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Friday, February 8, 2019

Book Discussion Tip: Middle Grade Books for Adult Book Clubs

One of my favorite ideas for book clubs who are looking to re-energize and/or read something different is to try a Middle Grade novel.

From a recent piece I wrote for Novelist:
Great Middle Grade Reads for Adult Book GroupsMany adult book discussion group give YA titles a try, but today’s middle grade level is also a great resource for a book club that wants to try something different. This list of six recent titles are award winning, compelling, thought provoking, and fun to read. They will lead toward dynamic and issue driven discussions that will inspire, surprise and delight even the most high-brow groups.
  • Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book
  • Ryan, Pam Munoz. Echo
  • Reynolds, Jason. As Brave As You
  • Palacio, R.J. Wonder
  • Kelly, Erin Entrada.  Hello Universe
  • Applegate, Katherine.  Wishtree
For the annotations on why each title works for adult book clubs you have to login to NoveList. But, for 2 of these titles, you don't need NoveList because I have detailed posts about leading these titles with a 5th and 6th grade book club-- As Brave As You and Echo.

In those posts not only do I go through the discussions we had, but I also write about how I reacted to these books as an adult. Leading these discussions over 2 years made me realize that today's Middle Grade novels are actually better than YA ones for adult book clubs for some of the reasons I note above. But also, as I have heard and experienced from many of you, adult groups who try a YA novel tend to get hung up on how the book is too childish. Leaders report to me that they spend too much time talking about how they are too focused on the young protagonists' coming of age and "childish" attitudes. The groups want to harp on the immature writing style and how the book is not as complex as the adult literary titles they have read.

Now of course you and I know the point of YA is to help teens find themselves in their books. They are supposed to be written to the teen reader, an emerging adult who is dealing with finding their place in our complex world.  However, as more adults are reading YA, they are trying to make it fit their life situations. But the problem ism they can't, not should they. Spending time debating this during the discussion is frustrating for leaders and participants.

I have found that the solution is to move to Middle Grade. It helps that there are many complex and issue driven Middle Grades being produced now. Titles that are extremely discussable. But another benefit, that I didn't realize until I worked with an adult group on this shift, the book club members are more conscious of the fact that these books are NOT for them, and in fact, they are surprised how "well written" they are [even though they are more simplistic than the YA titles]. So instead of talking about the problems with book for them as a reader, they focus on the issues. Honestly, I never would have believed this or thought to move to Middle Grade if I hadn't seen it for myself.

Further bonuses: they will be a quick read for your groups and almost always end "happily." With so many groups complaining that they read too many sad books, this is also a great recharging strategy.

You can click on the titles above to pull up the specific discussion chains for each book [in reverse chronological order], or here for everything using the "5th/6th gr book club" tag. Why not give one of these books a try with your adult group?

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