Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of MG. For those of you who don’t know, MG is middle grade and YA is young adult, NA is new adult, etc,. I haven’t just been reading MG. I’ve been REREADING MG and there’s a distinct difference. I went back and started with some of my favorite series from when I was younger.
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner, Ingo by Helen Dunmore, The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler, Savvy by Ingrid Law.
I reread Middle Grade when I have time, or when I’m sad, or when I want a reminder of why I read. There are so many reasons why I reread MG and here are the reasons why you should too:
To remember the love of reading
I’ll be honest. Sometimes, blogging just gets too hard. I take a break and read one of my old favorite books and it draws me back to why I love what I do. I love to read; I love getting caught up in other worlds and forgetting where I am and falling in love with situations and words and how the perfect combination of words can feel when you say it in your head. I wrote a personal essay for Interlochen about why I read and write, and I think an excerpt’ll definitely prove a bit of my point.
Reading is my identity. There’s something so refreshing about experiencing events through books and different point of views. Reading is the only way that I can satisfy my desire to live so many lives when I know I’ll only be able to live one. I have books lining my walls, in wobbly piles stretched to the ceiling. Paperbacks spill out of my closet, hidden behind stacks of clothes so that my mom won’t protest that I have too many. I have an entire dresser filled to bursting with books where my uniforms used to be. Reading is escaping into another world and forgetting about my life, enhancing my experiences, and making connections. I read everywhere, aching to sink my eyes into sentences and worlds during the rare times when I’m not toting around a book. Reading is honestly one of the most beautiful acts in the world and I would much rather read than do anything else.
Middle grade rereads just have this way of clearing my head and reminding me that I LOVE TO READ. I love the plot and the characters and these were the books that made me this way.
To gain back the simplicity and comfort
I love literary characters as much as the next person. Tension, subtle relationships, REALISTIC relationships. Action that isn’t overwhelming. Paranormal plots that don’t require me to suspend all of my belief to enjoy. I really love books that relate to me now.
But I also love books that relate to who I used to be. I love the simplicity of a tangled plot and heinous villain, a ticking countdown to save the world. There’s something so delightfully simple about my favorite kinds of MG: only a few story lines overlapping at any given time. I love how expansive the plot is.
YA tends to focus on character, and the individual. MG focuses a lot on worlds.
There’s a lot of emphasis on building complex characters that act out in confusing ways and there aren’t always happy endings. They fight to save the world, or their relationships, or whatever the conflict is, and not everything aligns.
In MG, it’s not as realistic. Which is a VERY VERY good thing sometimes. Sometimes, I don’t want to know that everything WON’T turn out perfectly. I want a happy ending and a simple story of good vs. evil. I want there to be clean lines and not a ton of grey area.
To find more that’s quirky and outrageous
It’s actually surprising to me when I stumble upon a YA book that makes me laugh out loud. There are lines scattered through many that make me chuckle or highlight the stanza. But in YA, a book is automatically labeled “quirky” or “out there” or “outrageous” if it dares to be funny. “Bizarre” is anything that dares to not be serious for a bit.
Some authors seem to balk at not being seen as “serious”. Let’s be honest: a lot of teenagers aren’t very mature yet. We aren’t serious all the time; not all our jokes fit our age. In tense situations, somebody tries to be funny and makes things awkward. But it’s so irritating to me that some authors (whom I know to be hilarious in person or on Twitter) show none of that humour in their book because it’s too “serious” for that “immaturity”.
In MG, it’s not so bizarre. It’s not immature. It makes sense with the plot and it makes me laugh until I cry. There are a few funny little details scattered throughout so many books. I’m a pun person – MG tends to experiment a lot more with that and with other types of humour.
For example, in Dragon Slippers, the main dragon (Creel’s friend) is Shardas. And he collects stained glass windows. SHARDS of glass. In The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters, James Dashner goes to extremes with Mothball from the 5th Reality and Rutger from the 11th Reality. The wide range of realities and features is a little ridiculous, but in a way that’s humourous and not unbelievable. It just makes the point come across much more clearly and a ton of little details that made me laugh.
I’d like to see YA step up and be quirkier without automatically be labeled “quirkier”, to be courageous in the way that MG is without automatically thinking it’s immature or too young for us.
To get back the memories
I associate memories with books. I remember what books I read before certain life events and I remember how I felt when I read them. If I look at a book on my shelf, I can usually tell whoever is with me when I got the book and when I read it. I remember the book I was reading before I broke my ankle and what I read at the doctor’s office and what I read during Physical Therapy when I was supposed to be doing my exercises.
When I need to calm down or I’m upset, I read one of the books I read a while ago. A middle grade. A reread. I do a massive reread of the Harry Potter series every year (which I’m actually planning on attempting one of these days). I remember when I read the first one and I remember when I read the last one.
I’ll sit down and read the Winnie Years series or Emily Windsnap or Jack Blank. I read to remember who I was and what jokes I laughed at and what lines I reread over and over because they were so beautiful I wanted to read them forever. I remember what books I loved in 3rd grade and in 5th grade and who I was then.
Reading was such a huge part of my life throughout my life that there are clues to who I was in those books. There are water stains on my copy of Thirteen by Lauren Myracle from where I dropped it in the bathtub and a stain of blood on my copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from when I cut my hand and attempted to keep reading.
There are so many memories buried in the pages. I love rereading Middle Grade books because then I remember exactly what I felt when I was reading that particular book. It comes back to me and the most vivid sensations stay with me. There are weird associations with them and a sense of comfort in knowing that, whoever read that book for the first time, I still have her.
I love rereading MG because it reminds me of why I read, who I am, what I look for when I read, and it’s just all-over one of my favorite things to do.