Middle Grade Mondays: ARC’s Are Us and the Romantic No-No

First, a big congrats to Middle Grade Monday founder Shannon Whitney Messenger for getting the ARC for her MG series.

I rarely talk about my own MG series Faerie Tales from the White Forest on The Accidental Novelist because I figure if readers want to check it out they can go to the White Forest website or FB page for that. Plus, I like this website to be primarily about promoting and supporting other writers and their work.

But today I am just so over-the-moon about seeing my ARC that I can’t help myself. I’m giddy about this cover and nervous / excited about the launch. So I do hope you’ll let me indulge myself today.

The Ruins of Noe is the second book in an upper middle grade series about, you guessed it, faeries. It’s been billed as a great book for those kids who have graduated from the Rainbow or Disney fairy books. Set in an entirely imaginary world devoid of humans, it’s the coming-of-age story of a young faerie who faces greater and greater challenges as she is called to heal Faweh (the world upon which they live), which has been in elemental chaos for hundreds of years.

I’ve talked about  what makes a middle grade novel on my blog before, and something I’ve come up against is that in a series that takes place over a period of time, where the protagonist is growing up (children tend to do that), how do you keep the series geared toward a middle grade audience when the issues your protagonist faces become more those of a young adult?

One of the issues is romance. One publisher (from a large publishing house) at the SCBWI conference said that in a middle grade novel, romance is more about friendship. It’s sweet crushes, perhaps some hand-holding, but as soon as it turns sexual in any way, shape, or form it ceases to be middle grade.

She stressed that sexual content of any form (this includes snogging) is verboten in middle grade literature. (Don’t get me started on the fact that our society is more lenient when it comes to violence in middle grade lit.)

A strange anomaly, recognized by said publisher, is that Harry Potter does cross this line, but is still considered MG on the shelves. Hmm.

For those who have previewed The Ruins of Noe and asked about whether Brigitta will have a love-interest, well, the potential is definitely set up in this book. However, I’m 99% sure that it will always remain a potential future. Seeds may be planted, a strong romantic friendship may happen, but it probably won’t become anything more.

Besides, Brigitta’s way too busy saving her world. 🙂

Next week, back to tooting other middle grade author’s horns (ewww, cooties!).

Please visit these Middle Grade Mondayers

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Middle Grade Mondays: ARC’s Are Us and the Romantic No-No

  1. Congrats! The cover looks terrific! You must be walking on air 🙂

    For Valentine’s day, I wanted to feature a MMGM book that had love – and it was hard to find one! I ended up going with The Penderwicks, which has a sweet little crush line in it. Upper Middle grade can probably delve into crushes and dating a teensy bit more, but I agree, MG is more about friendship, and maybe a tiny pull of tension if the characters are older. As it should be!

    • It makes complete sense, really. And it’s not about being prude or conservative. It’s just about where kids are at that time in their lives. I remember my 6th grade crushes. Brushing hands with a boy would turn my face red!

      This is just something MG writers need to keep in mind when thinking of audience. This particular publisher said it literally will not be shelved in bookstores as a MG story with any hints of sexual content. it will go right to YA. That’s just the way it is. (well, unless you’re JK Rowling, I guess)

  2. Congrats on your ARCs. I remember finding about you after Barbara W. featured your book on one of her MMGM. I’m exited for you and I’m going to make extra room for this upcoming release on my tbr list.
    PS: Shannon M. got ARCs for her middle grade series not the YA yet. 🙂

  3. Since my daughter and I read Brigitta, we can’t wait for this one! Happy ARC celebrating!

  4. Just stopping by as a campaigner (SF.) I think I subscribed to your blog. Anyway I clicked the button.

  5. I’m reading my 8 year old daughter the Little House books right now. Not fantasy, but squarely middle grade fiction. By the time those suckers are over, Laura is an adult who has borne two children and seen one die. It sounds like you have a strong character and you’re giving her excellent direction. I’m not taking aim at your writing decisions in this remark. Rather, I’m taking aim at publishing stereotypes. They irritate me to no end. I think adults consistently devalue children’s comprehension levels and enjoyment ranges. I would argue that the presence or absence of a romantic relationship should be controlled only by the story. (Yes. I’m idealistic.) It won’t be useful or appropriate to all storylines. But where it belongs, it may not shift the content automatically to an older audience. Which is why Harry Potter remains so firmly entrenched on the library’s middle grade shelves.

    • Anne of Green Gables also grows up in her stories and the books are still billed as children’s books even when she’s an adult. Both of these series were also written at a time when there was no such category as middle grade literature. Really, there was just literature. It wasn’t until more recently that the industry started dividing by these age levels.

      I think this is an interesting issue and I still haven’t made any final decisions regarding Brigitta’s love life. I’m not even sure how old she’ll be at the end of the series. But I do know that a physical romance isn’t going to be central to the story. And I also believe if the audience is invested in the character they’ll enjoy watching her grow up.

      I understand what you are saying, but I’m not sure this has to do with comprehension level or enjoyment ranges. I think there are plenty of MG books that challenge comprehension levels and do not condescend to children. And if a 10 year old reads, comprehends, and enjoys what is marketed as a YA book I don’t see any problem with that. Heck, if she reads, comprehends, and enjoys Shakespeare more power to her.

      A good story is a good story, but the marketing department, bookstores, and libraries need to know where to shelve it because we do have age categories now and these have become the parameters. Whether I agree with them or not, they’re still the parameters.

      And I did want to add that the publisher wasn’t saying she agrees with this, as a matter of fact she gave a few examples that she thought were a bit over-precautious, she was merely telling us this was the way it is if we want our books on the middle grade shelves. I think it’s mostly about what parents can expect to find on the bookshelves, and many parents of 9-year-olds don’t want them picking up a book with sexual content. (Do I find it odd that our culture is more offended by sex than violence? Yes I do.)

  6. Potential is way more exciting than the actual anyway (for romance). Sweet covers.
    Wagging Tales

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