Not Quite Twilight

So, a while back, we received a request for a list of upper-end middle-grade paranormals – think strong-reader girls who could tackle the reading level of Twilight, but who may not be ready for the more YA-type content.  (Or, maybe they think they are, but their parents are not!)  I took on this list as someone who does not normally read paranormal books, but thought it would be a good way to break out of my typical reading habit.

I decided to employ the “Aunt Wendy” standard here, which means that I thought of my darling 12-year-old niece, who is a great reader and is neither overly sheltered nor terribly worldly.  I decided that any book I recommended here would be one that I could recommend to her in good conscience, as an excellent story and of appropriate content.  I wound up with three books that straddled the YA/MG border (in my opinion), an old favorite, and a last-minute entry.  Please feel free to add your own paranormal favorites in the comments below.

Bruiser, by Neil Shusterman: Young readers who are ready to get a little philosophical will enjoy Shusterman’s alternating-viewpoint story.  When Bronte finds herself attracted to seeming bad boy Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins, her twin brother Tennyson is concerned.  Eventually, though, Tennyson is won over, and as the twins spend more time with Brewster, they realize that whatever physical and emotional pains they might have at the moment disappear, which becomes especially helpful when the twins’ parents have marriage troubles.  At the crux of the story, each character must sort out the implications of Brewster’s unusual gift, and readers will likewise ponder the nature of love, friendship and sacrifice.

Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White: This is definitely a clear-your-schedule before you open the first page kind of book, because once White takes you into her world, you won’t want to leave.  Sassy, self-confident Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, riding herd over vampires, wolves and faeries due to her ability to see beyond glamour, the artificial appearances that paranormals put on to fool us mere mortals.  Evie thinks she’s relatively normal, though, until she finds out she may be in the center of a conspiracy that could bring down the entire paranormal universe.  The real hook here is that in the midst of this well-constructed fantasy world, there is a heroine with very human needs (and a great sense of humor) whom readers will love.

Forget-Her-Nots, by Amy Brecount White: For girls who are intrigued by the idea that red roses are for romance and yellow roses are for friendship, Forget-her-Nots takes this idea and kicks it into high gear.  When Laurel attends her dead mother’s Virginia boarding school, she discovers that her affinity for flowers comes from more than just a good sense of smell – she descends from Flowerspeakers who can invoke the particular powers of each flower.  Things quickly get out of control, though, when word spreads of Laurel’s ability, and classmates demand that she make flower arrangements to suit their desires.  Laurel must decide the right way to develop and share her gifts, a message that many young readers can appreciate.

The Ghost Belonged to Me, by Richard Peck: I couldn’t write about paranormal books, and not mention Peck’s spooky classic about Alexander Armsworth, a young boy who finds out that he possesses second sight, the ability to see ghosts, which is why he sees an eerie glow in his barn.  With the help of oddball Blossom Culp, Alexander helps the young ghost living in his barn uncover the mystery of her death and rest in peace.  Set in the early 1900’s, this book also has a strong humorous current and deft historical touches.  Fans will be delighted to discover that the series continues, with a focus on the plucky Blossom.

Small Persons with Wings (they hate to be called fairies), by Ellen Booraem: Author Booraem puts an entirely fresh spin on the paranormal genre with this decidedly middle-grade book.  After making herself the school pariah in kindergarten by proclaiming (and then failing to prove) the existence of fairies, Mellie decides she’s off to a fresh start several years later when her family moves to an inn inherited from her grandfather.  Imagine her horror, then, when she discovers that her family lives under a thousand-year-old pact to house fairies and that the inn is fairly overrun with them in all their Latin-spouting, bossy and self-absorbed glory.  I must confess a distinct weakness for books that flaunt Latin, but Booraem also has great humor and heart in this story, as well as amazingly well-drawn primary and secondary characters.

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