A good story transcends age.
Older readers may fear the stigma of being seen with a book marketed toward middle schoolers, but if a plot is interesting, a world inviting, or a character appealing, they will resonate with readers regardless of age. Simpler sentences and vocabulary (assuming a middle-grade book even features them) do not diminish the power of a good story. Hemingway wrote simple sentences and people still take his ideas seriously.
The stories are original.
I’ve fallen away from YA partly due to the plethora of paranormal romances and dystopias. YA seems to get stuck in cycles of genres that publishers hope will sell. MG, however, continuously offers fresh stories. Even when something like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson inspires similar works, these titles never take over the entire MG section in the bookstore.
The characters are “ordinary.”
The characters in MG all have their distinctive talents, skills, interests, and quirks, and thus one may argue that they are not truly “ordinary.” A good many of them, however, are not the Chosen One of their people, the last of their race, the son of a god, etc., but just a girl or boy in school doing his or her best to get along in the story given to them. I love reading about characters who seem like people I could meet in real life, but who still manage to have adventures and accomplish extraordinary things, even if we’re just talking about personal growth and not the saving of a world.
You can probably relate to the characters.
If you’re older than a middle grade character, you may fear that you cannot relate to the story of a ten-year-old girl. But you’ve been that age, so you may have an easier time sympathizing with her than you think. Even if you can’t relate to her specific situation, the feelings of younger characters are still familiar ones–fear of rejection, difficulty assimilating change, anxiety about one’s appearance or talents, and struggles to find one’s identity are only a few of the topics that often arise in MG works.
Love triangles are not a cliche.
We joke about all the missing parents in children’s stories, but at least we have the comfort of knowing that the younger age of the characters in MG works means that, if romance plays a role in the work at all, it will likely not take over the plot with the introduction of a love triangle.
Middle grade stories address real and serious issues.
Middle grade works address death, divorce, bullying, absentee parents, poverty, prejudice, and more. The MG label does not mean an absence of conflict or pain. Older readers as well as readers of the target age will find serious ideas and issues with which to engage.
Middle grade is joyful.
Literary fiction for adults seems to mean that the characters come with a lot of baggage and the plot ultimately confirms their pessimistic worldview. Apparently happiness isn’t high art. Fortunately for those of us who prefer a little escape in our escapism, MG books present characters still relatively fresh to the world and (usually) unjaded. Furthermore, while they may not spare their characters pain or heartache, MG books usually show that good triumphs over evil and offer their readers hope.
Do you read middle-grade books? Why or why not?
10 thoughts on “Top 7 Reasons to Read Middle-Grade”
“I’ve fallen away from YA partly due to the plethora of paranormal romances and dystopias.”
*CACKLES* Oh I totally know what you mean! I don’t understand why people feel the need to dismiss Middle Grade as “too young/juvenile/childish” when there are some MG books that are honestly much better than some YA books with the same premise.
I don’t understand the idea of calling MG juvenile, either! The complexity of the writing is often similar to that found in YA and the age of the protagonist doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dealing with less serious situations. Some middle-grade books of course have their characters deal with their problems in a less mature way (such as Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays in the Castle, where the protagonist play silly pranks on the villains to best them), but MG books fall on a spectrum and older MG can be similar to YA.
I know what you mean about YA, but thankfully, there have been more original titles as of late! Middle Grade is something that I love going back to time and time again. There’s something so joyful in the innocence and naivety of kids, and it’s a whole new level of pain when an MG book is dark because you know a child is encountering all of the issues in it. Have you read The Thickety by J.A. White? It’s SO good and SO dark, it literally gave me nightmares, and it’s MG!
Faye at The Social Potato
I have read The Thickety! It was so horrible watching the protagonist encounter so much fear and hatred! The ending was probably the worst part, emotionally, for me, but I haven’t read the sequel yet and don’t know if things get better…or worse.
RIGHT?! It was so dark and evil! LOL! When the dad became what he became, my heart literally went “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” the sequel is still just as dark… and really, fricking disturbing. XD
I’m not sure if that makes me want to read it more or if I’m now a little scared. 😉
YES. This. Some of my top picks from last year were MG books – including the absolutely wonderful A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. A few years before that, it was Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince. This year, Sarah McGuire’s Valiant and Cat Hellisen’s Beastkeeper are both likely contenders for my top ten books of the year. There is some marvelous writing and storytelling in MG books; people who turn their noses up because of the age are missing out.
A Snicker of Magic was one of my favorite reads last year, as well! I was so excited to learn that Lloyd is working on some new books.
I’ve heard great things about Valiant and The False Prince, but have yet to read them.
I honestly haven’t read too much MG, but then again, I also have trouble properly identifying it as a genre. But there is a series I *adore* called the Colors of Madeleine series by Jaclyn Moriarty, and I love it precisely because of some of these reasons you listed. The series is *incredibly* original, and really just so joyful and SO much fun. It is so refreshing to read after so many dark dystopians/fantasies/sci-fis. Also, I have a reason to add to the list — MG romance/relationships, while super different from YA relationships, are also really refreshing. They’re so tentative and cautious, but again, not jaded. It’s pretty cute. 😉
Well, like YA, MG isn’t a genre. It’s an age range (or marketing tool, even) that encompasses various genres. That’s another reason I find it strange that people don’t read MG–some books are labelled MG merely because of the age of the protagonist, but they very well could have been shelved as YA. And before marketing strategies like this existed, MG books would have been…just books.
Thanks for the recommendation! I just looked that series up and it seems interesting.
And, yes, it’s true I’ve never read a jaded MG romance!!!
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