Should You Age With a Series?

Posted April 18, 2016 by Emz Chang in Investigated / 4 Comments

age-with-a-series

As I enter the last quarter of my entire high school career, I’ve done a bit of reflecting. I only have nine weeks to go until I’m free of the horror known as high school and instead of feeling excited like I thought I would, I’m filled with nostalgia. I’m nostalgic for the good old days. I’m nostalgic for my childhood. I’m nostalgic for the past. This path of thinking led me to think about my favorite books growing up and even some of my favorite series right now. Hence, this post is all centered around one question. Should you be aging with the characters of a series?

Yes, characters should age

On one hand, I feel like a series should grow up with you. If you love a series (that’s still in the process of being completed), I feel like you should be able to hang on to it and grow up with the characters. I’ve loved growing up with Percy and Annabeth from all Rick Riordan’s books with Percy Jackson. He was a middle schooler when I was in middle school. He is a high schooler when I am in high school. Hopefully, in The Hidden Oracle (if he makes a cameo, fingers crossed he will), he will be in college? (I can’t imagine Percy in college) or moving on with the more adult portion of his life. When characters grow up with you, you can bring a part of your childhood along when you start to embark on the new chapters in your own life.

The Writing

And then there’s the question of if the characters do age with time (like they would in real life), should the series start to appeal to a different age group as well?

I’ve read series that were originally YA and are now getting closer and closer to the gray zone that is known as New Adult. Because the characters were in their teens when we first met them but are now in their twenties, I think it is a natural progression. It really makes no sense to write a book centered around an adult and call it YA and vice versa.

That being said, I can understand why the genre change doesn’t always happen from a marketing standpoint. Just because one part of the targeted demographic of a series is growing up with the characters, doesn’t mean all of its readers are too. Moving from YA to NA (and then maybe plain adult) risks alienating readers. And alienating readers generally means fewer sales. And then there’s the fact that many authors only write within one genre. Moving from juvenile fiction to YA to adult are big jumps and leaps that come with big risks not many people (*cough* publishers) are willing to take. But in the end, I feel like if the main characters grow up and they stay the main characters, the level of writing should mature with them. Otherwise, what’s the point of aging them too?

No, characters shouldn’t age

On the other hand, sometimes it is better if what was a part of your childhood stays there – in your memories. I loved the Junie B. Jones and the Magic Tree House series growing up. And I can honestly tell you right now, I cannot imagine either one of those two series with adult characters. I think it kind of ruin the charm they had. Not to mention, what would those books be about and like? Both of them relied on the innocence of children. The Junie B. Jones books were centered around petty (looking back at them now) problems. And look what happened to the Narina kids when they grew up. I’ve always imagined that the same thing would happen with Jack and Annie and their magic tree house. (Once you start to stop believing, the magical world goes poof).

It wouldn’t have made any sense to me if the characters from those books keep aging with me. Yes, they can celebrate a few birthdays (it would be weird if they stayed six years old for ten years) but I think there is a limit that they cannot cross.

What do you think?
Should you be able to age with the characters of a series?
If yes, do you think the writing should mature too?

Emz Chang

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4 responses to “Should You Age With a Series?

  1. This is a good topic! I agree with your about Percy Jackson. I love how he grew along with the series, and in his case I don’t think it would be a problem for him to become an adult. That world is so vast, and has so many other characters coming of age at Camp Halfblood, that Riordan can always keep the series Young Adult.

    The only author I can immediately think of that took a series from YA to NA was Jennifer Armentrout with her Covenant series. The first book in the spin-ff, The Power, wasn’t very NA, but Titan was. I think it works for her, because the main series already featured older kids, so the leap wasn’t that great. Though I love the epilogue, I would never want to read about a grown up Harry Potter, unless he was a secondary character. I think it would kill the magic, and even more so if the content was of a more adult nature.

  2. I think Junie B. Jones and the Magic Tree House series (loved Mummies in the Morning!) are meant to be perpetually safe books for elementary-aged kids, so I would be disappointed if the characters aged. But, I think there is a little more freedom with young adult (and *some* middle grade novels). I had the opportunity to grow up with Harry Potter and pals, and it was incredible. I read the first book when I about about 11, which was the same age as Harry. It would have been fine if Rowling created a middle grade series where Harry is 11 forever, but I don’t think it would have had quite the same impact on my generation if she did.

  3. I don’t think any series *should* or *shouldn’t* age with the readers since both clearly have their benefits, but it can be a great experience when you find one that does. I had it happen to me with the Pendragon series by DJ MacHale. I started reading that series when I was 11 and then the final book came out when I was 18, and the series definitely felt like it got more serious and intense as it went on and the characters got older. The way the series grew up with me really added to the experience, I think.

    But of course, having a series grow up doesn’t always work perfectly like that since, for example, someone else might’ve started it when they were a different age. Or, once a series is complete, someone might just read the whole thing within a year, and then they’re clearly not growing up with the series. This is a great questio nto think about though 🙂

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