Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Calling all YA and Middle Grade Readers!

by Kathy Miller Haines

As I get ready to embark on my new series, young adult mysteries set in World War II, I’m trying to read as much as I can in the genre. I know the young adult and middle grade books that stuck with me as a child: things like Blubber, Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (and heck the entire Judy Blume canon), Bridge to Terabithia, and all of Lois Duncan’s creepy suspense novels like Stranger with My Face and Killing Mr. Griffin. I’m not as well acquainted with books that were published before the eighties, although I have started reading as much as I can based on bookseller, parent, and librarian recommendations. So far I’ve discovered wonderful things like Chris Grabenstein’s Crossroads, Peter Abraham’s delightful Echo Falls mysteries, Judy Blundell’s award-winning What I Saw and How I Lied, and the wonderful Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (not YA, but the narrator is eleven). I need more recommendations though. What were your favorite middle grade and YA books when you were growing up? What about now? I’m specifically looking for mysteries and historicals, though any recommendations (except fantasy) would be appreciated. And I'd love to know why these books were important to you. For me, nine times out of ten, it's the voice that sells me -- all the writers I read as a preteen and teen managed to strike a chord with my hormonally out-of-whack self. They spoke to me.

And now for some BSP: On Friday, June 12th at 7:00 PM, the marvelous Kathleen George and I will be launching books together at a joint party at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, please join us for this exciting double event! If you can’t come, please consider ordering signed copies of Kathleen’s new Richard Christie novel, The Odds, and my latest Rosie Winter mystery, Winter in June.


Joyce said...

I don't think I read middle grade books, if we even had such a thing back in the 1960s. Heck, I read Gone With the Wind when I was 11. As a teen in the early 70s, I read a lot of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, along with things like Go Ask Alice and The Summer of '42. This was also the era when the big, thick, historical bodice rippers first came out. I read a lot of those.

Kathy MH said...

Oh, Go Ask Alice! How I remember being terrified of that book (and soooo disappointed to find out it wasn't a real diary).

I definitely indulged in decidedly non-age appropriate material as well, including anything by VC Andrews.

Jennie Bentley said...

Joyce, I read Gone with the Wind when I was eleven, too! Of course, I also read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys...

I still read some YA, as a matter of fact, but it tends to be more in the fantasy genre. Tamora Pierce is marvelous (but not what you're looking for, Kathy). Berkley has a series of forensic mysteries for teens that's pretty good. The author is Alene someone, IIRC. Grabenstein is wonderful. I've heard good things about 'The Hunger Games,' but the concept doesn't appeal to me, so I doubt I'll be picking that one up. There's a book called 'Swoon' coming soon, that looks promising, but that's paranormal too. (Can you tell where I lean as far as YA goes?) It's about a boy from 1769 or thereabouts possessing a girl's body to take revenge for being hanged. I read an excerpt yesterday on the author's page, and it was great. (Nina Malkin.)

It's my impression that as far as YA straight mysteries go, there's a real lack of them. That's why I wrote one last year. It's still sitting there growing moss, since my agent doesn't represent YA and didn't really like it when I sent it to her. One of these days I guess I'll pick it back up... Good for you getting a contract for them, anyway; YA is huge these days.

Joyce said...

Kathy, I remember devouring Flowers in The Attic. Creepy!

Gina said...

Kathy -
Like Joyce, I don't remember reading a lot of YA -- I read things like Black Beauty, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames Student Nurse, etc. when I was really young, but by the time I hit 5th grade or so I was reading Thomas Hardy, Dostoyevsky and the Bible!
Of course, everyone knows my favorite books now are the Harry Potter series -- don't dismiss them as fantasy. There's a lot there that does not require a wand.
My criteria now is similar to what it was when I was a kid -- an engaging story in which interesting things happen to believable characters - which is probably why I like your Miss Winter books so much.

Kathy MH said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Jennie. I'll check those out.

And don't worry, Gina -- no dismissing Harry Potter here! I just know that the biggest seller in YA tends to be in fantasy and since it's so different from what I'm working on, I thought I'd better steer clear of it for now.

queenofmean said...

I don't remember how old I was when I first read 'Gone With the Wind', but middle school, I guess. I used to read the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys, too.
Oh, I read 'Go Ask Alice', too. It was a 'must read' back then.
By high school, I'd graduated to Joseph Wambaugh. My mother wasn't so happy about it, but she didn't forbid me to read them. I guess my obsession with mysteries & police stories started early.