If you read her blog, you already know that she routines qualifies book reviews with lines like: “I think you have to be nine or ten when you read [The Moondial] the first time…” or “I’m not sure [A House Without Mirrors] will work with 9-12 year old readers, who I think prefer more active resolution of problems than this offers. I have a feeling, though, that lots of grown-ups might find it very moving…”
In other word’s she clearly distinguishes between books she loves herself, books that she feels would work better for adults, and books that she believes would work well for young readers.
Here in this post, as stated, she’s picking eight MG titles that she thinks might be a good choice for adults. Checking them out, I see that one is SF, one historical, one contemporary fantasy, two contemporaries, and two fantasies. Plus one I’m having trouble categorizing: (The Goat).
Now, you probably all know that it’s primarily Charlotte who got me reading MG (with some nudges from other bloggers). Plus naturally I tend to reach for fantasy in preference to anything else. But I have to admit, it is not super-clear to me why one MG title works fine for me and others don’t. The best I can do is just list MG titles that worked for me, and note that a good many Middle-Grade fiction just does not, and thus conclude that the MG titles I like might tend to be more adult-pleasing than average.
Here are a handful of MG titles that I definitely enjoyed and still re-read today, in no particular order:
Everything by Diana Wynne Jones
Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series
Merrie Haskell’s Princess Curse and Castle Behind Thorns
Sage Blackwood’s Jinx trilogy
The earlier Harry Potter books, which were clearly MG
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede
Holes by Louis Sachar
Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, which is an historical
In order for a MG title to appeal to me, the actual writing must be good — but that’s the case with lots of popular MG titles that don’t actually work for me at all.
For me, the protagonist(s) have to be intelligent, competent, and not too ridiculously impulsive. In The Lightning Thief, all the characters seemed so blindingly stupid, for example. When I read it, I was all, “So … you’re the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom? Really?”
Also, the worldbuilding has to be plausible, or feel plausible. When I read Maximum Ride by Patterson . . . is that MG or YA? . . . anyway, I couldn’t believe how many superpowers Patterson handed his main character. I kept hitting yet another superpower: “So you can also breath underwater? How nice for you!” Also, the bad guys magically showed up over and over when there was just no possible way, just the need for a fight scene so there they are.
I think an author can make practically anything seem believable, btw. I know it’s very much individual taste, the things any reader trips over, and for me Patterson didn’t pull it off.
I’ll end by adding, I always open a book hoping to love it, not looking for reasons to put it down. Here are a few MG titles that I’m looking forward to trying in the near(ish) future:
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon — I have loved everything I’ve read by her so far, but it’s all been her adult work
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis