Why Aren’t You Reading Middle-Grade?

Why Are You Not Reading Middle Grade

I’ll admit it.  I enjoy middle-grade books more than I enjoy YA, even if it’s YA that seems to be driving the book market and thus raising the ire of writers who periodically predict falling reader intelligence as a result.  When money isn’t driving writing, there’s room for more creativity in what get published.  The results are often stunning, complex, original.  Here are:

The Reasons You Should Read More Middle-Grade

Middle-Grade isn’t just for children

People hear “middle grade” and assume the writing is on a lower level and that the issues addressed aren’t deep.  This is entirely untrue.  Middle-grade books can include death, treachery, abandonment, drugs, and more.  And writers often don’t hold back.  They know many children deal with these issues in real life and they don’t pander to their readers.

Middle-Grade Isn’t a Genre

Like YA, MG is an age range or marketing tool, not a genre.  Whether you like fantasy, sci-fi, humor, mystery, historical fiction, or contemporary, you can find it here.

Middle-Grade is original

Middle-grade tends to be less trendy than YA.  Paranormal romances, vampire boarding schools, and dystopias fill the YA shelves, but MG books tend to be different.  If there’s an overriding trend, it might be that books about clever children who solve puzzles or search for treasure are popular.  And fairy tale characters in school seemed to be a growing theme.  But, in general, a trend in MG might mean you see five similar books on the shelf, not 20.

Middle-Grade Tends to Avoid TropEs (And Love Triangles!)

Yes, it’s true an unfortunate number of MG books feature absent or neglectful parents as an easy way to get their child protagonists on an adventure.  However, once this hurdle is cleared, MG books tends to do their own thing.  You won’t always able to predict the presence of a love triangle, the moment when the overly charming male love interest betrays the female protagonist, or the “revelation” that someone is a supernatural creature.

Middle-Grade Books Are Hopeful

Middle-grade characters tend to be young and not jaded, so you generally don’t have to deal with any character’s baggage over their divorce, dead-end job, etc.  The characters generally jump into action to save the world without reservations because they still believe in doing right, and that good will always win.  And the ending will almost invariably support this.  You don’t have to read 300 pages of someone saving the world for an ending like “Well maybe they were happy at the end, but life is terrible so maybe not.  But they had faith so I guess that’s something.”

Some Recommendations to Get You Started on Your MG Journey

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

When the headmistress of St. Ethedreda’s School for Girls and her younger brother are poisoned at Sunday dinner, the seven boarders know just what to do.  Hide the bodies; convince the town that Headmistress Plackett is alive and well; and continue to live at the school as independent women.  But can the girls identify the murderer before he or she attempts to strike a second time?

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Albie has always been an “almost”–almost getting the answers right on the test, almost having his artwork chosen for display, almost getting to do the science fair.  But almost isn’t good enough, or so his father says.  Will Albie ever be good at anything or will he have to resign himself to always almost making his parents proud?

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

At Ella’s birth, the fairy Lucinda cursed her with obedience.  No matter what her nasty stepsisters order her to do, Ella must obey.  So she sets off on a journey to break the curse.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Magic used to flow throughout the town of Midnight Gulch, where people could sing up rain, turn invisible, or play a tune that got everyone dancing.  When twelve-year-old Felicity Pickle arrives, she hopes that enough magic remains to cure her mother of her wandering heart and allow her family to grow roots in the first place that has ever felt like home.  Along with her first-ever friend Jonah Pickett, a do-gooder kid who helps her to believe in her own magic, Felicity will attempt to lift the curse that lies on Midnight Gulch and make her family whole.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Reynie Muldoon, Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire each have a different talent.  Together they form the Mysterious Benedict Socity to infiltrate a school and defeat an evil genius.

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

The minions of Castle Hangnail need a new Master in residence or the Board will decommission them and the minions will have to find a new home.  But when Molly shows up on the doorstep, the minions are not so sure things will work out.  Molly, after all, is only twelve-years-old and hardly seems like a Wicked Witch.  In fact, she seems like rather a polite witch.  But the minions need someone to be Master and so they are willing to give Molly a chance.  But she has secrets that might ruin them all.

The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson

Antigone and Cyrus Smith live in a dilapidated hotel with their older brother Daniel.  No one ever checks in, until the night a strange man requests a specific room.  By morning, the man has died, the hotel has burned to the ground, and Daniel has disappeared.  Informed that the only way to save their brother is to join a mysterious order of explorers, Antigone and Cyrus find themselves racing against time to find the order and swear their loyalty.  Not everyone in the order, however, welcomes the new initiates.  Surrounded by enemies, the two will have to prove their skill and bravery if they want to reunite their family.  Bonus: The cast is diverse and the protagonists are described as having dark skin.

Krysta 64

41 thoughts on “Why Aren’t You Reading Middle-Grade?

  1. Hilary @ SongsWroteMyStory says:

    Great post! I totally agree, though I haven’t been keeping up with middle grade very well lately. I especially love Ella Enchanted (or any of Levine’s books, if I’m being honest)! The movie was terrible, but the book was fantastic!


  2. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    I’ve only ever read Harry Potter. That’s the extent of my MG reading. But the synopsis’ you listed here sound really intriguing. I saw the movie Ella Enchanted, and I knew there was a book, but I had assumed it was geared more toward YA since Anne Hathaway played Ella in the movie.


    • Briana says:

      I think they tried to make the movie appeal to more of a YA audience because Anne Hathaway was definitely too old for the role of Ella. But the movie actually has so very, very little to do with the book. I think they could have changed a few details to avoid plagiarism accusations, just claimed it was some other Cinderella adaptation, and called it a day, without bothering to try to say it was Ella Enchanted. I haven’t seen Gail Carson Levine comment on it, but I think she must absolutely despise it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        That’s interesting! I never would’ve known it was an MG book based on the movie. She sold the rights to the book, so I guess she assumed the risk. That’s the trouble with relinquishing the rights to a novel. J.K. Rowling had the right idea when it came to the film adaptations.


    • Briana says:

      Wait, someone asked her on Goodreads two months ago if she liked the movie and she gave this very diplomatic answer: “I think it’s a fun movie, and it’s brought a lot of readers to the book.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        I would say she probably didn’t like it. That sounds almost rehearsed. I saw a review from Colleen Hoover about the book Pucked, and she didn’t even mention the book, just talked about something that happened a year before that had nothing to do with the book. I think sometimes authors try to be polite, and I don’t blame them. But why do they feel obligated to comment on another author’s book when they really don’t like them? That always annoys me. I can’t take their reviews seriously because they’re influenced by another source.


        • Briana says:

          Yeah. I would agree the movie is “fun,” but has little to do with her book. I’m sure she either doesn’t want to insult the people involved, realizes it was a risk she took and maybe shouldn’t complain too much, or just doesn’t want to get a reputation as someone who’s negative and difficult to work with.

          Author book blurbs always confuse me. I’m not quite sure how they’re acquired, but sometimes they’re so short and generic it’s hard to tell if the person even read the book, and I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to be that author who’s like “Actually, I hated this, so I’m not going to give you a quote.”

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

    Great post! I’ve been meaning to read more Middle Grade because of the reasons you listed. I really love when books focus on friendships, which is seriously lacking in YA and I know that’s definitely a focus in MG. One of my favourite series ever is Percy Jackson and the Olympians (and I’m a huuuge Goosebumps fan) so I really don’t know why I haven’t read more! Thanks so much for the recs! I’ll definitely be checking them out.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes! Friendships all the way. I do love romances that start as friendships, but I also love when people are “just” friends. I feel like the obsession with romance tends to make us devalue friendship when really friendship is beautiful and meaningful, too!

      I admit I didn’t like The Lightning Thief so I never carried on with the series, but it’s possible I would have enjoyed some of the later books more. And I never read Goosebumps because just looking at the covers scared me!


  4. Jamie Wu says:

    Middle grade books are definitely hopeful. They’re also easier to read through too. Some YA and adult books tend to have heavier subjects, which while not a bad thing in itself, can take a while to slog through and tends to linger on your mind for a while. I find middle grade books can be a nice palate cleanser when that happens.


  5. Ellen @ Quest Reviews says:

    This is wonderful. You’ve convinced me that I DO need to read more MG. I especially love your point that because YA drives the market, it’s less creative. Two books I’ll add to the list is Spying on Miss Muller by Eve Bunting and Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld. Those were two of my favorite MG books as an older child. Spying on Miss Muller is a WWII mystery in an English boarding school (with the most hilarious bomb shelter scene of all time). Detectives in Togas is a mystery set during the Roman empire with an ensemble cast and it’s just at the top of its class.


    • Krysta says:

      I LOVE boarding school mysteries and I’ve never heard of Spying on Miss Muller. Time for a trip to the library! And Detectives in Togas is just a hilarious title. 😀


  6. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas says:

    Awesome post! I love MG, and I wished more adults did too. Reading out of your age range gives valuable insight into the minds of kids, AND it helps you to remember what it’s like to be that young. I use to adore the Redwall series (still do actually), Artemis Fowl, and anything by Rick Riordan. Harry Potter is my favorite series, and basically consumes a ton of my waking moments. I also really love Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. There are just so many amazing MG books out there.


  7. Emily | RoseRead says:

    I’ve been asking myself the same thing lately!! I’ve fallen off of reading Middle Grade, and I really need to get back into it! I have several books on my shelf waiting to be read; they are so quick, I don’t know what’s holding me back! Great point that they are hopeful – it’s good to get away from the sometimes doom and gloom of YA and adult.


  8. EustaciaT says:

    I definitely enjoy Middle Grade as well, so thanks for the recommendations! I’ve read Ella Enchanted and The Mysterious Benedict Society, but not the rest, so I’ll have to check it out!

    If you like Middle Grade horror, I recommend The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki! I just finished reading it a few days ago, and I really enjoyed it! 😀


  9. charlotte says:

    I found after blogging for about three years that it was the middle grade books I especially enjoy, and so that’s what I focus on these day! If anyone is looking for more recs., every Sunday I round up all the blogger eviews of mg sci fi and fantasy books I can find….


  10. gotmybook2 says:

    I love MG. I have the goal of reviewing at least one every month. I am still working on making it possible though. Thanks for the recommendations.

    My most recent MG review: The Iron Trial


    • Krysta says:

      Ooh. Interesting book, though I’m confused as to why the authors would name their school after the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church….


  11. Jarrett Lerner says:

    Excellent post! And very glad I’ve discovered your blog. Lisa Graff is my go-to recommendation for anyone interested (and especially those who are interested but hesitant) in MG. She is simply phenomenal. Also, for MG books that include quality adult characters, check out Carl Hiaasen’s stuff. I love his kids’ stuff for that.

    Looking forward to getting my hands on the rest of your recommendations, and to reading more of your posts!


    • Krysta says:

      Lisa Graff is such a sensitive and talent writer, but I never see people in the book blogosphere talking about her!

      I haven’t read Hiassen yet, though I know he’s quite popular (at least his books are always being checked out at the library). There are so many books and not enough time!


  12. shelfishforbooks says:

    oh my god a snicker of magic is one of my favourite books ever – I found it during a pretty tough time as a kid, and it was the only book I read for three months on end! I love the magic, and the ice cream and the quaint little town its set in.


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