The answer to this question can be all over the place. Not all seventh graders read at the same level. Some are reading college-level readers, while others are struggling to keep up.
You can run reading level tests on a Word document, but that specified a reading level, not an age group.
The most common age groups are
- picture books–heavy with illustrations that match the text.
- early readers–children who can read words and still like some illustrations
- middle-grade readers–children who can read longer works; illustrations are more realistic. No sex, drugs, cussing, or drinking. Characters are 8 – 12.
- young adult readers–any reader who is 10+ and is capable of reading more challenging material. Sex, drugs, cussing, drinking–IF they help create a character or move the plot. Gratuitous scenes are red flags: stop reading. Characters are older than the reader.
- adult readers–adult material only. However, a majority of adults are now reading YA.
Caveat: don’t cross from Middle Grade to YA. If your character ages, have him age within the given genre.
What you should know about your characters
- their age
- should possess relatable human feelings
- no stereotypes
- a contradiction in character, a fatal flaw
- they should be moving in an age-appropriate world and making teen-like decisions
- relationships should have substance
- keep your characters moving and in interesting places
- Harry woke up, ate breakfast, and then went to school. BORING! Yes, Harry is doing something, but don’t you do the same thing? Why does this merit writing about? Maybe Harry did wake up, but in a world he didn’t recognize. Now we know something very different has happened. Harry eats. You eat, too. But Harry is nibbling at a plate of lettuce. Is Harry a human or a rabbit or did something happen to Harry? And yes, he goes to school. Yawn. But Harry goes to school in a magical forest, and a unicorn teaches him to levitate. You didn’t do that in school! Boring Harry just morphed into mysterious Harry. More, please.
- somebody’s life should change
- consequences should be significant (If everybody wins, that sucks for everybody.)
- kill off somebody who matters