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!

When the Water Came August 8, 2022

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-2Joe wants more for his life that what his father has. He thinks that by showing his dad he was able to save up and purchase a news stand on his own that his dad will respect him more. And then he can ask Maggie to begin planning their lives together. Or that is what he hopes as the country gets ready to celebrate Decoration Day, to honor all the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Some of Joe’s friends just can’t wait for school to be over, so they can go sneak off to the forest, and to the lake that is high up above Johnstown, Lake Conemaugh, a man made lake owned by members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Basically, rich people from Pittsburgh, PA. But people from the town aren’t really welcome at the hunting club, unless they are working there.

All little Gertrude Quinn wants to do is go to the big parade for Decoration Day! But with all this rain and the streets flooding, and her stick in the mud aunt, it looks like she might not get to have the fun time she is hoping for.

As the streets flood, and the rain keeps coming down, more and more people get worried about the dam that holds Lake Conemaugh in its banks. Because what will happen if the dam fails?

Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann Burg is based on true events in 1889 when an earthen dam collapsed and sent millions of gallons of water rushing down into the town of Johnson, where homes, businesses and people were in its path.

Recommended for 7th grade and up. If you enjoy this book, consider reading another novel in verse on the same subject called Three Rivers Rising by James Richards.


The House Wants Them July 25, 2022

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

She knows everyone thinks she is “crazy Poppy” but she really does see a girl in the mirror – in any mirror- that she looks into. And not only that, but the girl gives her things. Things that Poppy sees in the mirror and then finds in real life. But Poppy has no idea who she is and why she appears only to Poppy.

And Marcus has for years heard music that he must play- music that only he can hear. But it drives hisdownload-1 mother nuts because she doesn’t like to hear Marcus play. It reminds her too much of her dead brother, who was a musician too.

Azumi has lost her sister in a woods in Japan, and it has been over a year, but she can’t let go of her. In fact, she is sleep walking. Then there are Dash and Dylan, two popular television stars who have their own secret story.

What do all of these kids have in common? They have all been summoned to the house called Larkspur, all seeming to be an answer to all their problems, but have they solved them, or just found themselves locked in a sinister house that has no plans on letting them out alive?

The Gathering by Dan Poblocki is the first book in the Shadow House series and is a really good, creepy read for anyone who enjoys worrying when the lights go out!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


What Made Them Different Could Save Them July 11, 2022

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadAnaya feels she is allergic to the world! Each year she seems to get allergic to something new and it all makes her life not so much fun. Especially as a teenager. Nothing great about acne that won’t stop, asthma all the time, and what seem to be the most limited diet of foods, while somehow still actually surviving. Anaya thinks if she could only still have friends, at least things would be a bit better. But no, after having a falling out with her one best friend a few years ago, she feels alone. At least she has her parents.

Seth is alone, but he’s hoping that his latest foster placement is going to work out, long term. He’s been bounced around so much. This family seems to need and want him, but he knows how quickly things can change. And there really is no point in getting to know the students at school – not that anyone is going out of their way to reach out to him anyway.

Petra is also allergic, but her allergy is to water. Yup, water. If she gets regular water on her skin it burns and get all irritated. She and Anaya used to be best friends, but things changed as they got older. Now they seem to be enemies.

All three of these teens lives change and converge after one crazy rainstorm. After that storm, plants that grow at an alarming rate spring up everywhere. At first they just seem to be a nuisance. But quickly it appears the plants might be harmful. Like bad enough to actually kill people. The strange thing is, Seth, Anaya and Petra don’t appear to be impacted by these plants at all. It’s almost like they have immunity to them. But how can that be?

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel is the first book in the Overthrow trilogy. The book keeps the reader and the characters on their toes, because things keep changing and fast!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Counting Words June 27, 2022

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

It has finally come to this. His dad is sending him away. To a mother his father never talked about, and barely told him about. And a mother who Collin thought all these 13 years didn’t want him. Collin knows he is a lot to handle. Well, mostly, his mind is a lot to handle. Since he was little and learned how to spell and count, he can’t stop counting all the letters that people say to him! He can try to stop it, but it inevitably bursts out of him. At first, people just think he is saying a number to them, or talking to them strangely, but over time, they get tired of him always starting his sentence with the number of letters they just spoke to him. And school is always a disaster. Which is why his father has decided to send him away, from California to Minnesota of all places. To the place where his mother has been all this time…living without him.

Collin isn’t sure how his mother will react to him. His father has never seemed to like him much, so why should his mother be any different. All he knows is she lives on a reservation and is Native American. But all Collin knows about Native Americans is what he’s seen on television or learned in school. And it turns out, that doesn’t really help him understand his mom. Or the girl he meets next door who changes his world all around.

The Brave by James Bird is a finding your way in a hard world story and trying to learn to live with our imperfections – as we see them! As a reader, sometimes Collin’s experiences don’t always ring authentic in terms of some school situations, and at times I wondered if the author was trying to write a contemporary story, or a magical realismdownload one. There is a “twist” at the end that this reader did not see coming, but mostly because I felt like it was out of place and didn’t make sense. In the end the “twist” just kind of annoyed me. If you like stories with some sadness and hope in them, this would be a book you might enjoy.


Reading the Signs June 13, 2022

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

Jalen loves baseball. But he has a problem. He wants to get onto the best travel team in his area, but thatdownload costs money. Money he and his dad don’t have. So it just so happens that his best friend Cat lives next door to a famous Yankee’s player, James Yager, better known as JY. And it just so happens that Jalen knows there are baseballs that this famous player has hit and signed – which are worth money. If he can only get his hands on those baseballs, Jalen’s money problems will be over, or so he thinks. So he and his friends devise a plan that they believe will get Jalen the money he needs.

However, no one expected for Jalen to get caught…by JY himself! Luckily he is able to get away, but that seems to be where his luck ends, because he sees JY again, at Cat’s birthday party! And unfortunately, JY recognizes him as the boy that was stealing his baseballs. Yager seems determined to make Jalen pay for his crime, but when Yager gets an unwanted phone call, Jalen has an idea.

Jalen realizes his he might have another way to solve his problem, and it involves the famous player!

Baseball Genius by Tim Green is for readers who love baseball and for those (like me) who don’t! It is a fun and entertaining book.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Finally Together May 30, 2022

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Richard and Millie had grown up together with their families in Central Point, Virginia. It was an unusual area for that time in Virginia – black and white families would often get together for events and to just hang out. The rest of the segregated South seemed to disappear in Central Point. When Millie was in high school, she and Richard started to date and in time fell in love.

But there was a problem. Richard was white, and Millie was black and Native American. In Virginia, people who were white could only marry other people who were white. Millie and Richard went to Washington, D.C. to get married since they knew they couldn’t in Virginia. But in the dead of night, the Sheriff arrested them for being together. They were tried and found guilty of breaking the law for living together because they were of different races. Their sentence was they could not return to Virginia for 25 years, or face the possibility of going to jail. Both of them wanted to live in Virginia – it was where their families were and where they wanted to raise their children.

Millie hated that they had to live in Washington, D.C. City life was not for her. She struggled to find someone who could help them and finally she did.

Loving VS. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell is a novel in verse look at the important Supreme Court case involving marriage in this country and how the United States was still dealing with segregation and racism years after the abolition of slavery.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Just Across the Street May 16, 2022

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

Bao and Linh have been at war for years. Well, they haven’t been at war, but their parents certainly See, each family has a Pho restaurant  and they happen to be across the street from each other! Talk about crazy competition! Bao and Linh years before had one day where they were having fun together at the Buddhist temple years ago, but their parents quickly put a stop to any friendship that they might have begun. So when Bao is closing up his parents’ place late one night, and sees Linh slip out of her parents’ place and appear to be hiding in the alley, he has no real reason to go across the street. Yet he does. Because he knows what it is like to have Vietnamese immigrant parents who only want the best for you, but still put a ton of pressure on you.

That one act of crossing the street and actually talking to Linh for the first time in years changes things! Bao and Linh end up working together on a project for the school newspaper, and Bao begins to wonder if he has found something he is good at, while Linh tries to figure out how to tell her parents just how much her art really means to her. As Bao and Linh get closer together though, they realize that their parents might have more against each other than just running competing restaurants. The question is what?

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le is a fun love story about people getting to know each other, learning family secrets and how to deal with expectations – your family’s and your own.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


No Solution April 27, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 3:00 pm

downloadStevie can’t wait to get away from her parents – parents who don’t share the same beliefs that she does. They work for a Senator that Stevie can’t stand. So when she finds out about an old Cold Case – a murder that hasn’t really ever been solved, and it is at a school – she decides she has nothing to lose and applies to it. However, Ellingham Academy is filled with students who are exceptional in some way. And Stevie isn’t sure how she made it in. Other than the fact that she is pretty obsessed with the Ellingham murders.

As she meets her house mates, two other girls and three boys, she wonders if she’ll end up being true friends with any of them. Luckily, she was able to chat with two of them over the summer leading up to their arrival at the school, but still. As the school year gets underway, Stevie is fascinated to be at the place where the murders happened – or at least the kidnappings. She decides to make it her school project to solve the murders. But deciding something and doing it are two different things entirely!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson is truly devious in that the book creates not one but two mysteries to solve…and doesn’t deliver on either one of them. Instead the reader is left at the end of the book with two cases with some idea of what might have happened, but nothing clear cut. In fact it ends with the dreaded “to be continued.” Ugh. I have to say, as a reader I was seriously annoyed by this fact. However, if you as a reader, love series, then this is the book to start reading, because you will undoubtably want to read the next one.

Recommended for 8th graders and up.


Finding Your Way Back April 4, 2022

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Mia’s family is moving back to the place she grew up in Vermont, after having lived in Boston for a fewdownload years. Mia is happy to leave Boston and its painful memories behind. Having been sidelined with a badly broken arm is enough to make anyone question going back into gymnastics, but Mia has no such issues. She wants nothing to do with the sport anymore. She’s just happy she gets to be back with her Gram again and helping her with the business she runs. Mia’s mom though, wants Mia to be “involved” this summer and that means Mia can’t just park herself in front of the television and watch all the seasons of her favorite shows.

What she doesn’t expect is to find two really awesome camps and a Gram who is convinced someone is trying to take down her business – a business that is about selling crickets for human food. After all, who on earth would want to do that? But as more and more strange things begin to happen, Mia thinks her grandmother is onto something. The question is, what can Mia do to help her Gram, and maybe even herself in the process?

Chirp by Kate Messner is part mystery, part finding yourself after something traumatic has happened but all of it is a good, fast enjoyable read!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


What to Believe? March 14, 2022

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

downloadLeora and her mother have just had to say goodbye to her father and husband forever. He has just died. Now they both wait for the moment when they can bring him home, after the Weighing of the Souls ceremony. They won’t bury him, they will instead bring home his “skin book.” Everyone, after they die, has their skin removed and bound into a book. This book will then stay with the family forever. After all, everyone’s story is on their skin. For every important event in a person’s life, in Leora’s world, people get tattoos. Everyone’s story is there for everyone to read, on their skin.

Leora is reaching the end of her schooling and she must decide what she wants to do with her life. For as long as she can remember, she has wanted to be an inker – the one who puts tattoos on people. But with her father’s passing, life seems to not be so simple anymore. And when something happens that appears to put her father’s soul in danger at the ceremony to come, Leora is beginning to wonder if there is really anyone she can trust.

Ink by Alice Broadway is a great fantasy book. The concept of keeping all your ancestors skin books is an interesting and original one, and for me gave the book a bit of a creepy factor, but it was also intriguing. Leora is just like everyone else – trying to see where she fits in her world and what she ultimately believes. This is the first book in a trilogy.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.