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Is 13 year old Protagonist too old for Middle Grade?

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I have written a Middle Grade mystery based in London. Due to the fact that the protagonists need to be reasonably independent to be out in the city unaccompanied I have made them 13 years old. Is this too old for Middle Grade Fiction?
I know readers like to read up and I would put the age range of my reader to be about 9-12 years old
#1 - September 10, 2022, 12:47 PM

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The ages of 13 and 14 for the main character make a book harder to sell.  They aren't unheard of and some argue that upper MG and lower YA are necessary and that these ages have been ignored in the marketplace. The transition to high school can be huge for some kids, but this is still  a harder sell just because of character age. Your reader age is spot on for MG.
#2 - September 10, 2022, 06:34 PM
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I disagree. A 13-year-old MC is fine for middle grade, and you have a good reason for making your MC that age. There are "older" middle grade novels being published all the time, though they can be hard to spot.
#3 - September 11, 2022, 12:38 PM
Harold Underdown

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From what I can see, there’s a bit of a dividing line of sorts between 13 and 14. 13 is usually accepted. 14 might be, but at 14  it’s  more likely you’d be asked to age down. More people are asking for upper MG, so with a 13yo MC and a good reason for the age choice, I think you’re fine. For a recently published MG with a 14yo MC, try THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS by Anna Rose Johnson.
#4 - September 11, 2022, 02:45 PM
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From what I can see, there’s a bit of a dividing line of sorts between 13 and 14. 13 is usually accepted. 14 might be, but at 14  it’s  more likely you’d be asked to age down. More people are asking for upper MG, so with a 13yo MC and a good reason for the age choice, I think you’re fine. For a recently published MG with a 14yo MC, try THE STAR THAT ALWAYS STAYS by Anna Rose Johnson.

I disagree. A 13-year-old MC is fine for middle grade, and you have a good reason for making your MC that age. There are "older" middle grade novels being published all the time, though they can be hard to spot.

I'm glad to see 13 is becoming more acceptable. Harold, what about 14 and 15? Those are usually freshman and sophomore years in high school. They are the books 12 and 13 year olds need before they start reading about the stress of college searches and applications.
#5 - September 11, 2022, 08:45 PM
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Debbie, I don't think 13 is becoming more acceptable--it's been accepted for a long time.

14 and 15 year old MCs, not so much. That's getting firmly into YA territory--the young end, but YA.

Ultimately, when it comes to stories that fall on the borders between two wide categories like MG and YA, I'd suggest that writers write the story to be true to their main character, and leave decisions about category to the publisher, who will have an understanding of what their audience is. I say this as a general rule of thumb--the OP's manuscript most likely is MG, and can be described that way in a query. Manuscripts on the border, though, can be queried as such.
#6 - September 12, 2022, 06:46 AM
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Debbie, I don't think 13 is becoming more acceptable--it's been accepted for a long time.

14 and 15 year old MCs, not so much. That's getting firmly into YA territory--the young end, but YA.

Ultimately, when it comes to stories that fall on the borders between two wide categories like MG and YA, I'd suggest that writers write the story to be true to their main character, and leave decisions about category to the publisher, who will have an understanding of what their audience is. I say this as a general rule of thumb--the OP's manuscript most likely is MG, and can be described that way in a query. Manuscripts on the border, though, can be queried as such.

Good to know. Thank you.
#7 - September 12, 2022, 08:46 PM
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I think 13 is perfectly fine for a middle-grade protagonist. I was told that middle-grade kids like to read about protagonists that are a little older than themselves. They like to see themselves as older and not younger. My middle-grade novel has a lead that is 13 and two 10-year-old supporting characters.
#8 - September 14, 2022, 10:53 AM

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