Yesterday I was reading Leslie Connor's remarkable, award-winning middle-grade novel, Waiting for Normal, and I was astonished by its emotional richness and by the author's courage.
Connor's impossible feat is to couch her story in a contemporary world of realistic pain, yet make it readable. Waiting for Normal is a wonder to read. That's practically a magic trick, given that the main character is dealing with a neglectful, manic-depressive mom, poverty, her parents' divorce, and the terminal cancer of a friend. That should make you want to slit your wrists, but the writing has such delicacy and such a strong heart that the every triumph over pain fills the reader with joy.
Writing intense pain believably, but in a way that a reader can withstand, is an art that few have mastered. The skill is not only appropriate to realistic contemporary settings, but can inform any genre. One could think of it as a compositional style. Lois Lowry's celebrated middle-grade novel, The Giver, is a good example of science fiction inlaid with real heartache.
It is much trickier to write about pain for a middle-grade than a YA audience because of the need to protect the younger, less-worldly reader. I'd love to hear about other MG novels that you think succeed as being very painful but very hopeful.
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