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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Devils Within Review

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four stars

Author: S.F. Henson

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Buy Now at Indiebound

Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.

Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.

Devils Within is my kind of book; potentially controversial and mind-bending. I enjoyed it in large part because the main character isn’t safely sympathetic, his problems superficial. No, our protagonist, Nathaniel, just got out of the KKK like hate cult he had been raised in by murdering his father, the leader. Sound a bit far fetched? This book is loosely based on very true, very messed up events. More on that later.

Devils Within follows Nate as he struggles to adjust to a world with diversity and little violence. He’s a good guy, and the author tries very hard to balance out his unintentionally racist remarks with sympathy and understanding. After all, how would Nate know the proper word to call someone of Asian decent in a creepy hate cult? He wouldn’t! And here in lies the part of this book that bothered me.

The author wasn’t daring enough.

For the full review, visit here

Welcome to the New and Improved Who Needs Sleep!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my new site! If you are getting this post via email, congratulations, you survived my terrifyingly incompetent and lengthy follower transition process. Hooray! If you, like several WordPress.com followers and all of my site hits, have been lost in the complicated and confusing maelstrom of cyber chaos when I switched hosting providers, you won’t be seeing this post. I’m so very sorry for the loss. Your life may never be the same.

Anyway, the posting hiatus is now over, my site has been (mostly) set back up, and we are back in business.

If there were two pieces of valuable wisdom I’ve learned from this whole horrifying experience that I can impart on you it’s this:

 

1. WordPress.com makes it so unnecessarily difficult to switch hosting providers. You may loose data in the attempt. So do it now or forever hold your peace.

2. Only sign up with a hosting provider that has an option on their phone help line to turn off the waiting music. You will be on there for a total of several hours and the ability to turn off that tinny torture will save both your sanity and your eardrums.

 

That’s it! Enjoy the new layout and, if any of you WordPress bloggers out there have any questions about doing the same, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

Good luck!
Annalise

Tell the Wind and Fire Review

tell the wind coverfour stars

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Sarah Rees Brennan’s Tell the Wind and Fire is loosely based on A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In her world there are two versions of New York. Light new York, a place of wealth and beauty, where the light magicians and their relatives live, and Dark New York, where the dark magicians reside. However, Light New York is reliant on Dark New York to survive, as, without the Dark Magicians, the Light magicians would die.

Read the full review here

The Belles Review

the bellesfour stars

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Buy Now on Indiebound

The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton is Barbie Dreamhouse pink, with sparkles and roses adorning the cover. Inside is a map of the fictional island setting, beautifully detailed in hot pink and white. On the front of the cover is a beautiful girl (although her eyebrows are a little scary) in fancy dress with a sultry expression. Okay, so I can’t say I’m a fan of the girl’s look on the cover, but, overall, I believe that this cover perfectly reflects the tone of the novel. It’s ornate, and so, so pink, enough to make me slightly uncomfortable picking up the book.the belles border 2.png Yet this was one of the factors that drew me to the novel, the sheer audacity of all that hot pink in anything but a middle grade novel about popularity and hot crushes. Yet, in a YA that professed to be about the dark side of beauty, the cover, and its choice to be so glaringly, overwhelmingly pink and flowery felt almost like a dare.the belles border 3.png

So I gave The Belles a read. And kept reading. I finished this book in less than a day, all 434 pages. It was flowery. It was ornate. And it was dark.

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For the full review, click here

Bridge of the Gods Guest Review

I received this book from the author. This is my honest review. Thank you to the author for letting read your work!
I am huge Percy Jackson fan. To be honest, I have not read the books, only watched the movies. When I was given the chance to read and review Bridge of The Gods, I was excited. The book blurb lead me to believe it would be similar to Percy Jackson. The only thing in common was the use of Greek mythology.
Bridge of the Gods (Generation Son Chronicle)

Book Blurb from Goodreads:

Luthor McAlester is a teenage boy living in San Diego, California. His father died when he was a child. Leaving him to become man of the house, living with his mother and younger sister. On his 18th birthday he discovers a power that has been held dormant until now. He is unsure what to do with it in the absence of this father’s guidance. His best friend Gwen, who claims to be oblivious, knows more than she is telling. Can Luther figure out how to use his power and help the Gods like they ask with just the help of his best friend? Or will the lack of guidance from his father prove to be more than young Luthor can handle?





My Review:


*The Bridge of The Gods* was an awesome read. The author loosely uses Greek mythology to tell a wonderful coming of age story. Our MC, Luther, has no idea that he has special abilities until he turns 18. Then, he is approached by Zeus to help the major and minor gods. They face devastation if Luther can’t help them.

The story is a fun. Luther and his best friend run into all kinds of danger and meet lots of cool gods along the way. My favorite is Apollo. He tries hard to be smooth with the ladies but dead down inside he is a sweetheart.

There are a few twists to the story but it ends well. I can’t tell you more than that without revealing any spoilers. 😀

Tank and I give this a 3 paw rating.
🐾🐾🐾

 

I enjoyed it but it didn’t keep me up at night reading it.

 

Read more reviews like this one here: https://girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com/

Bury What We Cannot Take Guest Review

35433674Bury What We Cannot Take
by Kirstin Chen

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published on: March 20th 2018 by Little A

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

**I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**

Great cover, great synopsis, awesome title. So why not read it?

Continue reading Bury What We Cannot Take Guest Review

In Other Lands Review

in other lands

blue ribbonfive stars

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Publication Date: August 15, 2017

Buy Now from Indiebound

 

            In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan is probably my favorite book I’ve read this year. So if you plan on reading just one of the books I’ve recommended this year, read this.

First I have to give a disclaimer. I was not intrigued by the plot summary. A boy discovers that he can see the Borderlands, a place where humans and mythical creatures live side by side. Yawn. Read it before. However here is what I didn’t factor in to the book, that I wouldn’t give a shit about the plot. That’s right. Sarah Rees Brennan has created a book where the characters are so amazing, hilarious, and wonderful that the plot could literally be about a sparkly vampire named Tedward Mullen for all I care.

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Okay, where to start. Well, first there is Elliot, the main character. Unlike many novels, the main character is the best character. He is a freaking hilarious idiot genius with an IQ of about 180 and an EQ (Emotional intelligence) of about 60. Optimistically. He doesn’t play mind games, or use tactful diplomacy to get what he wants (until he learns to properly flirt with the elves), he just says what he thinks, and that’s that. So why is everyone mad at him all the time?

Elliot breaks stereotypes, and he breaks them with a bang.

To read the full review, click here

Guest Review of Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

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Black Bird of the Gallows
Black Bird of the Gallows #1
by Meg Kassel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: YA Paranormal / Urban Fantasy
Pages: 300
Add it on Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece – and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death. 

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I was really surprised that, in a book centering around death and this horrible catastrophe that’s going to hit Angie’s town, it was still a love story. Right away, you see that Reece doesn’t know what disaster is coming and he says flat out that he can’t stop it. He’s just there to feed off the death, honestly. Sounds bad. So you come to terms with the fact that part of the book is going to be about this horrible tragedy. How is Angie going to survive it? Is her family going to survive? What’s coming?

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The funny thing is, that’s not really what I focused on.

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I saw the budding love story. You wouldn’t think it would be possible but Reece is actually a decent . . . what do I call him? Semi-human? Used to be human turned harbinger? I loved the snarky attitudes between them and the clashing at the beginning. That always makes for an interesting love story. It’s not like she swoons and falls madly in love with him right away. Believable.

I also liked Angie’s strength. She’s been through hell and back with her mom and the drugs. But she’s not shriveled up in the corner, unable to cope with her life. When you see her in the beginning, she actually seems pretty happy. She’s got a good life with a dad that loves her and dotes on her.

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I was surprised by the ending, as well. I didn’t think there was a way for the author to spin this book so that you didn’t close it going “what just happened?” Everything wrapped up in a way that I could be okay with. It was actually a really good ending.

Meg Kassel
About Meg Kassel 

Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart winner in YA. 

 

 

To read more reviews like this one, visit the book blog  Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest