Knowledge Base » First Steps » Middle Grade & Young Adult » Middle Grade Books 101


Middle Grade Books 101


What is a Book for Middle Graders?

  • Novels or nonfiction for ages 8-12 or 10-14. Lengths can vary from 84-200 pages (novels are usually over 100 pages long), or 20,000-40,000 words. Illustrated nonfiction may have fewer words.
  • Characters are children ages 9-14 (average character in middle grade novel is 10-13 years old). Protagonists can also be animals or fantasy creatures. Adults are almost never central characters.
  • Stories can be in any genre (mysteries, fantasy, historical, and contemporary are popular), but the central conflict must be relevant to the middle grade reader.
  • Characters are focused inward (Who am I? Where do I fit in?), adolescent emotions are dramatic, and concerns with peers, image, gaining independence from parents, making own decisions and developing unique talents are paramount.
  • Plots are more complex, with one to three sub-plots that relate to the main action in the story.
  • Formats range from journal entries to illustrated novels to stories written in free verse.
  • Nonfiction builds on basic knowledge of a subject, and pushes readers to think about their place in the world and develop their own values and opinions.
  • Characters grow and change during the book, but are still emotionally and intellectually adolescents at the end.


Are Middle Grade Books Right for You?


  • Do you understand the emotional development, life experience and world view of kids on the cusp of adolescence and entering puberty?
  • Can you write about the above without letting your adult perspective enter the book?
  • Are you tuned in to the conflicts, drama and everyday situations of this age group?
  • Can you write convincing dialogue and create unique characters?
  • Are you willing to let your characters make mistakes and then learn from what they’ve done?


If you have these skills, or are passionate about developing them, you could be a middle grade writer!

Find some terrific middle grade books to study here: