Middle Grades VS Young Adult Literature:
In the past week, I have read selections of the genres scholars consider to be “Middle Grades” and “Young Adult” literature, yet these are terms that I usually do not consider when selecting a novel. I know myself as a reader of books that either come highly recommended from a trusted, well-read friend OR based on the quality of the passage on the back cover, where I am either sucked into a book or write off a book based on those quick, few sentences — so much for not judging a book by its cover (oops). Regardless, the “genre” has never really affected my selection, but by being given a specific list of books to choose from, I have had samples of each genre, and, thus, can come to a few conclusions as to how I would define each genre.
In the category of “Young Adult” literature, I read American Street and All American Boys. Both of these novels dealt with mature subject matter as well as language, which is drastically different from my Middle Grades selection, Orphan Island. I would say young adult literature differs from middle grades literature based on young adult literature’s more mature content and presentation. The presence of more difficult subjects, such as the drugs in American Street or the police brutality in All American Boys, distinguishes the level of maturity needed to have a productive conversation in the classroom, therefore, this subject matter (and, importantly, the presentation, i.e. harsh language) in the novel should be categorized as “Young Adult.” When analyzing these genres, I think that character development is an essential aspect to analyze when determining genre. “Young Adult” is primarily a character or group of characters struggling with finding their place in the world and fully understanding themselves, but “Middle Grades” tends to lean more toward overcoming the first big obstacle in the character’s life – hopefully, in a productive & healthy way. American Street and Orphan Island are great examples for categorizing these novels based on character development. American Street focuses on Fabiola, who has been torn away from her mother, and must find her way in her new home, which is representative of a plot line associated with “Young Adult” literature, while Orphan Island focuses on a character, Jinny, as she faces her first big life decision – leaving the island and facing what lies beyond the horizon.