What it Means to be “Tween”

I have twin boys who are almost thirteen years old. They’re counting down the days (38 days from today) until they turn thirteen.


Charlie & Xander
12 1/2 years old

When they get to call themselves teenagers. They get to play in the teen basketball league.

They get to join Facebook.

They’ve been living in this “in-between” for the last year. This almost-old-enough-for-teen-books, this have-to-have-mom-and-dad-preview-movies place and they are so done with it.

Thing is, I’m not sure they’re going to find thirteen much different from twelve.

Sure, they’ll still have that basketball league, they’ll have “teen” in their age, and they’ll have Facebook–but books and movies? Maybe not quite what they’re envisioning.

Because there’s such a wide range of young adult books and PG-13 movies. The “Middle Grade” or PG/G genres pretty much ensure a clean read–one free of explicit language and sex. Whereas there are no such assurances in YA books or PG-13 movies. Nowadays it seems like anything goes!

I’d like to see more books (and movies) like Fablehaven, Harry Potter, The Beyonders, etc. Books that have more mature language (not swear-words, but obviously written for a more mature audience) and situations, but that are still clean and “fun”. Because my tweens are still into “clean and fun”. They just need more.

I have only released one middle grade book so far (Jump Boys: SOS), and while it has more grown-up situations in it, it’s sill not very long so someone like my son Xander might not want to bother with it because it’s just not long enough to be “worth it” for him. On the other hand, my son Charlie, who gets intimidated by big books, is the perfect candidate for a shorter, more mature book. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like to read science fiction so . . . I can’t win!

This age group is picky–and rightly so. They’re trying to find themselves and I think it’s a super important time for us, as parents, authors, teachers and librarians, to provide “older” content for a variety of readers.

The world is in a hurry to make our kids grow up but . . . is there really anything wrong with holding onto childhood a little bit longer?

I for one am not in a rush to push my guys into young adult literature and movies. They’re still kids, even if they are almost thirteen, and I want to help them experience life (and stories) with the innocence of childhood for as long as I can.

This post is part of Tween the Weekends, a monthly theme here at Emblazon. To participate, visit our TTW page and join in!

alexshoesAlex Banks doesn’t live on Planet Earth. Alex lives on the Prime Colony Ship orbiting Jupiter or on a pirate ship off the Nova Scotia coast, or on a world called Insulunda where the land masses shift and move like clouds in the sky. Wherever there are dreams to be charted like stars, or fun to be had just down the street . . . that’s where you’ll find Alex Banks.
(Alex Banks is a pen name for YA/NA author, Ali Cross)
Jump Boys Site | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Email

27 thoughts on “What it Means to be “Tween”

  1. Great post, Ali. Experiencing much the same thing. My daughter (14 in a few days), just got to join FB at the end of the school year and was allowed to read Hunger Games for the first time this week. Her 11-year-old brother was a little jealous that she got to watch the movie with me last night and he didn’t, but he gets to experience Harry Potter this coming school year for the first time. Oh, those literary landmarks of childhood. πŸ™‚

    Off to read more TTW posts!

    1. Yeah, that would be tough! At least I get to take care of all those little nuances in one shot since I don’t have any other kids besides these two. Good for you for helping your son hold onto his childhood!

  2. Love this post, Ali! Kids are in such a hurry to grow up these days, and when they do become adults, we realize what the rush was all about! Kids need to enjoy the process of growing and becoming, and I hope Emblazon will be there to help guide kids along the way. Cheers!

    1. Exactly! I’m excited to be a part of something, like a lighthouse, for our children’s “gatekeepers”. It’s a gate worth guarding!

  3. I remember that age. Unfortunately, choices for a young girl were slim to none at that point. Especially since I’d already read through the entire Sweet Valley High series at the tender age of 8. So I started reading books way too old for me (like VC Andrews and Dean Koontz). Now, I’m so thankful that there are books geared towards the younger ages with good topics. I love Ally Carters Books, and think I would have as a 10 year old. Smart girls in adult situations but not in adult romances. It’s a tough age to please, and about the same time that we have to decide if we still like getting ‘toys’ or clothes.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Heather! You hit the nail on the head! I’m glad there are more choices out there for this age group too. πŸ™‚

  4. As the years have gone by, I’ve become more and more dismayed by the content and language allowed in PG13 movies. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the benchmark and tipping point for creating the category between PG and R and it looks tame compared to many PG13 movies today.

    Terrific post and welcome to Emblazon! I think we’re off to a fabulous start!

    1. Thank you! And you’re right. “PG13” is frustrating for me. We preview a movie and think “oh, this was great! The boys could totally see this one!” and then we take them to another one (thinking it’d be tame) and then the language is off the charts and I’m wishing we hadn’t brought them! Wish there was more consistency there. But at least in literature, we can try to add more desirable content!

      1. Yeah, books are a whole different ball game. In movies and on TV, they seem to be trying to push kids to be mini-grown ups. There are no adults monitoring things (or, if there are, they are mocked or viewed as annoying), and tweens and teens are shown as if they can handle it all. We (and the tweens) know that really isn’t realistic. It’s a time of learning to be independent–and inter-dependent. In books, we can do that, even if the screens show otherwise.

  5. Absolutely! Reading levels and maturity are not the same thing, and with tweens, both of those factors can vary so much. Tween lit that addresses the needs and experiences of that age group are important. Good grief, if whole shelves in book stores can be dedicated to the potty training months, surely we can put out some works that deal with that significant time of change for our youth.

  6. Very cute boys! My son is 12 too and is really struggling to find books to read b/c he’s read most of them at the library. There are some YA that are good for boys but a lot of the YA books, even with male characters, include romance and are more geared toward the female audience. I can see why many boys skip to adult thrillers and mysteries.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Laura. We appreciate your kind words. There are a couple of Emblazoner authors you might want to check out for your boys. I know D.Robert Pease has a couple of them out that have male characters in them. πŸ™‚

  7. Arriving a bit late to catch up on blog posts & say congratulations! Am so happy to discover Emblazon as I’m about to launch an ebook which seems to “fall in between” as well – and it has been difficult to describe the target audience. My book doesn’t have romance – it is still primarily about ‘friendship’ and themes such as justice, peer pressure, prejudice based on appearances, etc…but it also has some darker themes & plot twists so seems slightly inappropriate for younger readers. So far, I’ve been calling it “upper MG” but “tween lit” is a much cuter name! πŸ™‚ Have loved reading through the blog posts so far, with all your different descriptions of the special “tween” time.

    Oh – and I have to agree also about kids growing up way too fast these days. I sometimes go into public toilets and see girls of 8 or 9 dressed in quite grown-up style clothing, putting make-up on…I don’t know if I’m just sounding like an old bore but it seems to me a bit young to be getting into all that…gosh, when I was 8yrs old., I was still a tomboy climbing trees! It seems that kids – especially girls – are just rushing into adulthood now and it seems such a shame sometimes. You can always catch up later (as I did in college and didn’t miss out on anything!) but you can never really have your childhood back.

    Anyway, looking forward to following the blog and hopefully joining in! πŸ™‚

    best wishes,

  8. I remember being 13. I’d chewed through Judy Blume, etc. long before that age, so I was reading Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsythe. Of course, some of today’s YA makes Ludlum and Forsythe look tame. =)

    My daughter will be 13 on Wednesday (ack!). She reads so fast I can’t possibly keep up with her. She devoured the entire Harry Potter series before she was 10 – twice. The best I can do is vet the back cover and teach her when a book is “toss worthy.” She picked up something with a cute cover at the library and returned it the next day. “The characters weren’t my kind of people, Mom.”

    Her brother, who just turned 11? Well, he’s not much of a reader. He reads Rick Riordan, but that’s about it. And those take him forever. But he knows what he likes – and romance isn’t it!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Mary and sharing your thoughts. πŸ™‚ Sounds like you’ve got an advanced reader there! Kudos to your daughter for liking to read so much. It’s an important skill to have. πŸ™‚ And Rick Riordan is certainly a good choice for your son!

  9. It is difficult to pin down the middle grade genre when some kids in that category are in elementary school and some are in middle school. That in itself is a huge difference!
    It is true, as others here have mentioned, that older tweens who read well turn to young adult or even adult novels to get the complicated plots they crave. I know I did when I was a kid.
    I hear middle school girls complain they are tired of books in the school libraries about robots, magical portals, etc. and want more Pretty Little Liars and Hunger Games type books. Most of the kids I know read books like Harry Potter when they were in 3rd or 4th grade.
    I think what they basically want is young-adult plots tamed down for middle school kids. There is definitely a market for that.

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