Why I’m NOT Going to Age-Down my Novel

Could a coming-of-age or finding-yourself narrative still apply to me?

At 27-years-old I still feel like I’m solidifying my identity, I’m still filled with self-doubt, I’m still trying to find my place in the world. The internal struggles I’m facing in my late (-cringe-) twenties aren’t actually that much different from what I struggled with in my late teens or early twenties. I suspect my youthful ignorance actually left me feeling more confident about my abilities/identity than I feel now.

When I think of adult genres, especially contemporary or literary fiction, I think of characters who are established in their careers, perhaps they have some love troubles, but their life seems to be fairly settled until the events of the novel stir things up a little.

But where are the messy twenty-somethings? What about the people who still need to do a little⎯or maybe a lot⎯of soul-searching?

This is what my most recent book kind of deals with. My protagonist is a 22-year-old who’s never taken a risk and thinks herself satisfied with her quiet existence, though she secretly is terrified of mundane existence and wishes for some magic. In essence, her life needs a wake-up call and for her “real” life to start, she’s going to need to find the magic in herself.

I know this story. It’s an over-exaggeration of my own inner struggles. And I can’t be the only twenty-something who feels this way. Could I?

I’ve received feedback from two other writers who suggested my book might work better as a MG (middle grade). It’s not a completely ridiculous suggestion; the writing is fairly whimsical and it’s a fantastical adventure story with magic books and antique clocks.

But, why do kids ages 8-12 get the monopoly on whimsical fantasy stories?

I know there are YA/Adult aged stories with a whimsicality and lots of magic… Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, and Dianna Wynne Jones have done it. And I’d like to do it too.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but I feel like there’s this idea in the YA genre that a book has to be dark, gritty, and tough in order to be good. At least, that’s what I’ve noticed with a lot of popular YA books in the last 5-10 years. With the immensely popular Hunger Games series and the Shadow Hunters and books where everyone is a fairy assassin or at least a little murder-y.

Could there be space in there for a slightly lighter⎯though still a tiny bit murder-y⎯fantasy book?

I think so.

There’s a reason books like Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit, and many others like it are still enjoyed today by all ages. There’s a timelessness to them and a desire, perhaps, for a little bit of light and whimsy to contrast with harsh realities.

Sure, Alice in Wonderland is a kids book, but it’s not just enjoyed by children. Anne of Green Gables was, in fact, not written with children in mind, though the writing is quite whimsical and the subject matter is light and happy.

So I’m not going to age-down my novel because I see no need for it.

Maybe my book won’t fit with what’s trendy right now, but I love it. I enjoy the lightness of the writing style and the fact that my main character isn’t angry all the time and wants to kill everyone that looks at her funny.

Let me have my whimsy. I think the world needs more of it!

… That was a lot of the word “whimsical” in one post.”

One thought on “Why I’m NOT Going to Age-Down my Novel

  1. Yes, please write this whimsical YA book! I am not a fan of dark and gritty novels. Not that they aren’t important, just…let’s have a little levity. And people are totally still figuring themselves out in their twenties, thirties, forties…are mid-life crises just delayed coming of age stories? I love that Valancy from The Blue Castle is approaching old maiden hood (at, um…27?) and still figuring out how to assert herself. It’s why I related to her more strongly than Anne or Emily (though always wished I was more like them). Ok I am done with this novel. Can’t wait to read your book one day!


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