My book, Summer on Earth, which will be released later this year, is a middle school novel. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize that when I wrote it. I had never even heard of the category at the time, and was just writing what I considered a great, moving story, and one that I thought readers of all ages would enjoy. The market categorizes everything though, and because my hero was an 11 year old boy, this was squarely in middle school territory.
I quickly found out I was in good company. Some of my favorite books of all time are middle school novels. Holes by Louis Sachar, and The Giver (both were recommended to me by my kids when they were younger) – middle school novels. To Kill a Mockingbird – a classic, but absolutely a middle school novel. And of course Harry Potter, the first four books at least – all middle school novels. I could go on, but you get the idea.
What do all these books have in common? First they are all great stories, and second they all have a young protagonist. It has been a trend for a while for adults to read young adult books (the Twilight series and The Hunger Games, for example), and there has been some cross over to middle school books too (Wonder). The target for a middle school novel is readers ages 8 to 12. That is a wonderful age. Kids this age have that sense of curiosity at life and believe anything is possible for them and their future. They are still children, but they are looking around the corner to that next stage in their lives. To borrow from the title of an old TV show, these are the true wonder years. Magic is real, and anything is possible. The best books middle school books don’t talk down to their audience, but meet them where they are and give them a ticket to a new reality. For adults, reading these books helps them to recapture what it was like at this age.
Why do you read middle school books? What middle school novels resonate with you? Let me know in the comments.