Books in the Middle: Reading for Middle School

Our focus is on books middle school students might like to read and topics pertaining to books for these students, and we are giving recommendations. Teachers, librarians and middle school students are the contributors to this blog. Enjoy!

Beneath the Surface of the City July 21, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:25 pm

imgresNew York City, circa middle to late 1800s, was a MESS! Seriously! There were tons of people and conveyances and thousands of horses adding tons of manure to the streets each day. It could literally taken an hour to go a few blocks, simply because you took your life in your own hands trying to cross the street!

Keep in mind, this was long before traffic lights and anything else that would help people. Traffic moved at slower than 1 mile per hour. Many people knew that things were horrible, but no one seemed able to come up with a plan to make things better. However, one man named Alfred Beach thought the only way to solve this massive congestion problem was to create an underground subway system.

Secret Subway: the fascinating tale of an amazing feat of engineering by Martin W. Sandler tells the story of the first subway in New York City and all the wrangling that went into it. This story includes how “Boss” Tweed – a crooked politician – tried to single handedly de-rail the whole process and how some things are just beyond anyones control.

This is a great story about a little known project and a really fast read. Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Grim Reaper Gets it Wrong July 15, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 10:12 am

imgresAt a school carnival, moments after RJ has her fortune told, the Grim Reaper appears and instead of taking the fortune teller, nabs RJ. Suddenly, RJ is dead! As a girl who is used to having everyone and everything go her way, this is quite the shock. Gideon – the Grim Reaper who reaped her too early, admits his mistake but tells her there is nothing he can do about it; it is up to the “higher ups” to fix the mistake.

At first RJ must wait in a great hall while all the souls get processed. When she finally gets a chance to see her life, she realizes that she hasn’t made the best choices. Still, it isn’t fair that she was taken by mistake. However, it turns out there is a lot involved in placing a “dead” person back into their old life.

A tribunal must convene made up of three angels, and Death Himself gets involved in the process as well.  Turns out that not many believe RJ deserves to go back because she hasn’t done much with her 17 years of life as it is. It is up to RJ to prove she should go back, by completing three tests.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah Schmitt is book that could have been deep, but seems to skirt the shallow end. Readers might be shocked by the ending of the book, but probably won’t feel too much because of the tone of the book.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


What is Reality? July 11, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 1:44 pm

Caden is on the adventure of his life! He’s on board a ship with a captain with one eye and a parrot who is subversive and trying to get him to take out the captain and don’t forget about Callipoe, the ship’s figurehead, whom Caden thinks is really the only one he can trust. After all, the ship and all its inhabitants are on their way to the deepest part of the ocean for the best treasure in all the world. But the problem is, who can Caden really believe?

Caden is on a ship, however it is a ship of his own imagination and as he tries to sail ChallengerDeep-final-cover-hi-rezthrough the murky waters, his parents, his friends and his little sister all struggle with exactly what is going on with him and how, if at all, they can help him find his way to shore again.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman isn’t like his other books – except that it pulls you in quickly. This book may feel at times like a fantasy, however, it is certainly a contemporary fiction piece. Shusterman uses his incredible writing ability to suck the reader into Caden’s world, and gives you the chance to try to make sense of it before Caden. This candid look at mental illness from the view point of the patient and the world he inhabits as he tries to come back to the world others know is at times heartbreaking and poignant – for the reader knows, at any point, it could be our story as well.

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up due to the complexity of the story.



It Wasn’t an Accident July 8, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Mystery and Ghost Stories,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 1:58 pm

Shocked from her casual life of privilege, Jo Montfort learns quickly when she finds out her father has died in an accident that her entire world can come crashing down. In the late 1800s in New York, the upper society prided itself on being discrete and young ladies doing what was expected of them. Writing for a newspaper and having thoughts for oneself were NOT what was expected OR accepted if you were a young woman. Your only goal in life was to marry and marry well.

Jo knows all of this, but can’t help feeling that she will be missing out on many things if imgres-1she just goes along with the accepted conventional wisdom and marries Bram, a friend of the family. It isn’t until she learns of her father’s death that she really begins to question everything in her life.

After her father’s funeral, Jo goes on an errand and overhears a newspaper reporter, by the name of Eddie, who insists that her father’s death was no accident. He says that Charles Montfort killed himself. At first, Jo can’t even wrap her mind around this idea, but it makes better sense than an accident with his gun. However as she begins to delve deeper in the mystery surrounding her father’s death and in turn his shipping business with Eddie’s help, she starts to wonder if she really wants to know the truth.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly is a fabulous historical fiction book with a nice dash of romance and mystery. The seedier side of New York is exposed and it will make girls very glad of the opportunities we have now, as opposed to the limited life lead just over 100 years ago.

Recommended for 8th graders.


What If You Could Rewind Time? July 5, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 1:10 pm

It all started because she wanted to get out of the rain. Who could have predicted that the bank she ducked into would be the scene of a robbery and that the only person in it that was nice to her would be shot and killed in front of her eyes. Just bad luck right? For everyone else BUT Zoe. Zoe now has a choice. To leave the past as it is, OR try to change it. 

imgresBecause she has a special talent, one she discovered when she was 13. She can “playback” time for 23 minutes and can try to change things up to 10 times. After that, whatever happened with her last try is how things go forward. So Zoe has a choice. Does she try to “playback” time and alter what happens to save the nice young man, or does she leave things as is? And if she does go back, she knows there is a very distinct possibility that she won’t make things better – she might make things worse.

23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde takes those thousands of situations in life where we ask ourselves, “What if…?” But Zoe has the ability to try out those what ifs. And shows the reader that going back into the past with the best of intensions, even knowing what is going to happen, is messy and doesn’t necessarily turn out as we’d wish.

Highly recommended for mature 6th graders and up due violence. Vande Velde continues to be one of my all time favorite authors and she doesn’t disappoint with this new addition.




It Waits in the Woods June 26, 2016

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — oneilllibrary @ 3:12 pm

No one likes a bully, often not even the bully. However, all Marshall can think about is the “meeting” he is going to have after school, with the school bully – Chad. And by “meeting” he knows Chad is planning to beat him up. So rather than take his usual walk home with his neighbor, Tamaya, Marshall ops for the “short cut” through the woods. At least that is what he tells Tamaya, who is two years younger than he is.

Unfortunately, the short cut doesn’t save Marshall from Chad, who follows him into the woods and then imgresproceeds to do just what he threatened. Tamaya has to intervene and save Marshall by taking a handful of mud and smashing it into Chad’s face. So for Marshall, the humiliation is complete. No only did he NOT escape from Chad, but a younger girl had to save him from getting more beat up! As he wallows in his misery, he doesn’t pay any attention to Tamaya and leaves her as soon as they both get out of the woods.

Tamaya can’t stop thinking about what happened in the woods, especially since the hand the she used to pick up the mud and smash it into Chad’s face seems to be developing some kind of weird rash. She figures it will just go away, but the next day it looks awful and begins to blister and weep blood. Tamaya is beginning to realize that “mud” wasn’t just regular mud. When the school administration lets the students know that Chad is missing, Tamaya gets the horrible feeling he is still trapped in the woods, suffering because of the mud she flung at him.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar shares the story of three students, all coming together during one horrible event and somehow they manage to help divert an even bigger disaster.

Recommended for students 6th grade and up.


Can you Drown, on Too Much Air? June 9, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 3:17 pm

imgresAza Ray is struggling – to breath. Every since she was about a year old, and suddenly developed a serious problem with breathing, Aza’s life has seemed an endless series of trips to the E.R. and hospitals, where doctors struggle to figure out what on earth is Aza’s problem. In fact, they can’t find another person alive like her, and have named her condition, after her!

Aza tries as best she can to be “normal,” but seems to fail. She wasn’t supposed to make to 10 let alone almost 16. But here she is, just a few days shy of that big milestone. She has a great family, two supportive parents, a crazy fun younger sister and a great friend, Jason. Jason, who, just like her family, is trying everything possible to keep her living just a little bit longer.

One day at school, not long before her birthday, Aza sees something in the sky that she can’t explain, as much as she’d like to be able to. Her family think it must be the results of all the medications she is taking, but as she talks to Jason about it – he gives her another possible explanation. An explanation that sounds almost as out of this world as what she saw.

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley is a new idea in young adult books, and a nice departure from the constant barrage of dystopian literature from the last few years. Aza will captive readers as she searches to understand what really makes a person “fit” in.

Recommended for 8th graders and up.



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