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.
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?