A Plea And A Manifesto For More Middle School Books

I’m a middle school librarian and I just got the latest issue of Booklist in the mail. I’m looking for books for my middle school readers. I search through all of the reviews for youth and find almost no titles for seventh and eighth graders–not in Middle Readers or Older Readers or Youth Nonfiction or Graphic Novels. Almost every book for Older Readers is recommended for grades 9-12, and every single book for Middle Readers has a lower age range of grade 3, 4, or 5. Surely publishers don’t think that middle schoolers have the same interests and intellectual capacity as 8-10 year olds? Are there really no books being published for middle school students? Can this be true?

I would like to say that this Booklist selection is not typical, but it is absolutely the norm. YA books are being written for older teens and even for adults, and middle grade books are almost all written with third and fourth graders as the lower age range. This issue was well documented by Karen Jensen in the Teen Librarian Toolbox blog post of October 18, 2023, A Treatise on the State of Middle Grade and Young Adult Publishing Today. (Read it now if you haven’t already –it is brilliant.) I have been ruminating about this issue for years and as I read this blog post I was shouting in agreement. We need shorter books! We need more paperbacks! Give us horror and romance for teens! Give us books for 13-15 year olds! I’m quoting Karen Jensen now because I can’t say it better– “Readers ages 13 through 15 are left in a book wasteland wondering where and what they should be reading. We are missing an entire age group in the current trends and that will have long lasting implications for everyone.”