The Plot Thickens: Embrace Moody Season with These Middle Grade Reads

Recent middle-grade releases by Black authors use the darkness many of us encountered at age 12 to underscore the human ability to embrace the darker side of curiosity. We survived this period with our spirits changed, yet more aware of our individual importance than ever before. 

In Amari and the Great Game, characters come to this understanding through the power of friendship. After the events of Amari and the Night Brothers—which, incidentally, is being covered by #WizardTeam this podcast season—Amari Peters finds herself mired in political maneuvering that puts both worlds she belongs to in peril. By facing the ramifications of a choice she made in good faith, Amari comes to a better understanding of what it means to own your strengths in service to others, even when you doubt the existence of said strengths. 

Moonflower takes its main character, Moon, through a deeper journey of self-doubt to acceptance as Moon works through traumatization they experienced because they are transgender. This trauma manifests in their inability to trust anyone outside of their mother and a best friend who only exists in a realm untethered from reality. This separate reality has become so appealing to Moon that they’re willing to give up everything in order to remain there forever, including their life. Just when they think they’ve found someone to help make this dream come true, they come to learn that there’s more beneath the surface of what they think they know about both worlds and themself. 

Karen Strong’s latest middle grade release, Eden’s Everdark, takes place in a dark setting with heroine Eden, who is freshly grieving her recently departed mother. While visiting her mother’s family in Georgia makes her feel slightly closer to understanding the girl her mother once was, Eden stumbles across some troubling journal entries that leave her with more questions than answers. In her pursuit of this knowledge she not only uncovers a darkness no one was ever meant to find, but she also gains a better understanding of how to show up for those around her and recognize when they’re doing the same for her. 

Each of these titles brought me a lot of joy while setting the angsty pace I look for in a season all about endings followed by renewal. Selecting any—but hopefully all!—of these novels is sure to help you remember times when you’ve found help in strongholds that you were reluctant to test. One guarantee in life is that you’ll encounter darkness and I’m glad that these wonderful works provide this representation for an age group that will find reassurance in the fact that there’s a way to the other side.