The Problem with Modern Middle Grade

preteenI don’t normally read a whole lot of middle grade. Even as a middle grader the genre annoyed me. Writers (or the people who buy the books) often look down upon middle grade audiences; oversimplifying everything, and giving the main character a voice that would better suit a small child rather than a pre-teen. Even with books like Artemis Fowl and the Bartimaeus Triliogy out there that have both challenging material as well as fiercely intelligent protagonists, many people assume that just because a middle grade novel is intelligent, it’ll loose its target audience.

 

 

s-l1000This may sound like an unfair generalization, but I’ve experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, my mother wrote an excellent time traveling middle grade novel with an intelligent protagonist. Mel wasn’t unrealistic, in fact she sounded like many 12 year olds I’ve met. However, she constantly faced criticism from publishers on “Mel’s voice being too mature ”and the plot “too complex”. While these are all fair opinions, the middle school beta readers tended to disagree. They were avid readers who were all able to comprehend the book easily. This book, like the Artemis Fowl Series, was designed to appeal to intelligent and voracious readers, however, especially due to the new shape and attitudes of the publishing world, those in the industry were reluctant to venture out of the middle grade comfort zone. Perhaps this is due to a stigma about middle grade readers. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that more middle grade books are bought by the parents of readers than YA novels, and edgy material might not sell well. Whatever the reason, it drives me bananas.

Just because a reader is young doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenged.

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More and more I find kids who, having outgrown the middle grade genre in elementary school, are now looking for books in the Young Adult sections. Middle Grade is being dumbed down, and avid middle school readers find themselves stuck between rock and a hard place. Read something basic, in which the main character makes stupid mistakes and your intelligence is insulted, or go above your reading level and get a good story… riddled with sex and violence and other age inappropriate topics. I don’t know about the average fifth grader, but I hated those sex scenes in books. Why were they even necessary? It was so gross.

Middle graders should have the option of intelligent books whos content is suitable to the life experiences of pre-teens. More and more young people are getting turned off from the genre because authors or publishers are too unwilling to take a risk. Yet in both the YA genre as well as books targeted towards adults, there are intelligent books for intelligent people. It is simply assumed that, while there is a market for novels like Once Upon a Kiss, or Twilight, there is also a market for more complex novels. Why shouldn’t middle grade be the same?

So why am I bringing this up now?

I’m bringing the topic of intelligent middle grade books up now because, just recently I read one. I am a YA reviewer, with occasional forays into adult books. However, I think it is important to acknowledge these less mainstream middle grade novels that struggle into the world despite criticism and complaint, if only for those poor middle schoolers who are tired of frantically skimming of yet another sex scene in order to read a book on their level. I want to promote these books whenever I find them, for both the kids as well as those authors and publishers who are trying to decide whether to take a risk.

Please feel free to share your comments below. While I’ve seen this issue crop up among middle grade audiences for years, it is just an opinion. I’d love to hear your observations!

 

Read my upcoming review of Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty for more middle grade musings.

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The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) Review

 

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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

This book has a gorgeous type of imagery going for it. The series name is Sea of Ink and Gold which actually sort of makes sense, and isn’t one of those esoteric fancy shmancy series names that sound pretty, but make no sense. The cover is a satisfying mosaic of blues, and greens, and golds. The world inside the book is also rich, with pirates, and assassins, and a sea that may or may not reach to the end of the world.pirates.jpg

To read the full review, click here

The Book of Dust

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Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Author: Philip Pullman

Buy Now from Indiebound

 

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman had so much potential. The world he had created decades ago with The Golden Compass was already fully fleshed out. He had a dedicated following of adults and teens who had grown up with his novels, and were just itching for this prequel to come out.

Sadly, I don’t think this book lived up to the hype. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t good. It was simply slow, and the characters mildly interesting. In fact, I only, truly got invested at the very end, and by then the story was over. Ironically so were the characters, because the next book in this series will be about Lyra, the protagonist from the author’s last series, set when she’s in her 20’s.

Okay, the good:

To read the full review, Click Here