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. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

Dating While Native August 3, 2020

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Science Fiction Books — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Finding out your boyfriend’s mom is prejudice against Native Indians is bad, but finding downloadout your boyfriend probably shares her views is devastating. Especially if you happen to be Native yourself. This is what happens to Louise Wolfe at an after prom brunch with her boyfriend, Cam. Quickly, Louise distances herself from Cam, and is ready to start her senior year of high school sans drama. However, it becomes apparent that won’t be happening. Louise is on the high school newspaper, and one of the big stories is that the theater department is putting on a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Since they live in Kansas, this is a big deal! And it becomes an even bigger deal with the director of the play makes it clear this cast will be inclusive – and maybe won’t look much like the original production.

Suddenly, the play becomes everything in this high school. And for Louise’s family, because her younger brother decides to go out for the roll of the Tin Man, even though he’s only a freshman. Louise wants to be writing hard hitting journalism stories that make a difference, but with so many things to focus on, finding that right piece is difficult. To make matters even more complicated, she begins to like a boy named Joey on her school newspaper.

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is a book that is a quick read, and delves into a LOT of topics – from bullying, to racism, to censorship. Many topics are brought up and referred to, without much information to explain or help the reader understand exactly what the problem is. For example the hashtag #NDN is mentioned but not what it stands for. I looked it up and it is a shortening of Native Indian, which many Native Indians use to refer to themselves. I was thrilled to find a book with a Native Indian as the main character and her family. But often I felt like I was missing so much of what the point was, simply because I’m unfortunately ignorant of things I shouldn’t be. I do think it is possible for books to educate in such a way as to not appear to be educating. I would have liked that with this title, but sadly, I felt it missed the mark for me.

I do think the book tried to show how hard it can be sometimes to distinguish between willfully racist and discriminatory behavior, and when people step into landmines unintentionally. Louise finds this out herself when she tries to make a point with Joey. I did learn about L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and his horrible views on Native Indians, which I had been unaware of prior to reading the book. Overall, the book is a good place to start, but the reader, if unfamiliar with the history of our country’s many atrocities against its first people might miss much of the injustices referenced.


Recommended for mature 8th graders due to some mild content.


Running Away July 27, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadWhen school is taken away from Joan, it seems like the worst thing ever. How can she convince her father that school is what her mom wanted for her? How can she convince him that her learning is important – as important as her work on the farm for him and her three older brothers? It isn’t until a visit from her former teacher that Joan gets an idea. If she can only earn enough money from selling eggs, she might be able to get back to school and her dream of leaving the farm and all the hard drudgery that it represents. Yet, quickly it becomes apparent, no matter what Joan says or how hard she works, her father expects her to live out her life in servitude to the farm and to him. After one horrible night of screaming and yelling, Joan makes a brave decision. She will run away and get a job in a larger city. After all, they pay girls in the city to do the work she’s doing for free on the farm. And they pay well! But she knows no one will hire a girl of only 14. So a plan forms. She will need to change her age and her name, just in case her father comes looking for her.

And so Joan, now Janet, embarks on the greatest adventure of her life, and also the scariest. Through the best of luck, she is able to find herself in a wealthy household working as their hired girl. Yet, this family isn’t the typical family, as Joan/Janet quickly realizes and she has her own beliefs stretched as a result.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz gives readers a detailed look at life in America on the farm and in the cities in 1911 and just how hard it was in both locations to get ahead if you start with little to nothing. Looking at a woman’s life, it also portrays the struggles for creating something meaningful in a world that often ignored or simply didn’t care about that entire gender. This was an incredible read and highly recommended.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Why do Some Stay? July 20, 2020

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Shelly and her grandmother have the ability to help ghosts to “move on” to whatever is next. As a Cree, all the women in Shelly’s family have the ability. ghost collectorThis includes birds, mice, people and even raccoons! It turns out, there are a lot of pets that end up “haunting” the place they used to live. All they need is someone to help them to leave. Shelly LOVES going with her grandmother to help people and animals move to the next phase, but her mother isn’t so sure Shelly should be spending so much time with the dead and little to none -outside of family members- with the living. After all, Shelly doesn’t really have any great friends at school, and this concerns her mom. But her mom is so busy trying to work and pay rent and provide for the three of them, it can be hard to carve out that time. Still, Shelly knows her mom loves her and wants the best for her, even if she isn’t totally supportive of the whole ghost hunting thing.

When something tragic happens though, Shelly takes all the words of wisdom that she has learned from her grandmother about ghosts and what they need and disregards them and the rules. After all, if her ability can’t help her to connect with the one person she most wants to in the whole world, maybe the rules are meant to be broken, at least in this case.

The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills focuses on the real and painful truth we must all go through at some point in our lives, and how we all end up dealing with it, in our own way.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Eating Cactus July 13, 2020

Filed under: Humor,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Gus is about to get a mouthful of cholla, a horrible spiny cactus that will hook into you and you need pliers to pull it out! Yeah, because of Bo, the resident bully and his lackeys. Gus’ face is getting closer and closer to the nasty stuff when Rossi comes to Gus’ rescue – sort of. Bo is mad because Rossi, a girl, beat him AGAIN in the motor cross bike race. And the next day is the big race, the one that the winner will get a new motorbike and go to camp to learn more about racing bikes. So, Rossi showing up doesn’t really help Gus that much. Until Bo demands Rossi’s bike to let Gus go free, which means that Bo will for sure win the race and the prize. When Rossi agrees to it, Gus can’t believe it. Bo doesn’t deserve to win after all, and he’s such a jerk.

Now Gus is determined to get the bike back for Rossi in the next 24 hours. He goes to Bo download-1to beg for the bike back and says he’ll do anything. First mistake. Bo says he wants a piece of gold from Frenchman’s Mine – an old gold mine where people have DIED because of cave ins. Is Gus really going to do this, just to get back Rossi’s bike? Sure looks that way. But how can Gus get gold out of a gold mine where anyone who has gone in it last 100 years has died?

24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling is a great book. It is funny and keeps the story moving right along. It takes an impossible situation and finds the humor in it and life when things seem so bad, there can’t possibly be anything to laugh at.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Unlimited Redos to Get it Right? July 6, 2020

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Think back to a time when something went wrong in your life. Maybe something big, downloadmaybe something small. If you had a chance to redo it, would you? And just how many times would you want to redo it, if the same result kept happening? How much would you change what you did or didn’t do each time?

Jack King is a senior in high school and has been in love with his best friend, Jillian, forever, or so it seems. So when they are on a college visit to the school they are both going to be attending the following fall, he isn’t looking to meet anyone, certainly not on the steps of a frat house. And certainly not someone as wonderful as Kate. Pretty quickly, Jack is all in on Kate, which is just as well, since Jillian has been dating his OTHER best friend Francisco for only a month longer than Jack has been in love with her.

Best case scenario, right? Now everyone is happy and in love! But then something totally unexpected happens. Kate breaks up with Jack and won’t tell him why, until he gets a phone call from her, saying she’s in the hospital. And later that same night, she dies. How can this be possible? Jack didn’t even know that Kate was sick! Unable to believe what he’s just heard on the phone from Kate’s mom telling him she has died, he runs out of his room and falls down the stairs, and into the past. That’s right. He finds himself on those same stairs at the college house, just about to meet Kate…again. How is this happening? Is he being given a chance to save her life? Or is it about more than just Kate?

Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds is a story about how we can all get caught up in that one thing, whatever it might be, and forget about all that has come before and what will be there after, when it ends. It is also about all those different paths we can take, and how it can be so hard to find that perfect one.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Growing Apart, Growing Up June 29, 2020

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Maya and Nicki are named after two of their mother’s favorite poets. And their father is a community activist, always helping somewhere and someone, many of them Maya and Nicki’s friends. Maya has always loved her neighborhood, but over the last four or so years, there have been changes. Many that Nicki seems to embrace, but ones that have Maya concerned. After all, how does one feel when the white people who once fled an area, now decide it is okay to start putting up speciality shops and landlords who decide they don’t want to rent anymore, but would rather sell a home that Maya’s best friend Essence has lived in her whole life – just across the street?

And how is Maya supposed to feel when Nicki befriends the new white family that moves into Essences’ old home? Doesn’t Nicki feel the conflict that Maya does? After all, they have planned to go to Spelman College for forever, where generations of smart, strong, influential black woman have gone, but now Maya wonders if the plan is still in place. Especially since everyone thinks Maya and Devin belong together, when Maya begins to realize they don’t really have anything in common, other than they are both driven and both black. Maya is really conflicted when she starts to have feelings for Tony, the high school senior who moved across the street, into Essences’ old house. Tony, who is white.

This Side of Home by Renee Watson does a great job of looking at the reverse of white flight and delves into gentrification, although what Maya is going through is much deeper than cosmetics on buildings. What makes a community, what gives people a history and are you able to move forward, while still retaining the same spirit? Maya struggles are real and very relevant.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


A Terrible Switch June 22, 2020

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Growing up in Mirkwood with the perfect babby brother can be a pain. At least that is downloadwhat Mollie thinks. Yeah, he never cries, and he’s sweet and cute as a button, but sometimes a girl just gets tired of all the attention given to the little one. Mollie is that girl! One day when she is out weeding the garden, watching her little brother Thomas, she just wishes that he hadn’t even been born. After all, there is always so much work, and he certainly can’t help with any of it. Still, at least he is a good babby. No one can ever say he is a good and charming child though, because if they do, the Kinde Folke might come and take him and give them a horrible changeling in his place. Thomas has a charm from Granny Hedgepath, a beautiful necklace that Mollie wishes had been given to her instead of her little brother. After all, what’s a little boy going to do with a necklace anyway? But he is supposed to wear it at all times and it will protect him from the Kinde Folke. 

But this day, when Thomas pulls off his necklace and offers it to Mollie, she can’t resist. She puts it on herself. And makes the terrible mistake of saying out loud what a sweet babby he is. When Mollie wakes from a strange nap, the baby lying where Thomas should be is different. He is crying (which Thomas never does) and has strange yellow eyes, and looks sickly. Mollie is terrified that she has let a changeling take the place of Thomas. Granny Hedgepath confirms Mollie’s worst fears, a changeling has been substituted for Thomas!

Dadoe and Mam aren’t sure what to do. Dadoe wants to abandon the changeling, but Mam heeds Granny’s advice to be nice to the creature and maybe the Kinde Folke will be good to Thomas. All Mollie knows is that it is her fault. And she might be the only one who can go to the Dark Lands and find her babby brother and make her family whole again.

Guest by Mary Downing Hahn is an imaginative fantasy using Irish tales to dream up a world where you are never sure if it is the Kinde Folke of life that is making things hard.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Non Stop Anxiety! June 15, 2020

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-3Bex, otherwise known as Beth Ann, is always looking over her shoulder. Why? Because most people believe her father is the mysterious Wife Collector serial killer. When Beth/Bex was a young girl, she unknowingly turned over evidence that connected her father to the murders of multiple young women. She has lived with the uncertainty of her father’s guilt for the last 10 years. After her father was accused, he left and abandoned Beth/Bex. Everyone believes that proves her father was indeed the killer, but Beth/Bex still hold out hope that he is innocent.

Now, her grandmother has died and she has been sent to live with a foster family miles away from where she grew up – and it is a chance she hopes to leave behind the horrible memories of growing up as the daughter of a serial killer. It is why she has decided to change her name from Beth Ann to Bex. No one knows who she is in this new place, and she wants to keep it that way.

Unfortunately for Bex, not long after she begins to settle into her new life, it seems as if her old one has come knocking at her door. It could be that her father has finally decided to track her down and if he has, does that mean he is the killer, or not? Beth/Bex isn’t sure what to believe anymore.

Twisted by Hannah Jayne is one of those books that will not let the reader have one second to breath. If you like suspense books where the main character is constantly jumping out of their skin, making pretty dumb decisions and sees killers at every turn, this is the book for you!

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


A Major Competition June 8, 2020

Filed under: Humor,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Caitlyn is not happy when her mom tells her they will be moving from New York to a rinky dink little town in the middle of nowhere Vermont. Without even consulting Caitlyn – about any of it! Caitlyn had a hard enough time starting middle school in sixth grade with people she knew, but now she’s expected to start 7th in a strange new place with all kids she’s never met before? Caitlyn has a list of rules that her friends back home helped her come up with – to make sure she fits in right away.

However, as soon as she meets her follow 10 classmates – yes, TEN – as in there are onlydownload-2 TEN other kids in all of the 7th grade – Caitlyn realizes her list isn’t going to help her much. There aren’t enough kids for there to be any specific groups, let alone any kid who even remotely reminds Caitlyn of anyone from home! The school is housed in an old mansion and they still have recess and at lunch all the older kids have to sit with younger kids and babysit them. It just seems to get worse and worse.

But the thing that gets Caitlyn right away, is how all the 7th graders miss a boy named Paulie Fink. It’s all they can talk about. How he used to pull these amazing stunts and he was so good at pulling pranks on even the teachers. Everyone misses Paulie Fink – everyone but Caitlyn who never even met the kid. Yet, one day an idea takes hold of the group and they decide they will find a new Paulie Fink. And guess who they put in charge of locating a new one? Yup, Caitlyn.

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin helps us all see where our little attempts to fit in might actually be us just being mean. What happens when we realize the people we think we want to push away, are actually the people we want to bring closer.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Then and Now June 1, 2020

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Mia can’t believe that her father is shipping her off to live for the summer with a grandmother she has never met. Well, actually she can believe it, because obviously, why would her father want to be around her, not after what she has done. Mia has a daily reminder of that awful night every time someone looks at her and has that moment where they gasp, or when she happens to look in a mirror, which of course, she doesn’t.

Her face is a permanent scar of that night. The night she killed her sister. But Mia is still downloadliving and while her grandmother isn’t exactly warm and welcoming, she does get her a job for the summer working at a local deli not far from her grandmother’s apartment in New York City. New York is a far cry from her old home in Maine. Still the busy life at the deli helps to make Mia forget, at least temporarily, about the awfulness of her life. And on her first day there, she meets Fig. Fig with the electric blue hair and the family at the deli who is big and boisterous and so full of life that it is hard for Mia to be numb around them. Fig in turn introduces her to a group of friends, one of whom is Cooper, a boy that Mia quickly becomes fascinated with.

As the summer progresses though, new and old relationships will threaten the small space of peace that Mia has painstakingly carved out for herself and she wonders how she can truly every be whole again.

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler is a story about the guilt many carry concerning events that ultimately were beyond their control. Mia must face the choice we all have about such events. Do they completely control us, or give us the insight we need to move forward?

Recommended for 7th grade and up.