Saturday, June 14, 2014

Romance and the Middle Grade Novel

When the third draft of The Messengers was done, it was the first time that I actually sent it off to people outside my circle of friends. And it was also the first time that I heard the phrase “Don’t talk down to children.” Immediately, I began to notice the statement on blogs and other websites. I took this to mean “Give children respect in your writing to allow them to make decisions and to tackle not only difficult grammar, but also subject matter.” But yet in the midst of all of these comments, I received a few people who asked me to remove the “Romance” in the book.
Okay first of all let’s define the romance in the book. It amounts to four individual crushes. No kissing. No holding hands. Just kids saying or acting as if they find the other one attractive or cool or funny or heroic.
Now, I’m not going to go into heavy detail because one day I hope to have middle grade readers. And they may come to the website. But let’s think about an eleven year old – fifth and sixth grade. Sorry, but I adored a girl to the point of following her around in kindergarten. I actually remember her coming to my birthday party, and she forgot her sweater. It was white and pink. When I found it as we were cleaning up, I felt like Prince Charming. I presented it to her on Monday when we went back to school. To this day I remember that vividly. That’s how hard I was crushing at six-years-old. Yet, eleven-year-olds can’t at least like each other?
To remove light romance from middle grade novels in my opinion is talking down to middle graders. It’s a statement that says, “You are not mature enough to have real feelings about boys/girls.” But what I remember was very real and sometimes painful and sometimes beautiful. There are a lot of things I would change about my life, but the crushes I had I wouldn’t touch. They were the building blocks which I used later in life for more mature relationships. And as long as I’m writing, I’ll do my best to be true to the audience and not “write down to them.”