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Looking for non-angsty upper-MG or YA fantasy

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I have two nephews aged 11 and 12, both strong and avid readers, both lovers of fantasy. They're sort of ready to age up out of traditional MG territory. (Actually, the 12-year-old is happy with MG, but he's being pressured by teachers to pick books at a higher reading level. This makes me cringe, but he wants to please his teachers, so....)

Neither boy is ready for the more teenager-y angst and anger they're finding in a lot of YA novels. The 12-year-old specifically dislikes YAs with characters angry at their parents.

Anyway, I'm looking to buy a couple of books for each boy for Christmas, and I thought you folks would likely have some great recommendations. I'm okay with upper-MG or YA. Newer books would be best because both boys have read a lot of what's already out there that suits their interests. If you have a lot of ideas, all the better--I'd love to include a list of book recs along with the gift. 
#1 - December 10, 2018, 02:51 PM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

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I hear you. My kids were good readers too and they never cared for the typical teenage fare. Adventure was what they wanted.
Eoin Colfer's books. Loved Airman. Gordon Korman's Swindle. Alex Rider (James Patterson)--I've not read these yet.
Oh, and nonfiction on cars, aviation. We have quite a few in-depth biographies (these are adult books but my kids enjoyed them).
#2 - December 10, 2018, 03:34 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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My son has been reading Terry Pratchett's middle grade books. He also loved the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Tolkien. He's currently reading the  Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions series (might not be upper MG, but I don't know). He reads a lot of graphic novels as well--Star Wars, Pokemon, and anything else that sounds interesting. He's also read Sherlock Holmes, all of it. (He's 13 now, but he read them a couple of years ago.) The person who wrote the Warriors series (the one with the cats) has a bunch of series, some of which cross into YA. The House with the Clock in It's Walls was good too. I can't think of anything else recent and upper MG/YA. My son reads or rereads a book a day, mostly fantasy, so I'll ask him tomorrow.

Here are series I know he liked

Hunger Games
Harry Potter
Mysterious Benedict Society
Charlie Bone
Wrinkle in Time

And here's a link  found in a Google search https://diymfa.com/reading/5onfri-upper-middle-grade-fantasy-science-fiction. There are some other lists that might help you if you search for Upper MG Fantasy. Be aware that some series age up in content as they go.
#3 - December 10, 2018, 06:44 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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My son added Section 13.
#4 - December 11, 2018, 06:15 PM
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Linda Joy Singleton's Regeneration series would be fantastic for these boys, It's about a group of kids who find out they are clones and their creator has decided to eliminate the cloning experiment - by eliminating them!
#5 - December 11, 2018, 07:09 PM
Verla Kay

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