Middle Grade Reading Wrap Up #2

Back in the early spring, I did a post on some middle grade reading that I’d done, giving a little wrap up of some of the books I’d read, and I thought I’d do another one today. I don’t read masses of middle grade fiction, because as a general rule I much prefer YA. However, when I read for my local bookshop, I do often get some middle grade as well as YA to read for them, so some inevitably ends up mixed in. Today I’m talking about a couple of middle grade books that I’ve read over the last few months, in order to mix things up a little on my blog.

First up is Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin. This book is about a boy called Billy, who is rather lonely, as his mother is ill but they don’t know what the problem is, and his father has to work a lot, so he is often left on his own. He loves nature and swimming, but he is friendless until a new boy called Patrick arrives at his school. And meanwhile in his swimming endeavours, something bizarre is happening – the fish seem to talk to him and understand him.

I actually read this book ages and ages ago, all the way back in January. However, I didn’t mention it in my first middle grade reading post because it wasn’t due to come out until a few weeks from then, and I didn’t want to talk about it too early. However, I definitely wanted to talk about it now! I really enjoyed this book; it was rather bizarre, especially in Billy’s relationship with the fish, but I think it was such a special book. I had a proof copy, and in the back it compared it stylistically with David Almond and also Patrick Ness, and I think this was so accurate. It was very reminiscent for me of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. There was so much emotional exploration, and I liked how it discussed a rather uncommon and not talked about illness in his mother, and how this affected Billy.

Next up is Sea* by Sarah Driver, which is the first book in The Huntress trilogy. It centres on Mouse, who lives on a ship in the fantasy world of Trianukka. However, things are not going to well, as a newcomer to their group takes over the ship, usurps Mouse as the next leader, and sells off her brother, Sparrow. She is left with no choice but to find back and try to save her brother.

The idea of this story sounds rather engaging on paper, and perhaps it is enjoyable for younger readers, but I personally really didn’t like this book. I found it very difficult to engage with the narrative voice of Mouse; this might just have been me, but I didn’t connect with her at all as a character. Also, some elements of the story felt highly unrealistic. Everywhere Mouse went, the people she met seemed to be in the pocket of her enemy, and ready to turn her in, but it hadn’t been very long since he’d gotten into power in the first place. It didn’t fit with the ethos that all the characters had previously to the takeover – surely not everyone in the entire town could have been converted to the ‘dark side’ in the space of a few days? However, I might be thinking about this too deeply; seeing as the book is primarily aimed at younger readers, it might just mean they feel even more strongly on Mouse’s side in all of this.

Finally, there is Chase* by Linwood Barclay. Chase is about a genetically engineered dog called Chipper who is on the run, as the facility who created him, The Institute, decided to terminate him as he was not obedient enough. He finds a boy called Jeff, who is mysteriously connected to Chipper, and with the help of Jeff’s friend, Emily, they have to try to evade the sinister agents who created Chipper.

This book went fast, partially because of the size of the font, but also because it was a rather intense read. I thought it was a fun idea, which was partially reminiscent of Bolt (although sadly Bolt did not actually have powers of any sort), and that it would definitely engage young readers, particularly those who are dog people. I did find some of the plot twists a bit obvious, but I gave the book the benefit of the doubt that these twists are probably less obvious to younger readers, at whom the book is actually marketed. It was very action-packed, and a wild ride – I thought it was very clever in the ways that Chipper managed to escape from trouble. Something I disliked was that it ended on a cliffhanger, as it was a rather fast change of events, and I find it very unsatisfying when a book ends without proper closure.

Have you read any these books? Are you planning to read any of them?

All links marked with a * are for A Great Read, a site with free UK delivery and prices below RRP. I am an affiliate, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy via the link, but it does not affect the price you pay!

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