Opinion: The “Middle Grade” Book Label

Over at a post on the Nerdy Book Club, I recently posted the following comment regarding the “Middle Grade” book label:

I’m not sure if I like the official “Middle Grade” categorization for books appropriate for this age range. Nothing wrong with recommending books for a certain group of readers, but that “Middle Grade” label places too much of a limitation on potential readers — and authors.

As an author, I do not want to write into the box of the “Middle Grade” label. What I write may indeed be appropriate for and enjoyed by middle grade readers, but a good book should offer an organically constructed story, not one tailored to fit into a convenient, easily marketable package.

My 6th graders are loving my first novel, and it’s certainly an appropriate read for them, but when I wrote it, I had none of the characteristics of 6th grade readers shaping my writing process.

About JMVarnerBooks

With the days of international travel behind him, J. M. Varner now exercises his language skills in his English classroom and on the page. A second life as an author affords him another way to encourage his students and fans to read, write, and think independently. Borrowing terms from noted media critic Neil Postman, Mr. Varner summarizes his 'Philosophy of Fiction': "Writing a novel is a creative process of World Building and Word Weaving. Authors build worlds in our minds; these can be fantastical worlds or fictionalized variations of our own reality. By writing and rewriting, we weave these worlds into words on the page." Mr. Varner is currently writing the next novel in the "Squirrel Hill High" series, a series launched with the debut novel, "Digital Me". Set in a fictional high school located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at Squirrel Hill High students and teachers live through true-to-life drama in the emotionally charged environment of the American high school.
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2 Responses to Opinion: The “Middle Grade” Book Label

  1. Yes the label can be confusing for authors and readers. The mistaken assumption I’ve heard is Middle Grade = Middle School, which is not the case at all. Middle grade (Approximately ages 8-12) is an publishing term that bookstores use to put your book on the shelf. Having been a sixth grade teacher myself, I know many of my students liked to read up about older kids like your series.


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