I was in our local indie bookstore this afternoon, picking up some new books to feed my reading habit. After browsing for myself, I meandered into the children's section and looked through the middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) offerings.
It's interesting--writers are always struggling over the difference between the two, myself included. In fact, I have gotten some publisher feedback that in some ways, my current manuscript on submission feels as much MG as YA. I was a little flummoxed by that feedback, as it is clear in my mind--this is a YA book. It deals with themes of agency and choice and the protagonists are High School students.
However, in perusing the bookstore today, I am getting a sense of what they may have meant.
The MG stories felt more gender neutral to me--that is, that the stories would appeal to both boys and girls, and they were tales of some adventure or mystery to solve. The protagonists are often a boy and a girl who work together.
In the YA section, it felt as if the books had a split personality. There were the dark fantasy titles and the books about loner/outsider boys meant to appeal to a male reading audience. Then there were the books about female protagonists at the threshold of growing into their sexual identity and power.
After reading through the jacket copy on at least 2 dozen books, I didn't find a single title in the YA section with dual, opposite sex POV protagonists that seemed to be aimed at a mixed reading audience.
I wish I had taken notes or at least written down titles and authors to give specifics, but I didn't think to do so until after I'd gotten home.
Maybe this is no different than when I was a child. There were Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. (Though I read both). Then, for a pre and adolescent girl, there were Judy Bloom books. I may be wrong, but I don't think many boys read those books. One of the reasons I gravitated to SF and F as a teen, was that the books marketed as YA books at the time held little to no appeal to me.
I craved stories of taking agency and having adventures. Where being the hero/heroine meant saving the planet, or at least the day and NOT being concerned about clothing, make up, or social status.
As a writer, I write the stories I had hoped to read as a young adult. It makes me wonder if I am in sync with the forces of the market. Are there stories out there right now that are this generation's "A Wrinkle in Time"?