Do you know a tween or young teen who has moved on from Harry Potter but isn’t ready for Hunger Games? Loved Inkheart but found Twilight too heavy on the sappy romance? Have I got the list for you! From under-aged criminals to giant cockroaches, there are some attention-grabbing books available!
Here are five fantasy/science fiction books that your 11-14 year old will love, no matter if the books are officially labeled middle grade or YA. For some 11-year-olds, some of these books will be too much, so please know your own child or student and wait a year or two if necessary. These books contain edginess, darkness, and thrills, without stepping too far into the world of YA. The books are listed in order of maturity level, beginning with the ones best suited for the younger members of this audience.
Upper Middle Grade Books for 11-14 year olds who love speculative fiction
Gregor the Overlander
By: Suzanne Collins
These books were the first series from the author of Hunger Games. I’m always shocked when a student hasn’t heard of them. This New York Times best selling series is gritty, dark and surprisingly violent (mostly involving non-human characters), but still most assuredly MG, not YA. Plus, it has giant cockroaches and bats the size of small horses. Gregor is an excellent fit for fans of Harry Potter ready to move onto something a little different and a little edgier, and will especially appeal to boys. In this five book series, Gregor is the focus of a prophecy (we fantasy folk do love our prophecies… huzzah!) about saving the Underworld tittering on the brink of war, but all he wants to do is save his father who has disappeared.
By: Eoin Colfer
This clever book series is middle grade, but the complicated nature of the character of Artemis and the detailed world-building lend these books to the upper range of middle grade. Disgruntled fairies and hilarious dwarfs meet up with a brilliant boy-criminal-mastermind we should root against but just plain love instead. Witty dialogue keeps the pages turning and plot twists will keep any reader on his or her toes.
By: Vivian Vande Velde
I picked this science fiction book about two sisters off the shelf at random, but I’m so glad I did. The big sister is a video game designer who is trying to disappear into a game (virtual suicide), and the other is the little sister who has come to save her. It’s sharp, fast-paced and perfect for this age group. Gamers in particular will enjoy the clever in-jokes about sparkly, grossly pink video games for little girls woven throughout. This is a companion novel to Heir Apparent, but stands on its own.
By: Marissa Meyer
Set in a futuristic China, this book is a delightful twist on an old tale, involving a cyborg Cinderella who is a mechanic. A touch of romance is fun, but doesn’t overwhelm the very action-oriented plot as Cinder races to beat a plague that is killing many, including her beloved sister. Given the concept of the plague in this story, this might be best for 12 and up, unless your 11-year-old is very savvy and mature. There is a whole series, too. They had me at, “Cyborg Cinderella.”
The Scorpio Races
By: Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater (pronounced “Steve-Otter” for those who never knew) is one of my all-time favorite authors. Most of her books best fit a true YA audience, but The Scorpio Races in particular stands out as a good fit for younger teens. There are elements of romance, but that’s really not the focus. The point of view alternates between two characters, and the book is about the annual race of deadly, violent water horses that come from the sea. Some violence, as you might expect, but not terribly gruesome. Very exciting, fast read, with two sympathetic protagonists. It’ll wring your heart out, but in a good way. Fifth graders might want to skip this one for at least one more year (maybe two), but if you have a student who is horse crazy, this is a great way to introduce something more challenging than traditional middle grade horse books.
So there you have it! Five books to share with the 11-14year olds in your life. There are others I wish I could include, such as the super-popular Percy Jackson seriesand the classic A Wrinkle in Time, but if you start with these, I’m sure you’ll find others you’ll enjoy just as much. Also, make sure you hop over to Bess’s post on Five Books to Kill Your Post-Mockingjay Depression, because several of those books are also fabulous for 6th-8th graders. I have a particular love for upper-middle grade, as I used to teach 6th-8th grade and my own book, Fairy Keeper, is upper-middle grade. It just released March 5th, so I hope you’ll check that one out, too!
You don’t have to be a tween or young teenager to enjoy these books, either. What are your favorite upper-middle-grade fantasy or science fiction books? Let me know in the comments or using the hashtag #5OnFri!
Amy writes stories for tweens and teens, including The Fairy Keeper. She is a former reading teacher who now has her Masters in Library Science. As an Army kid, she moved eight times before she was eighteen, so she feels especially fortunate to be married to her high school sweetheart. Together they’re raising two daughters and are currently living in Germany, though Texas is still where they call home. A perfect day for Amy involves rain pattering on the windows, popcorn, and every member of her family curled up in one cozy room reading a good book. Tweet with her @AmyBearce