February 7, 2012

Book Tour: On The Bright Side Guest Post

Today I'm excited to welcome S.R. Johannes author of On the Bright Side.  She's here today to talk about the challenge of writing for tweens.  This is something, as a teacher of tweens, that I'm super curious about.

First though here's a bit about the book:
As if the devil’s food cake at her wake and the white fat pants she’s stuck wearing for eternity weren’t bad enough, fourteen year-old Gabby is quick to discover that Cirrus, the main rung of Heaven, is a far cry from the Pearly Gates. Here, SkyFones and InnerNets are all the rage. At her first Bright ceremony, G.O.D., the automated assignment system, spits out Angela Black, Gabby’s arch nemesis and longtime fencing rival. As a Bright, Gabby has to protect Angela, her assigned mortal, in order to move up through the training levels of heaven. 
Back on earth, Angela starts hitting on Michael, Gabby’s crush and should-have-been boyfriend. Gabby’s pranks to quell the love are harmless at first until the school dance sabotage gets completely out of control. Then, Celestial Sky Agent, Lawrence, who happens to have anger management issues of his own, steps into reveal that Angela has big problems, and what she really needs is Gabby’s help. 
Determined to right her wrong and ease her mother’s grief, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to earth for just one day. But if Gabby’s not careful, her well-meaning mission just might shift the very foundation of Heaven, Earth, and every place in between, causing the danger of the dark side to roam free. 
Be looking for my review tomorrow!!!

Now Welcome S.R.!

The Challenge in Writing for Tweens 

Tweens are a special group of girls.

They hold that space in between middle graders and teens. Usually 12, 13 and 14.

To me, writing tween is hard because you have to squeeze somewhere in the middle. Middle grade plots are simpler that young adult. Romance does not exist in middle grade. Yet tweens want more complicated books with some talk of boys.

Lets look at MG vs Teen books. Clementine is a middle grade books vs. Twilight is a young adult.

Middle Grade
· Simpler plots – more one dimensional
· No romance
· Internal motivation – “all about me”

Young Adult
· Complicated plots – layered with sub plots
· Romance galore J
· How they fit into the world

Tweens don’t want to read middle grade books for a couple of reasons. 1) They are not advanced enough so a book appropriate for a 9 year old seems “babyish” to a 14 year old. and 2) they don’t want to be caught browsing into the kids section at a bookstore.

However, YA addresses more mature issues a tween may not be ready for. Not to mention, YA is closer to the adult section. Parents don’t want kids reading young adult because of subject matter combined with romance and violence.

So tweens are caught in the middle.

Middle Grade assumes an 8 year old and a 13 year old can read the same books because they think the same. Young Adult books target teen issues that tweens haven’t even thought about yet. There is a hidden space in this range of 8 to 18. The tweens who have outgrown Middle Grade books but who aren’t ready for the mature “young adult” series.

Making Gabby a tween was tough. She has those moments of childlike behavior yet the issues of a tween. Wanting to grow up to fast yet still under the wing of her mom. Adding in her snarky humor while balancing likability was hard. It is hard to write a lovable character that is selfish in motivation – but that is where a tween focuses more.

In OTBS, Gabby starts out with an internal motivation. About a girl winning a boy she wanted and refusing to let someone else she hates take him away. But as the story moves along, her motive becomes about something more. About something bigger than her. It becomes about what is right and wrong, about growth, and about acceptance. In the end, her actions have larger consequences than she imagined. And she begins to see how her place fits into a larger picture. A little MG with a little YA.

So hopefully, OTBS finds that sweet spot in the middle and keeps people laughing yet teaches the core message about acceptance and moving on.


  1. What a cool concept.

    GREAT points about that hazy area in between both genres. I'd never considered it before but you're so right.

  2. And it's because of this "caught in the middle" part that I review both "mg" and "ya" when I teach 7th grade! :)

  3. So agree that there is a tween area of books that is different from the younger MG and older YA. I wish more people got that because they might enjoy reading more MG/tween books.

    And Jill from seeing my daughter and her friends go through 7th grade, I can see why you review both YA and MG because these kids do move toward YA.