The best middle grade fantasy novels to escape into when life is overwhelming

Who am I?

For me, books have always been an incredible way to escape, most especially when life is overwhelming. I read books as an escape when I was young, and now as an author, I write books to escape as well. My favorite books to escape into always include heart pounding adventure, fantastical magic, and characters I wish I could know in real life. These are the sorts of books I write; ones that give readers the chance to exist as someone else in another place, perhaps go on a wild adventure. My hope as an author is that my books allow readers to leave their own world and their own worries behind.

I wrote...

The Wolf of Cape Fen

By Juliana Brandt,

Book cover of The Wolf of Cape Fen

What is my book about?

For as long as anyone can remember, Baron Dire has haunted Cape Fen during winter, striking magical bargains and demanding unjust payment in return. The Serling sisters know better than to bargain, lest they find themselves hunted by the Baron’s companion, the Wolf. Then the Wolf attacks Eliza's sister Winnie. They escape, but they know the Wolf will be back. Winnie would never bargain, so that must mean that someone has struck a deal with Winnie as the price.

Eliza embarks on a journey to save her sister. If she can learn the truth behind the complicated web of bargains that cross Cape Fen, she might be able to protect her sister, but the truth behind the bargain could put her own life in danger. 

The books I picked & why

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Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

By Kaela Rivera,

Book cover of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Why this book?

When Cece’s older sister is kidnapped by a powerful, dark criatura, she must travel into Devil’s Alley and become a bruja to save her. To me, what makes this book special is Cece’s big, all-encompassing heart. She loves deeply and while it’s her heart that gets her into trouble, but it’s also what ultimately saves her. This was an incredibly meaningful theme to read into a book! I highly recommend this book as an escape; step into Cece’s life to glimpse the shadowy magic of the criaturas and also to experience the deeply moving love in her world.

A Wolf for a Spell

By Karah Sutton,

Book cover of A Wolf for a Spell

Why this book?

Told from multiple points of view, this book is a gorgeous romp through Russian folklore. While reading this book, I had the chance to live as a wolf, a young girl, and as Baba Yaga. I got to cast spells, experience powerful forest magic, save a princess, transform into animals, and defeat a terrible king. In real life, I could never experience any of those events, but I could while reading Karah Sutton’s incredible book. I especially appreciated that the story itself came together like a puzzle, pieces fitting neatly together in unexpected ways. This one is a surprise and delight at every turn.

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

By Adrianna Cuevas,

Book cover of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Why this book?

This book is a hilarious, insightful take on a question I always had when I was little: “What would animals say if they could talk?” Nestor can talk with animals; keeping this fact a secret is a constant source of problems for him. Underlying the jokes and magic are Nestor’s struggles with the definition of home and with his father’s deployment. While these themes are deep and heartfelt, they’re punctuated by brilliant and funny turns of the story that lightened the serious tones for me. The battle at the end involves a witch and an eclipse and a whole bunch of talking animals—what could be a better escape than that?

Voyage to Magical North

By Claire Fayers,

Book cover of Voyage to Magical North

Why this book?

This book had everything I could ever desire in an escape—monsters, magic, and mayhem. Brine Seaborne, a very precocious girl, gets wrapped up in the adventures of pirates as they head out on a quest to find the Magical North. Intertwined with the creative, beguiling magic are conversations that resonated deeply for me, ones about what makes a person a monster and who gets to hold positions of power (I actually stopped and jotted down a couple quotes while reading! Those notes are still in my phone today!). Voyage to the Magical North sits on my “favorites” shelf because of the thoughtful questions that are buried just beneath the surface of the quest Brine and her companions embark on.

The Boy at the End of the World

By Greg Van Eekhout,

Book cover of The Boy at the End of the World

Why this book?

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the last human left alive is a young boy, Fisher, this dystopian, fast-paced adventure story lets us glimpse a future where people tried...and save humanity. Determined to find out what happened, Fisher heads out on a wild journey with his robot, Click. This is one of the most unexpectedly laugh-out-loud middle grade novels I’ve ever read, and it combines the hilarity with incredible action scenes and a truly creepy “bad guy.” I devoured it in one sitting—this is a book I wish I could read for the first time again.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopia, wolves, and adventure?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopia, wolves, and adventure.

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Adventure Explore 95 books about adventure

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Wolf's Curse, Elvis and the World as It Stands, and Meow or Never if you like this list.