Monday, September 13, 2010

Top 10: Contemporary Middle Grade Novels

A while back I listed my Top 10 contemporary YA novels, which in addition to being incredibly fun and giving me the chance to think about a few of my all-time favorites, got me thinking about other favorites. Specifically the books I had to leave off of that list because they're middle grade. There are some truly incredible middle grade novels, and here's my list. Of course, I had to leave out series, which just gives me an excuse to make more lists. (So, yes, you can look forward to more Top 10s from me.)
  1. ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, by Lynne Rae Perkins. As far as sad and heartbreaking reality, this book has it covered. From the very first chapter, when the main character tells us that Maureen used to be her best friend, this story tugs at the heartstrings. One of the most difficult topics to find good, honest stories about is the breakdown of a friendship, and Perkins tackles it perfectly here. There's no great tragedy or harrowing, emotional scene, yet this book has touched my heart like no other and every time I read it I have the same wonderful, complex reaction all over again.
  2. BLOOMABILITY, by Sharon Creech. My goodness. If you haven't read Sharon Creech, you haven't really read anything. This book is simple and complex all at once, with vivid characters, and incredible setting, and a story that's impossible to describe. It's about possibility, it's about the here and now, it's about being completely and absolutely alive. And it's wonderful.
  3. FLIPPED, by Wendelin Van Draanan. This is the sweetest, simplest, most beautifully-crafted young love story. From the very beginning, when Julianne crashes in with her muddy shoes and socks, disrupting Bryce's perfect life, to the ending that feels so perfect after so many years, this is one story that's so great and so sweet I just wanted to hug the book after I finished it. This was, quite honestly, maybe the only novel me and my best friend could agree on when I was younger, and for that reason alone it was special.
  4. HEARTBEAT, by Sharon Creech. There's so much about Creech's writing that's so perfect. This novel-in-verse paints incredibly vivid pictures of the people and things populating the main character's life. Her sick grandfather, pregnant mother, and the best friend who's confusing when he never used to be. The book takes one brief glimpse into the life of a twelve-year-old girl and, like no book I've seen before, makes it profound and confusing and beautiful and relatable.
  5. THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY, by E.L. Konigsburg. This was one of those books that didn't look like much. The cover had a strange color, the story wasn't altogether clear, the four character's timelines came together and apart and sometimes confused me. But then everything came together in these surreal, that-would-never-happen moments that were so acutely real it didn't matter how unbelievable they were. I learned about calligraphy, tea, sea turtles, and the answers we give when we don't know the real answer.
  6. CRISS CROSS, by Lynne Rae Perkins. There's no way to describe this book. There's really not. Incredible comes pretty close though.
  7. THE EGYPT GAME, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. We learned about ancient Egypt in middle school and I was obsessed. The mummies! The pyramids! Everything was so weird and strange and out of the norm. And then I read this book. And there were these kids who were also obsessed with Egypt, and suddenly it was like the coolest thing ever. The best story, the most awesome setting. Just everything about this book had me hooked.
  8. THE GIRLS, by Amy Goldman Koss. Mean girls for pre teens, this book wove a story I felt I knew intimately. The cold shoulder, the knowing you did something wrong even though you don't know what, the blank, seeing-through-you stares of girls who you used to think were your friends. Like ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, this was a story I knew inside and out, and to see it written there on the page was nothing short of amazing.
  9. THE MOFFATS, by Eleanor Estes. To be honest, I read this ages ago. I found it in the dusty old stack of the library I practically grew up inside of. I don't remember the story, but I remember the family and I remember feeling like it was the most incredible, enchanting thing ever. I read the book, returned it, and I've never seen a copy of it since, but it remains one of the best books I've ever read.
  10. SNAP!, by Alison McGhee. This book made me cry so much. It's such a... well, such a story. It's the type of book that, for me, there's just no words for. It's like the ink, the pages themselves, are made of sadness. And yet, for all that, there's a feeling at the end like I was better for having read it. Like it was hopeful, if get-me-the-tissues sad.
So, what books are on your list? Have you read any of mine? (If you do decide to make your own list -- and I hope you do! -- link me to it so I can check it out.)


  1. Your #1 and #5 sound like interesting reads. I read just about anything, quite eclectic. These days I prefer my reading from author friends I know, online and offline, rather than the so-called best sellers list. I so enJOY promoting the self-published, the unknown, the underdog... and one day some of the authors I read will certainly be best sellers, I do believe.

  2. I remember the Egypt Game!!! Ah, the good ol' days of actually reading middle grade fiction as a middle grader =) This list made me very nostalgic hehe.

    I'm stopping by on the Hop and you've got a great site!