Popular series get a lot of media hype and we'll often get younger kids wanting to read "what the big kids are reading" or "what everyone is reading" even if it's not appropriate yet for them - either in content or reading difficulty. Here are some alternate titles and series for popular books.
Kids want to read this for the romance, the drama and, of course, because they've probably seen the movie. This is probably the hardest to match because it's really difficult to find romances for middle grade kids, let alone paranormal ones!
- Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber
- This is a vampire romance series, but there's a lot more gooey flirting and goth angst than actual sex and violence. I still wouldn't give it to the average 9 year old, but it's going to be more appropriate for younger kids than Twilight (in my opinion).
- My Boyfriend is a Monster series (graphic novels)
- These range from funny to sweet to sad and are mostly pretty tame in the romance department. They do gently break some stereotypes and feature, for the most part, pretty independent girls.
- Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
- This is a long shot - most kids won't want to read something this long and it's a lot slower - but it's got all the dramatic, gothic, angsty elements you could want!
Percy Jackson and other series by Rick Riordan
Most parents don't have a problem with kids reading this series - the barrier comes when younger kids can't manage to get through the books (which get progressively longer) and get frustrated. The trick is to find books that have that blend of mythology and adventure, but are easier to read. So far I've only purchased one series, but it goes on forever so it's perfect. The author, Joan Holub, has multiple other series in the same vein, so if you need more check them out!
- Heroes in Training by Joan Holub
- This is a beginning chapter series that features all the characters of Olympus in their own adventures. It's a little lighter and funnier than Riordan, but still has lots of adventure and excitement.
This is, obviously, not a book for most younger readers. Aside from the violence, it features a lot of mature, complicated themes. Of course, what most younger kids want is the Excitement. This is probably the easiest series to match, since there are a lot of exciting series out there, and even some dystopias for younger kids.
- Gregor The Overlander
- This is Suzanne Collins series for middle grade readers. I have not read it myself, because it features giant cockroaches, but it is full of excitement and adventure and definitely some perilous drama and emotion. It features Gregor, who travels underground to a hidden world to save his sister.
- City of Ember by Jeanette DuPrau
- There was a (not very good) movie made of this. It's a dystopia but it works for younger kids because it's not as complex and violent as Hunger Games.
- Tripods collection by John Christopher
- This is more science fiction/aliens attack, but it's got the same general theme of a group of kids fighting against overwhelming odds in a dystopian world.
- Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
- This is a very popular adventure/thriller series for middle grade set in a dystopian world.
Cirque du Freak
This is a vampire horror series. I've never had anyone actually ask for a younger alternative, but I would recommend Emerson's Oliver Nocturne. This is a middle grade chapter series about a boy who's a vampire. It's not too gory, but it's got some thrills and chills.
I haven't had questions on this for a while, but when she has a new book I'll often get middle grade or younger teens who want to read her titles. I also had a lot of people at one point looking for younger alternatives for The Lovely Bones. The family drama and the tearjerker elements seem to be what they most want. I recommend
- Suzanne LaFleur's Love, Aubrey
- Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez
- Edward's Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
- Ways to live forever by Sally Nicholls (out of print)
While a lot of younger kids do read this series, some parents may feel their kids aren't ready for either the length/difficulty or the more mature content in the later books. There are a lot of similar fantasy series out there, but these are the ones I most frequently recommend. I would also like to note that Harry Potter spawns the most illogical read-alikes I have ever seen, a phenomena I have noticed over the years which only seems to be getting worse.
- Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
- Septimus Heap by Angie Sage
- Last dragon chronicles by Chris D'Lacey