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
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.