You’re Practically Grown Up…NOT!

Tween traitEighth-graders frequently seem confused about how grown up they are. And do you blame them? Not me. Twelve to fourteen-year-olds pay adult admission, and are about to make the giant leap into high school, yet they’re not allowed to drive or work. Bummer. Girls, already on the road in developing the forms and functions of grown women, deal with parents who one moment scold, “You’re practically grown up!” and then awhile later become hysterical when their princess ASKS about the ins and outs of dating. Boys, with their physical and sexual maturity just beginning to awaken, are suddenly surrounded by a horde of newly attractive and unnervingly gigantic girls. Yikes!

Most eighth-graders concerns are related to friends, family, and school. Honestly, it’s a social media nightmare at times. Are they going to be embarrassed? Will their BFF still be their friend tomorrow? Does he like me like me, or just like me? You get the drift.

So as a writer, how do you connect with such a tough audience, who’s not quite grown up, yet feel that all systems are go and are ready to wear bigger shoes? One way is to hook into their characteristics, and extract a much needed trait or a combination of traits to make your characters feel authentic to your readers. In order to do this, we need to take a look at what makes an eighth-grader tick.

Here are some 8th Grader Characteristics:

  • Can be touchy, and express anger easily.
  • Music is increasingly important to them, as is technology and the latest got-to-have gadget.
  • Sarcasm is a prevalent quality. (I use that one a lot!)
  • As their self-concept develops, they can be withdrawn or prone to challenging others. They struggle with a sense of identity.
  • Abstract reasoning skills are strengthening and expanding.
  • May test limits and rules, but also develop ideals and choose role models.
  • Skin problems may be emerging, boys’ voices are changing, and girls are menstruating. Personal hygiene and self-confidence become issues.
  • May begin to experiment with sex and substances.

Remember, readers this age are looking for escape, to experience things they can’t in their own lives. Being attuned to how they think, and what they’re feeling is a step in the right direction to creating a story that will keep this age group turning page after page of your latest tween read!

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, and anything arcane. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

16 thoughts on “You’re Practically Grown Up…NOT!

    1. LOL! True that, Alan! I guess that’s why writing for this genre makes life a whole lot more interesting! Cheers and thanks!

    1. Yes, it depends on the child, Barbara. One of my daughters grew up a whole lot faster than the other by grade eight. It was a proverbial nightmare for sure. Um… got a bruise on my neck from bumping into the doorknob. I think not! Cheers!

  1. This is great, Sharon. My daughter is raging through this season of life right now, and it’s good to be reminded how much of what she does is “normal”. It’s also good to know what sorts of inner monologues our tween characters should have.

    1. My condolences, Lia! LOL! I know exactly what you’re going through. This too shall pass. But yes, it is normal. Each child is a unique mold that’s for sure. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Love this post, Sharon. My character in my second book is dealing with just that…wanting people to respect her grown-up-ness. Is that a word? It should be.

  3. My only son is getting ready for 8th grade next week. And has a girlfriend. And got caught with the wifi card in his room this morning when he isn’t supposed to be on the internet after 8 pm. This needs to pass quickly! But I must say it’s fun and funny experiencing this age with a boy for the first time.

    1. Keep dreaming, Melody! LOL! Actually, it’s not a bad phase, depending out how far your son likes to push your buttons! Best wishes and batten down the hatches…

  4. My teen granddaughter keeps using the word “swag” I know what that means in the author world and in Hollywood but she isn’t using it in either of those ways. Does anyone know what else it can mean?

  5. I think it’s another word for ‘cool’ Onisha. I checked on Urban Dictionary, and got another way of spelling it – swagg. Anyway, hope that helps!

  6. Great post! Writers should keep in mind, though, that the majority of eighth graders (and beyond) aren’t all that sophisticated. I hate reading books or watching films/television shows where young teens are portrayed as 21-year-old club goers. And what message does this give a young teen who’s trying to figure out exactly who they are and how they fit?

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