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.”



  1. Romance is a tricky thing in middle grade. Some of MG novels definitely have it (because I completely agree that crushes are a big part of the middle school experience!) but the focus on it is very different than it would be in a YA novel. As long as it's handled in a way that's appropriate for a MG audience (which it sounds like yours is) then I think you can ignore that feedback. :-)

    1. Wow! I know you! You write books and published books! Thanks so much for coming to my little blog. I'm trying. Maybe one day I'll reach your greatness. :-) - So it's an honor to me that you left me a little statement.

      The story is an action, so romance takes a back seat. But I think to ignore the "I like you/You like me" is as silly as ignoring the sun. But I 100% agree with you. One beta even stated that her only concern was that through a series, things usually escalate. In book one, I had already established a few romantic plots. I let her know she had nothing to worry about.

      I must admit I've had awesome betas. I love all of them.

      And thanks again.

  2. I wouldn't worry too much about what "they" say, you are the author. Writing by committee never made for really good books.
    But if "they" are sensing that the adult writer is not inhabiting the emotional zone of their characters, the comments can be helpful. MG crushes are not quite the infatuation young adults (and all adults) experience.
    The point is to stay true. To your character, to your understanding, and to your vision for your work.

    1. Wow another published author! I'm hitting the jackpot. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      I guess I was weird because I crushed hard - generally one girl a year - all year. Never shed tears, but I never "went with any of them either." :-D One girl I even liked for 3 years. But everyone is different.

      Only about 5 betas out of 20 brought it up. I just thought it was so odd because the half of the crushes you don't even know about in the book until a conversation midway in where one girl brings it up.

      I've read a few books that have some odd things in them with eleven and twelve year olds. The whole time I'm reading them I was thinking - I wouldn't even "talk" to a girl at 12. I was still bumping into her or pulling her hair just to get her attention.

      But I agree with you wholeheartedly. And thanks so much for stopping by and reading - and commenting. :-)

  3. At the middle grade level, you can go either way. You can hint at romance, write about crushes and first kisses, or just leave it out altogether, and it won't be weird either way. We have whole industries of entertainment made for kids that are essentially about adult romances (see: Every Disney Movie Ever Made, Especially the Princess Ones) which I find way weirder than a seventh grader realizing that she thinks a boy her age is actually *gulp* attractive :)

    1. You know. At least my girls think the world continues without some boy! LOL Thanks for reading and commenting.