The Middler

The Middler

By Author / Illustrator

Kirsty Applebaum



Age range(s)



Nosy Crow Ltd




Paperback / softback




"I was special. I was a hero. I lost the best friend I ever had."   Eleven-year-old Maggie lives in Fennis Wick, enclosed and protected from the outside world by a boundary, beyond which the Quiet War rages and the dirty, dangerous wanderers roam. Her brother Jed is an eldest, revered and special. A hero. Her younger brother is Trig - everyone loves Trig. But Maggie's just a middler; invisible and left behind. Then, one hot September day, she meets Una, a hungry wanderer girl in need of help, and everything Maggie has ever known gets turned on its head.Narrated expertly and often hilariously by Maggie, we experience the trials and frustrations of being the forgotten middle child, the child with no voice, even in her own family.This gripping story of forbidden friendship, loyalty and betrayal is perfect for fans of Malorie Blackman, Meg Rosoff, Frances Hardinge and Margaret Atwood.

"I thought I'd almost reached my fill of dystopian novels, but Kirsty Applebaum has rebooted the genre. The plot pulls you along and I liked Maggie more and more as she grew in courage. There is a touch of Harper Lee's Scout about her." - Alex O'Connell, The Times.  Also by Kirsty Applebaum: TrooFriend



Maggie is a middler, worst luck. Jed was born first and is destined for great things once he gets to The Camp to help fight the Quiet War. Trig was born last and is the baby. But Maggie Middler? There's no great destiny, no prizes, nothing. Just the knowledge that her life is laid out for her, a life toiling in the fields, probably.

When she ventures close to the border of her town, Maggie encounters a wanderer - the type of person she has been brought up to believe are dirty, deceitful and dangerous. She seizes her chance to make a name for herself, to show she can be just as courageous as a First.

As mesmerising as it is menacing, The Middler is dark, dystopian fiction full of family, friendship and finding truths. Kirsty Applebaum creates a sinister, shadowy world built on propaganda and greed. The characters inhabiting her small town world are at best friendly, trusting and loyal, and at worst greedy, corrupt liars.

It was compelling watching Maggie break the rules and learn the truth of her existence. There is much to learn from Maggie's tale for those brave enough to question their beliefs and search for the truth behind them.

This is middle grade dystopian fantasy at its finest, and much better suited to primary readers than The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. I very much look forward to more from Kirsty Applebaum in the future. As a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, this is exactly the kind of book I'd have wanted as a child.

272 pages / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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