Hi guys! I haven’t posted a discussion post written by myself in such a long time, but I finally have one ready for you all! As the blog is rapidly expanding these past few months, I have become acquainted with so many amazing MG authors that have inspired me to become more involved in the MG community. Yes, I am a primarily YA-based author, but there’s so much power in MG novels! I want to give a big shout out to Jarrett Lerner, author of Enginerds, for inspiring me to finally post this discussion. It’s been way overdue, and I hope you enjoy it!
When you think of middle grade novels, what do you think of? Series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid come into mind. As an elementary school student growing up, I didn’t read those series, honestly–except Harry Potter, which I read all seven books in either fourth or fifth grade. I had the mindset that I did not want to read anything that had a low reading level (what caused it? AR!), and because of that, I ended up reading only classics and Encyclopedia Brown books. This is what caused me to not read at all in middle school–I felt so constrained to classics that I just did not want to read more of them anymore. I focused my free time on Lego’s and video games instead.
As a kid, I always had the misconception that middle grade books had little literary value and were “taboo” since I had a higher reading level than many kids. In seventh grade, I read only ten books. There was a special party for those who read and wrote about ten books, and I crammed A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a weekend (which was too much for me as a non-reader) as the tenth book under my belt. (I completed 91 books in 2017, which I never would have foreseen back then!)
When I became a blogger, I slowly transitioned into being primarily YA/MG-based. Since the moment I first read Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz and Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, I realized the power middle grade novels have not just to the high school student but to adults, too. Middle grade is NOT just for kids–in fact, anyone can learn from its lessons.
One of the main reason why I love middle grade is that (and this is my definition of MG, so you are free to disagree) most books in that age group feature children as they reach a coming-of-age stage in their lives. As these kids start to see the world in a different light, they begin to face the hard truths about reality and growing-up, if they haven’t already. They remind me of the middle-grade years when time felt slow, when everything wasn’t stressful yet my childhood innocence led me to many exaggerated fears, when I started to become stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually. As a more mature reader, I can relate more to the main characters in these books because I could see myself in them–I could see not only my teenage self but also my child self.
There is so much raw truth that can be accessed from an MG novel. The best middle grade novels I have read do not just stay at the superficial level, but dig deeper into the characters’ emotions. They can explore various issues just like YA does, from racism to family troubles to social problems, and that’s where they get their enormous power. If I were to name a book that truly did tap into a reservoir of emotion and could inspire almost every reader that picks it up, I would have to say it’s 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop. Books such as 14 Hollow Road are proof that there is so much power middle-grade novels have to not only to impact the lives of children but also to change the lives of adults as well.
Seeing the world from a child’s eyes can greatly influence one’s outlook on the world, especially when that kid is meeting reality for the first time. Refugee by Alan Gratz shows the struggle of escaping war and tyranny through the narratives of three kids fleeing Nazi Germany, Communist Cuba, and modern-day Syria. Another book by Alan Gratz, Prisoner B-3087, shows how a 13-year-old boy survives 10 concentration camps. Linda Williams Jackson’s Rose Lee Carter duology portrays life in Jim Crow-era Mississippi through the eyes of a young girl who wants to move away from the enduring racism at that time. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells the tale of a girl with clubfoot who is hated and abused by her mother as she escapes with her brother to the English countryside during World War II. These fictional children see these horrific events in a different light than we would normally see them, but how they overcome their challenges at such a young age (when many of us struggle to find our inner courage with our current obstacles) and discover their strength and bravery in these times of darkness is what inspires people of all ages.
What power do MG novels have for you?
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