Friday, June 7, 2013


Hi, my name is Giles.  I’m a kid.  I also happen to be the main character in James Mihaley’s novel, ‘You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please’.  James asked me to talk to you today about romance in Middle Grade fiction.  Many writers choose to avoid it.  It’s too tricky in their opinion so they stay far away from it.  But that’s not right.  We middle graders deserve to have romance in our books and its up to you writers to create it for us. 

The cute girl with bright blue skin in the photograph above is Tula.  She is also in Mr. Mihaley’s book.  I am madly in love with her, even though she is an alien and I come from planet Earth.  How could I not be in love with Tula?  She is only 12 but already a lawyer, an environmental lawyer who goes around the universe protecting the natural beauty on distant planets.  Is that cool or what?

When depicting MG romance, you may want to keep in mind that a 13 year old like me can be really shy.  Bashfulness is a big deal when dealing with a young crush.  Here is a line from the book that captures my awkwardness.  (All lines from the book will appear in bold.)

I thought she was cute, in an iridescent sort of way, but I certainly didn’t want her knowing that.

Because we’re not adults, there’s a certain playfulness to much of what we do.  Things aren’t always so serious.  Here’s an example from the book.  Tula and I are alone in my spaceship.  Yeah, that’s right.  I have a spaceship!

I tried to think of something funny to say.  When you’re alone with a cute girl it’s important not to be boring.
"Do you know what would be a cool name for a band?" I said.  "The Chocolate Covered Rats."
         "I’d buy their CD,” Tula said.
"I think that's what I'll be when I grow up," I said.  "A professional rock band namer."        
I think Tula was impressed that I was already starting to think about my career.  She gave me a big stupid grin.  A big stupid grin isn't really stupid.  No way.  It's the most precious kind of smile a girl can give you.  It's an 'I'VE GOT A CRUSH ON YOU' kind of smile.

Just because we kid around a lot, please don’t think we can’t have serious moments.  A young crush can have profound emotional depth.  At the end of the book, when I am about to embark on a journey to rescue my grandmother, a journey that will place me in great peril, Tula and I have a serious moment together.

“Tula, I have a favor to ask.”
“Anything, Giles.”
“Listen, this is really hard to say but…but…I don’t want to die without ever having kissed a girl.  So can we kiss?”
“Why not?”
“Then you won’t die,” Tula said.  “If you die without ever having kissed a girl it’s extremely embarrassing.  When you get to heaven they’ll all laugh at you.  Oh, here comes Giles.  He never kissed a girl.  Ha Ha.”
“Well then, I guess I’d better not die.”
She wrapped her arms around me.  “You’d better not.”

So there you have it.  Romance in MG can be a beautiful thing.  Please don’t be afraid to explore it!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I usually write YA but started my first MG novel this month. My MC Jupiter has a crush on a girl and this has given me so reassurance about letting the romance shine. I'm afraid of MG because you have to be careful not to go too far but I'm glad I finally decided to dive in.

  2. I'm glad you wrote this, main character. I'm 3/4 through a MG rough draft now. My characters are 13. Some romance and depth was coming up. Thought I was out of my mind, but now I believe I might be able to pull it off. Thanks!

  3. My MG students really enjoy romance, as long as it is awkward and kind of funny. They are interested, but they want to see the characters almost make fun of it, and themselves, while it is happening.

  4. That is an awkward time altogether so I can certainly see MG romance being a bashful, silly and sometimes serious exchange between characters.

  5. Love this post! Having crushes/romance in MG can be tricky, but it can definitely be an age where kids are starting to think about their friends in different ways, especially as you get to the top end of the 8-12 spectrum (i.e., "wow, my best friend is actually really pretty and she always smells so nice...what? where did that thought come from! let's play spies."

  6. Great post! I don't think romance is a must in MG, but it can certainly be a lot of fun. Love the quotes from this book. :)

  7. I love this post written by your MC! Well done!

  8. Sounds like we have a bunch of brilliant writers out there who are ready to take on this tricky task! Bravo!

  9. I also think as MG writers we have to keep in mind that our books attract readers younger than our main characters. If our characters are 12/13, then we'll get a lot of 10+ readers, or even younger (subject matter pending). Therefore, use of careful language when exploring crushes is vital. It's all in the way the writer presents it. Love the way it's presented above. Awesome writing, James.

    1. Great point, Tracy. My main audience is 3-5th graders. They're certainly not 13.


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