I'm writing a book, and while I'm not even close to finishing, I can't help but wonder what the age of my intended audience should be. I've read a lot of advice that says that age of my protagonist can help determine the age of my target audience. My protagonist is 11, so I feel like my book shouldn't be listed as adult, or even new adult. The book is also far too dark for me to feel comfortable listing it for middle readers, and it's really not a coming of age story, so I'm unsure about having it be young adult.
I think this excerpt will help, (it's from the point of view of the 11 year old who is retelling the story about five years later)
Hang Days, are days that happen once a week, and everybody was supposed to stop working. I had originally equated Hang Day with Sunday or Sabbath. It was a weekly day off, yes, but that’s where the comparison ends. Beyond the palace and surrounding city, how “observant” people were of Hang Day varied, but at the castle, it was followed exactly as the Queen Her High Majesty wanted. Once a week, the people from the city and court and servants of the castle gathered around the town square, where several gallows were set up, and the entire population of the dungeons that had accumulated over the previous week were hanged. The Queen Her High Majesty, and now me, had front row seats.
On my first Hang Day, I watched in confusion as a large handful of prisoners were led to the gallows, the green coated nobleman from the night before was among them. My confusion turned to horror, as I put together what was happening. I wanted to protest, or at least question the Queen Her High Majesty why she was doing this, but I couldn’t make myself say a single word. The people gathered were chanting and cheering as the prisoners walked to their deaths. The majority of the people were peasants, and were happy to see a noble among the doomed.
I watched, sickend as their heads were placed in the nooses. All of the trapdoors were released at the same time. The prisoners dropped, and I vomited as they did the “dance” that the servant had casually mentioned earlier. When my vomiting, turned dry-heaving finally finished, I found that I was not embarrassed or in anyway worried about what the Queen would think of me nearly vomiting on her. The Queen, the Queen Her High Majesty looked at the dead men, pleased. Hang Days, were the only time I ever saw anything resembling a genuine smile on her face, bitch.
It took me awhile to realize this, but while I stared in horror at dead people, the Queen Her High Majesty only saw puppets that danced in her show. But the show wasn’t for her, it was for the people. “See what happens when I’m displeased.” And at the same time that she was giving her threat, she was also rewarding the people. “See this day of rest, this is my gift to you.” It was horrible, and it was clever. She knew how to control her subjects. Despite the gorier, and more personal deaths yet to come in my story, Hang Day, to me, is still the worst thing I think I’ve ever been through, especially with hindsight.