middle grade fiction age

How Old Should My MG Protagonist Be?

Dear Editor…

How old would my protagonist have to be to be considered “tween fiction”? My critique group thinks I’m in the wrong genre.


Dear Yvette…

In tween fiction, more technically called “middle grade fiction,” protagonists are usually tweens just like their young readers, putting them in the 9–14 age range. That range includes both older elementary school kids and early high schoolers—which is quite a wide range when you think about it. The maturity levels therein can be all over the map. Consider the sophistication of your concept, themes, and storytelling style as you determine where your project falls. The shift from tween to teen sophistication generally starts happening around age twelve, when they shift from focusing inward and struggling to find out who they are, to looking outward and realizing that they play a role in a bigger world. (Insiders call these books for older tweens “upper middle grade.”) That’s as important to consider as your protagonist’s age, which should match the age of your target reader or be just slightly above it. Young people like to read “up.”

Happy writing!
The Editor