MG? YA? Definitely a giveaway.

My new novel, “Every Single Second”,  published this month. It deals with heavy-duty issues: gun violence, post traumatic stress, race and class divides, belief in God (or not). I was ready for lots of questions about this book! It’s funny that I never anticipated one of the most interesting things I’d be asked: why did you make this middle grade instead of young adult?

every single second cover

That question rests, I think, on the assumption that some issues are just too much for MG to handle. For sure, none of my earlier books went places as dark as this new one. For sure, while I was writing it, I sometimes wished I wasn’t. Those days, I took long, heavy-hearted walks, feeling like the  girl I met on one of my school visits. When I described the book’s plot, she put her hands over her eyes.

Yet on that same school visit, and many times afterward, middle grade kids came up to me wanting to know how soon the book would be available. They helped me remember why I needed to tell this story. Ducking hard issues doesn’t make them go away. I’m pretty sure it helps them endure.

While I was writing, Tamir Rice, a twelve year old, was shot and killed by police here in Cleveland. His neighborhood is only a few miles from mine, but it might as well be another country. On paper, our city is wonderfully diverse and multi-cultural. In reality, we live in highly segregated communities. This is how things were fifty years ago, and, heart-breaking as it is to contemplate, how things still are (if anything, after the foreclosure crisis segregation is even worse here).

I don’t know how, or if, these walls will ever be knocked down. But I knew I could try to tell the story of kids living on opposite sides. No one is more passionate about what’s right and what’s wrong, about fairness and justice, than middle graders. In my book, the violence takes place off-stage. But what leads up to it, and its consequences, are (I hope) fully explored.

all rise fortowers fallingcounting thyme

More and more middle grade books are taking on sensitive issues. Just look at some of the most recent titles. Donna Gephart’s “Lily and Dunkin” features a transgender girl and a bipolar boy. “All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook”, by Leslie Connor, is about incarceration. Melanie Conklin’s “Counting Thyme” is about cancer. Nora Raleigh Baskin’s “Nine Ten: A September 11 Story” and Jewell Parker Rhodes’s “Towers Falling” take on national tragedy. Kate Messner’s “The Seventh Wish” is about drug addiction.

Middle grade kids dealing with these things in their own lives will find themselves on the pages of these stories. They’ll know they’re not alone. Their problems can be talked about without shame or stigma.  Could there be a greater gift?  Other kids  will be exposed to things they may never have thought about or tried to understand. As one of the characters in “Every Single Second” says, “I didn’t get it before. I never knew anybody like her, with a family like that, and problems like that.”

Middle grade readers brim with hope. Empathy is in their DNA. There could be no better, more open-hearted and receptive audience for books about the hard issues.  It’s such an honor and privilege to work for them!

If you’d like to win a signed copy of “Every Single Second”, please leave a comment below. More book recs especially welcome!

Tricia is lucky enough to have been a Mixed Up Files member for many years. You can find out more about her and her books at

Tricia Springstubb on FacebookTricia Springstubb on Twitter
Tricia Springstubb
Tricia is the author of many books for middle grade, most recently "Every Single Second" (HarperCollins) and the third book in the Cody series, "Cody and the Rules of Life" (Candlewick Press). A frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, she lives in Cleveland OH. You can find out more about her and her work at
  1. Tricia, you are on fire! Another wonderful read with an important message, I’m sure. Can’t wait to get my copy.

  2. I have enjoyed your other books and am really looking forward to reading this new one. Yes, MG kids deserve books that deal with tough subjects and help them deal with them. Thanks for taking this on.

  3. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Thanks for posting about it.

  4. I agree. MG readers are exposed to media constantly. Reading and Talking about sensitive issues is very important. I’d love a copy for my fifth graders.

  5. Fascinating topic and good for you for believing in the young! If they can handle it, they’ll read it; if not, they may decide to leave it for later. But giving them the opportunity is terrific.

  6. This would be a great book for my classroom. My students are always interested in books with real-world issues they see in the news and are eager to discuss in class.

  7. This looks like a wonderful book! Unfortunately, it is very timely. MG readers know what’s going on in the world – it’s important to give them a way to think through the big issues. On a happier note – I see it is a JLG selection. Congratulations!

  8. This sounds like such a great book. I’m looking forward to reading it!

  9. Great article! I can’t wait to read your book.

  10. I’m happy you included Counting Thyme; I recently read it and it opened a dialogue with my own children about my cancer diagnosis; how it felt when everything suddenly was about Mom and her treatment.

    I often find that just suggesting a title to one of my students opens a door for them. They realize I know they are questioning or struggling and am available.

    I’d love to include Every Single Second in my classroom library.

  11. Great, timely post and I’m so glad this book is on my radar now! I teach middle school and couldn’t agree more about middle graders’ passion for fairness and sense of hope. I think you’re right that those traits make them an ideal audience for books about difficult topics. Kids experience hard stuff and can’t possibly avoid knowing about and bring affected by gun violence and other devastating events in the world, so we need books that address the hard stuff head on. I think it’s important to have books available that explore these issues in an honest but relatively gentle way so that we can meet kids where they are developmentally. The Seventh Wish and Nine, Ten do that beautifully. I’ll have to check out all of the other books you mentioned here, too, and am especially looking forward to reading Every Single Second!

  12. When I posted this, I had no way of knowing how timely it would be. But sadly these issues are not going away. Kids need as many ways as possible to think and talk about them.

  13. It’s amazing to me how many people think middle grade students can’t handle heavier issues. I thought middle grade for years – trust me many of them can! Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. My students would love to read it! I would, too!

  15. This post came at a real good time, right after the shootings in Orlando. Can’t wait to read how you put this together.