I would like to followup on this excellent question which outlined differences among works for children, middle-grade, and young-adult. What are some clear differences in theme/story between children's, middle grade, and young adult fantasy?
I am writing a novel aimed at the niche called "upper middle grade." Approximately ages 10-12.
In speaking with librarians and elementary school teachers, it seems there is not any difference between middle grade and young adult fiction, aside from content. You would think YA books would be longer with more complex language, and many are, but the overall range for both categories is the same, even if the averages change.
What lines do I need to be careful not to cross in order to keep my work in middle grade?
- Bodily functions.
- Sexual violence.
- Other violence.
- Babymaking (pregnancy, birth, infancy).
- Dark themes.
- Literary issues of complexity, style, age of main characters, theme, etc.
Obviously, I'm not going to describe sex or drop F-bombs. But I have one teen character who is rescued from forced prostitution, and pregnant, but I don't give details on what happened to her.
I want to write to different levels. Adults and older teens reading the book will get the references and some of the younger kids will not. No matter which age group I pitch the novel to, I know people both older and younger will read it (or so I hope).
What are the things that would give a publisher pause in labeling a work middle grade? (I'm in the United States but if you have insight from other countries, please include it.)