“Nothing that happens after we are twelve matters very much.”

— J.M. Barrie, nearly a century ago.

Johnny My Friend Book

Twelve is the magical dividing line, we all know that. I don’t care what grown-ups say, but that’s when your childhood comes to an end.

Johnny My Friend


Amazingly many children’s novels portray characters of eleven or twelve. I do not think this is a coincidence. This is the age of initiation in many archaic cultures, and although this connotation has been lost in Western society, some remnants may be left in the authors’ imagination. Children in The Giver are assigned their jobs, and therewith their place in society, at the age of twelve. Here is what another character says about this age: “Twelve is the magical dividing line, we all know that. I don’t care what grown-ups say, but that’s when your childhood comes to an end” (Johnny My Friend, 89). Formally, of course, after twelve you are a “teenager”, not a child.

— from The Rhetoric of Character In Children’s Literature by Maria Nikolajeva


More recently, Scott Westerfeld considers 12 a dividing age:

Tally watched the last few uglies make their way inside, gawky and nervous, unkempt and uncoordinated. Twelve was definitely the turning point, when you changed from a cute littlie into an oversize, under-educated ugly.

Uglies, a YA novel. (page 77)

Lois Lowry The Giver Book Cover

It’s no accident that in Lois Lowry’s book The Giver, Jonas and his peers are chosen for bigger things at the age of twelve. Jonas feels overwhelmed by this metamorphosis from child to adult:

Jonas trudged to the bench beside the Storehouse and sat down, overwhelmed with feelings of loss. His childhood, his friendships, his carefree sense of security — all of these things seemed to be slipping away.


Perhaps the writers over at Book Riot understand that there’s something magical about being under 13, because they have published a list of 50 books to read before you’re 11 and 3/4.

Onkeli portrays a child of around 11 to 13 who is confused by many things. Researchers consider this age group to fall into an in-between area: there aren’t enough appealing activities on offer for kids of this age, who are treated as an awkward bunch both at home and at school.

– Kreetta Onkeli: Poika joka menetti muistinsa [The boy who lost his memory]


In the book Powerless, a boy learns that his friends are superheroes who mysteriously lose their powers when they turn 13. It’s no accident that Matthew Cody chose this age.

Powerless Matthew Cody cover




What do you remember best about being twelve? from NYT