Thursday, 8 March 2012

In Praise of Middle Grade Fiction

Reading Nicky Schmidt's splendid post about YA fiction made me think about my own preferred reading matter: Middle Grade Fiction - yes it deserves those capital letters! I love MG, I really do, but I've never before considered why that is. And I think it's freedom. MG is often full of adventure and excitement, taking you into realms you'd never otherwise enter, although you may have tried to create them when you were little. My sister and I used to pretend to be eskimos in the cupboardy room on the landing. It was the room that led up to the loft and was dark and tiny with sloping ceilings. Perfect. To us, the world we created was utterly real. Many a happy hour was spent in cramped, semi-darkness. And reading or writing MG novels gives me the same sense of place and time. My absolutely very favourite book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, still fills my mind with the images its words created. A new, different place. Something so far apart from my/the ordinary world. Somewhere to escape to. Somewhere that filled me with wonder. Somewhere that was mine and mine alone. To me, that's freedom, and is what makes MG so special. Yes, there are emotions, high and lows, in MG, but none of the YA angst. The MG books I love to read, and try to write, still retain their sense of innocence and playfulness. Even the excellent Mortlock by Jon Mayhew, with its innards and scary aunts, is so much fun and has a big dose of humour alongside the yuck bits.

And you still manage to get Ben Barnes!

Don't get me wrong. I love YA too. I've banged on enough about Anna Dressed in Blood lately! YA plays an important role for both adults and teenagers (my daughter would never call herself a young adult!), as Nicky says in her blog post. I've tried writing YA but it always comes out just a bit too young.

So, while I don't agree with "write what you know", I most certainly think you should "write what you love". And I love Middle Grade Fiction!


  1. I couldn't agree more Sue. There's a wonderful freshness in MG. I find it easier to fall in love with the characters precisely because they are not so wound up in teen angst. And it's a joy to write too: lots of plot twists and action and not a bit of steamy stuff. I've just read Cliff McNish's latest, The Hunting Ground. It has a teen protagonist but I wouldn't call it YA - action-packed - yes, scary - yes, unputdownable - yes. All the stuff of MG I'd say, and all the better for it!

    1. Hurrah and cheers for Middle Grade Fiction! x

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your blog post too. I have come to the conclusion recently that I would much prefer reading MG or YA books than I would read any supposedly 'adult' books. I get so much more from them. The characters are always well rounded with well considered plots. I believe this is the case because children are far more critical than adults. It has to be good to match their high demands.

  3. MG and YA seem to crossover in an undefineable way. I'd LIKE to write MG ... but my words keep straying into older territory. (btw Jeannette, disagree about The Hunting Ground - it's definitely older than MG for me!)

  4. Wonderful post, Sue - and you've reminded me of what I love so much about MG fiction. When I first started writing, or realised I wanted to write, midgrade fiction, influenced by the likes of Elizabeth Goudge, CS Lewis, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Diana Wynne Jones and many others, too numerous to mention, was what I wanted to do. I seem to have become sidetracked in the interim, but there is still a midgrade trilogy lurking deep in a file, that periodically pops up and boxes my ears. Laughter, fun, action, adventure, freedom - they all beckon from between the covers of MG fiction.

  5. I agree, Sue. I love reading MG, and writing it, too. Although am writing YA at the mo, will be going back to MG soon, as I have lots of ideas for it, which will prob go straight out as ebooks.

  6. I love MG - there is genuinely so much freedom about the things that get tackled - such variety - from romps, to serious adventures, to family matters and everything inbetween. I am finding myself buying more and more MG books to read than YA at the moment, but I think that's because for me, at the moment, there are so many amazing books out for younger readers. And of course, we want to keep them reading into their old age, right?

  7. Hurrah for all the love for MG! There are so many fantastic MG books out there and, as lovely Liz says, we want to keep readers reading!

  8. I love to read Middle Grade - so much less self-obsessed than YA and also with more "boy-appeal" (which generally means plenty of action and the occasional fart joke)

    Like Candy, I often find my own writing straying into the middle ground between MG and YA, but it's something I've become more accepting of. I think we have Harry Potter to thank for creating that in-between space and I hope the teen category will become a bit more defined as time goes on.

  9. Not completely sure what MG is - I'm rereading Harry Potter, does he belong in this category? - but am so caught up in the enthusiasm I feel compelled to say "Yay! for MG" because it is so important to love what you read and what you write, whatever that may be.

  10. So, so true! Me reading middle grade fiction is what keeps me writing and wanting to write today.

    Also, my book THE PUZZLE MASTER is free on kindle today.

    It's middle grade! (you don't need a kindle to read it ... apps available on amazon site.)


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