I read the last one while in middle school. At the time, I was six years younger than Harry was, and I enjoyed the book more when I reread it in high school because I could relate more to how the characters were feeling.

Because time happens. Readers and characters both grow older, and a book that resonates with you when you're younger might not when you're older - or the opposite.

Amy Sundberg wrote a blog post on the differences between YA and MG. Essential differences:

MG novels are generally shorter, have younger main characters, focus on the external conflict, lack romance and swearing, and have a hero protagonist.

YA novels are generally longer, have older main characters, focus on internal conflicts (coming of age, identity), often have romance as a main point or side plot, and "Often shows a teen's relationship with society (hence why YA dystopia is an easy fit)."

As my overlong intro may indicate, I've been thinking about series that make the transition from MG to YA. Sundberg mentions HP, as I've done. I challenge anyone to say that the latter HP books aren't YA - there's a lot of dark material there, from on-screen murder to oppression to veiled references to Nazism (Grindelwald) to torture to...yeah.

My thoughts were focused not on HP, but on Riordan's books, though. Percy Jackson and the Olympians was MG: Percy starts the series at age 12, and the first series boasts goofy chapter titles. Yes, there is a romantic element, but it doesn't really come into play obviously until later books.

I would argue that all of the Heroes of Olympus series is YA. Most of the characters are in their mid/late teens (I think Hazel and Frank are still 13/14 ish?), paired off, and some (three) literally go to hell (by which I mean Tartarus) and back. Also, character development plays out through characters' interactions with one another, not just achieving things that they thought were impossible.

Another factor that makes HoO solidly YA: the reveal in House of Hades that Nico di Angelo is not straight. Major kudos to Riordan for including, respectfully, a LGBT character in a series that has MG roots and a large young-child constituency, and neither getting into soapbox territory nor playing sexuality off as something inconsequential/for laughs. Respect.

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Still re: Riordan - I wonder what the Kane Chronicles falls under. (Note to self: this is a fine excuse to reread them: “I'm doing research.”) The series protagonists are in their early teens and yes, the chapter titles are silly, but the books also address interracial marriage/race relations, strong emotions, and...yeah, I need to reread them.

I may also need to read/reread His Dark Materials, to see which category it falls under. So many books…

(Not that that's a bad thing, I just don't have time anymore for anything.)

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Since this is a sort of Throwback Tuesday post anyway, let's end with a song from my first favorite band:

Somewhere I Belong - Linkin Park

(You may continue judging.)

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