Middle-grade books regularly have the concept that the main character is not who they thought they were, especially if they are orphans. This is a classic literary feature because it fits into middle-grade development. Of course, most readers will not be orphans who may secretly be important, but readers can still think about what it would mean to be someone else.
Orion Kim is 12 years old. He is handy with tools and can fix many things, but he is not very coordinated or popular. Very early in the book, he finds out that his grandmother is not his grandmother due to someone attempting to kill him and someone else defending him. Not long after, he finds out that he is not from Earth, but he is “starborn,” and he is taken away from the only home he has known (on Earth) and hides from his attacker on an alien world.
There are classic literary devices that work because they are classic. For example, middle-grade readers may already be familiar with characters attending a new special school to learn about their new powers. Or a group of characters working together to discover the things the adults around them won’t tell them. This is not to say that Orion and the Starborn is cliche; I don’t think it is. But as a nearly 50-year-old who has been reading middle-grade books for decades, I can see the literary references beneath the story.
I read Orion and the Starborn because I am a fan of KB Hoyle’s writing. I have read her Dystopian series (Breeder Cycle) and her fantasy series (Gateway Chronicles) twice and the stand-alone retelling of the fairytale Little Mermaid (Son of the Deep). The books stand up to re-reading. And they have a depth to the story. My kids are a little young for the books, but I think this is probably the series I would start with because it is pitched just slightly younger than the other two series. Depending on how advanced a child is and whether an adult is reading the book with the child or the child is reading independently, I think this is probably a series that I would start around age 10 to 14. My kids are pretty sensitive to scary things, even minor tension they do not like. But I think by the time the next book or two in the series comes out, I will be able to read it to them.