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?