I think students are so drawn to speculative fiction because they are at a point in their lives where they are asking, “What if?” They are taking in new knowledge like sponges and questioning the things around them. They like picturing themselves in stories and thinking about what they would do if posed with different conflicts or situations. Here are some of my favorite middle grade speculative fiction, both old and new! (and there is a GIVEAWAY at the end)
The Giver by Lois Lowry — This is perhaps the first novel I read in the genre of speculative fiction way back when I was in grade school. Now, the genre is one of my favorites, paving the way for my love of books like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. This book follows the story of Jonas, a young man who lives in a society in which they can’t see colors, don’t feel true feelings or emotions, everything is controlled but everything is perfect. When a child turns 12, he or she receives a job at the annual ceremony. Jonas’ job is different; he is to be the new receiver. This job assignment sets in motion events in which Jonas must examine his reality and decide if a perfect life, devoid of pain and suffering is worth the cost. I always love the discussion that the themes and ideas in this book initiate. Suggested Grade Levels: 6 and Up
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann - Every year when children turn thirteen in Quill, they are sorted into three categories: the Wanteds who go onto receive further schooling, the Necessaries, and the artistic Unwanteds who are sentenced to a certain death. Art, music, theater and dance are all deemed unnecessary and as a threat to Quill’s well-being. At the most recent sorting, twins Alex and Aaron are torn apart with Alex being deemed an Unwanted. Instead of facing an almost certain death, he learns that there is a refuge for artistic children like himself. It is here where he learns to hone his art and also, to use it as a weapon. This is a very hot book in my classroom right now! Suggested Grade Levels: 5 and Up
Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in a city in trouble. Their city, Ember, is prone to debilitating blackouts. The supplies are running out, the light bulbs are in short supply and the person in charge is the corrupt Mayor, who is hoarding all of the remaining supplies for himself. In a harrowing adventure, Doon and Lina have to take it upon themselves to find a way out and save the people of Ember. One thing that I love about this book is how nuanced and flawed the characters are. I also love the theme – that children are smart, cunning, brave and can be great leaders. This is our current class novel, and the students love living Lina and Doon’s adventure along with them. Suggested Grade Levels: 4 and Up
Imagine a world in which your debt has serious repercussions for the ones you love. This is the world that Matt lives in. When your family exceeds the monthly debt limit imposed by the government, you are sent to a workhouse to help pay off the debt. Matt never thinks that he will be sent to such a place. However, when they exceed the limit, he is sent away. Things are amiss, though, and Matt, along with his new friends, need to figure out what is going on with the government before it is too late. This is another book that many of my students have read and have not wanted to put down! Very fast-paced and enjoyable. Suggested Grade Levels: 5 and Up
This book isn’t out yet but from the blurb, it looks absolutely fantastic (and having read all of Kate Messner’s other MG books, I am sure it will be). Here is the synopsis from Kate Messner’s website:
In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms are a part of everyday life. Sent to spend the summer in the heart of storm country with her father in the special StormSafe community his company has developed, Jaden Meggs is excited to reconnect with her dad after he spent years researching storm technology in Russia. She’ll also be attending the exclusive summer science camp, Eye On Tomorrow, that her dad founded. There, Jaden meets Alex, a boy whose passion for science matches hers, and together they discover a horrible truth about her dad’s research that is putting countless lives at risk. As a massive tornado approaches, threatening to destroy everything in its path, Jaden is torn between loyalty to her dad and revealing his secret. Can she find the courage to confront her dad and save everyone from the biggest storm yet?
I. CANNOT. WAIT. Isn’t the cover fantastic, too?? I will be picking up a copy for my classroom library as soon as it is out. I love the combination of science and adventure.
There are so many other great books, too. I loved The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Line by Teri Hall as well. I would love to know what you recommend!
Finally, the giveaway! I am giving away a brand new copy of The Unwanteds to one lucky commenter! Fine print: You must be 13 years or older, and the winner will be chosen by a random number generator. You must be a resident of the United States for this particular giveaway. It’s easy to enter! Just comment on this post by February 6th – be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if your win.