I browsed the shelves at Barnes & Noble yesterday on the lookout for great reads, see what's new.
From my experience middle grade students generally want books that lean towards the YA market. They want books about characters that are older because it makes them feel older. They don't want books that have cutesy covers with cartoonish characters. (That was 4th grade) They want a book that looks and feels like a book that maybe a high school student might be reading--AND the content needs to feel older BUT read younger and cleaner than YA.
I don't think enough people are doing this. Most the things I looked at yesterday were far to young sounding or totally inappropriately YA.
How do you make things older without alienating your reader? You want it to feel authentic but many of the aspects of YA life need to be excluded from middle grade fiction. It's a tightrope that's difficult balance. I love middle schoolers. 6th- 8th graders are still at this place in life, where they are not yet so calloused against books and reading like many of their High School counterparts. They are the cusp of such growth and change, I really think that in middle school many students decide what kind of person they are going to grow into. Honest, dishonest, caring, apathetic. It's a big painful deal. And I am stoked to be a part of it.