Looking for Middle Grade / Young Adult Fantasy books? I’ve inadvertently managed to compile quite a list thanks to my friends and family on Facebook, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share these recommendations with others who may be looking for the same.
My 12yo enjoys reading, but he’s kinda particular about what he reads. Namely, if it’s not written by Rick Riordan or Cinda Williams Chima, he’s not interested. Seriously, he’s got three books stacked on his nightstand right now, all by Chima, whose entire collection of books he’s already read at least twice (which is why her books top my list). Now, I wholeheartedly love these two authors. The way that Rick Riordan’s books tapped into my son’s love of mythology is marvelous. And as I’ve been a huge fan of Cinda Williams Chima’s books from the start (and eagerly await March 5, when Deathcaster, the fourth and final book of the Shattered Realms series comes out), I’m happy to share this passion with him. Especially since he didn’t take to Harry Potter quite so keenly (perhaps because his mom is too much a Potterhead).
Anyhow, this list is by no means comprehensive, so be sure to add your recommendations in the comments (if for no other reason than I would appreciate more books to try out for my son).
10 Human-Based Fantasy With Dragons
These are all fantasy books where the main character is human, or at least part human:
Eragon series, by Christopher Paolini – Eragon is a poor farm boy who discovers he’s a dragon rider
The Magisterium series, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – Callum Hunt wants to avoid being admitted into the Magisterium, but fails.
A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz and Dan Santat – Hansel and Gretel step out of their tale and into other classic tales
The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
How to Train Your Dragon series, by Cressida Cowell (now available in a 10-book set). A little less challenging than most of the other books on the list.
Heir Chronicles, by Cinda Williams Chima – In book one, Warrior Heir, Jack thinks he is a normal kid living in the small college town of Trinity, Ohio until strange things start happening and he discovers he’s actually part of the magical guild and possesses the strength of a warrior. The other four books in the series explore other teens discovering their powers.
The Shattered Realms series begins a generation after the Seven Realms series, so you really want to read that first, though technically it’s not required. But it’s got dragons, which is why I’ve included this book here.
Gregor the Overlander series, by Suzanne Collins
The Sword of Shannara trilogy, by Terry Brooks
The Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan
25 Human-Based Fantasy Series Without Dragons
Because it matters. Seriously. As I haven’t read all these books, I can’t be absolutely certain I categorized them properly, and for any mistakes, I apologize in advance.
The Seven Realms series, by Cinda Williams Chima – This four-book series, set in the fictional Seven Realms, is captivating with a queendom, political intrigue, romance, and magic. Lots of magic.
Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan – Will is an orphan ward who gets apprenticed by a Ranger, who he had always feared for their cloaks and shadowy ways. But he learns they are the protectors of the kingdom.
The Alchemyst, book 1 of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. About fairies, it appears. (grade level 3-7)
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman – a boy is raised by ghosts inside a graveyard after his parents are killed.
The Land of Stories series, by Chris Colfer
Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer – It’s about a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind versus fairies.
Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull
The Tracks series, by J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel – “Magic, kung fu, fallen angels, and a gang battle in a small town…”
The Dark Is Rising series, by Susan Cooper
Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, by Alan Garner
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, by Alexandra Bracken – Prosper discovers a demon living inside him.
Peter and the Starcatchers, by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry
Grisha trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
The Witch’s Boy, by Kelly Barnhill
Tiffany Aching series, by Terry Pratchett – witch versus fairies.
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chowkshi, is a Rick Riordan Presents book, wherein he attempts to use his powers for good (i.e. to get kids to read books not written by him). Confession: I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but my kid refused to even try. Maybe you’ll have more luck.
The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes. Another Rick Riordan Presents book, exploring Mayan mythology.
2 Graphic Novels
Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi – Graphic novel collection of 8 books
Zodiac Legacy, by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore – graphic novel series
4 Animal-Starring Fantasy Series
Before you protest, Wings of Fire is here instead of the Dragon section above because this story is told by dragons, not by humans. For some readers, this could be a plus, but if your kid is not into anthropomorphized creatures, this distinction is important. All the books/series in this section have main characters that are animals.
Wings of Fire series, by Tui T. Sutherland – dragons battle and ally behind three sister dragons, all vying for control.
Redwall series, by Brian Jacques – Peaceloving mice from Redwall Abbey must defend themselves from an army of rats.
Summer King Chronicles, by Jess E. Owen – Gryfons in danger, battle with wolves
Warriors, by Erin Hunt – Fierce warrior cats in a fantasy setting
4 Humanoid and Beyond Books: Not Exactly Human, Not Exactly Animal. Plus Robots
Out of Abaton series, Book One: The Wooden Prince by John Claude Bemis
Maximum Ride series, by James Patterson – half human, half birds avoid school to avoid being experimented on.
Wild Robot series, by Peter Brown.
I Am Number Four series, by Pittacus Lore – an alien from another planet is in hiding in small-town Ohio after his planet was destroyed.
9 Dystopian / Science Fiction / Adventure Novels
These books don’t technically fall under Fantasy, but have been recommended nonetheless so I’m including them in the hopes that my kid will explore at least one of these stories.
A Spark of White Fire, book one of the Celestial Trilogy, by Sangu Mandanna – combines science fiction with Hindu mythology.
Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix – third children are illegal, so those that exist must remain hidden in a dystopian society.
Maze Runner series by James Dashner
Witch & Wizard series, by James Patterson
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. More Science Fiction/Dystopian than fantasy, but if you’re looking to shift them or introduce a new genre, the video game environment might help.
Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Divergent trilogy (plus the companion book from Four’s point of view), by Veronica Roth.
Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz – orphan turned teen super spy
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Special Thanks to the contributors to this list: Hazel Bavishi, Lenise Baxter, Kate Bennett, Chethan Chandra, Meena Chandra, Ariane Coffin, Sydnia deFranco, Sandy Dempsey, Sonali Engineer, Jacob Gates, Jeanne Gordon, Nahla Harik-Williams, Megan Dunlap Jarrett, Claire Koerner, Barbara Lynskey, Vanessa Maier, Rebecca Angel Maxwell, Beth Miller, Jennifer Murphy, Shelley Prandi, Jennifer Roth, Maura Stanko, Shubha Venugopal, Karen Walsh, Ann Wright