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!

An Illegal Alien August 16, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 8:11 pm

Jasmine has to be perfect. She needs to get the right grades, she has to be involved in extracurricular activities, and she needs to take her cheer team to Nationals this year, and win! If it means sacrificing having a lot of friends, or any meaningful social life, so be it. After all, her parents didn’t come from the Philippines to give their kids a better life only to have those kids squander it, right? So Jasmine is out of her mind with excitement when she finds out she has been awarded a National Scholarship award which will give her a full ride to whatever college she chooses. She knows this is amazing, because her family would have struggled to put her through college. But when she excitedly shares the news with her parents, she learns an awful, horrible truth. Jasmine, along with her whole family, have no legal right to be in the United States. Suddenly, everything Jasmine has worked her whole life for dissolves. Who is she really, without all her accomplishments? Do they go away because she finds out she is considered an illegal – a term she hates?

As Jasmine has to figure out what her new life might look like, she mets a boy named Royce who at first seems to be everything that she’ll never have. Royce is rich, has his future set AND just happens to be the son of a Congressman who is against illegal immigrants. Yet, Jasmine and Royce are drawn to each other, even though the odds are clearly stacked against them.

Something in Between by Melissa De La Cruz is a great book for understanding the constant uncertainty that someone in the United States lives with as an undocumented immigrant. Especially seeing how children who thought they were in the country legally might feel, only to find out, they aren’t. And the romance is good too!

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


It Started with a Bus Ride August 5, 2018

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — oneilllibrary @ 2:50 pm

It seemed like another ordinary day for Eddie – in the ordinary village of Wellcome download-3Valley located in the middle of nowhere England. But when his school bus stops to pick up a new student – a girl named Scarlett – something in the day seems to shift. For reasons that Eddie can’t fathom, Scarlett is interested in him – well, interested in what happened to his mom, who died when he was just an infant in a car accident. Yet, when Eddie tries to ask Scarlett anything about her life, or why on earth her family is in Wellcome Valley, she shuts him down and tells him she can’t talk about it. Mystified and captivated, Eddie decides to accidentally run into her one day when he’s out riding his bike – in the rain – just in case she’s where she said she’d be. And she is! But she’s hiding behind their history teacher’s house and when he asks what she’s up to, she shushes him and they watch as the teacher digs up part of the backyard, buries a book, then digs it back up moments later in another part of the backyard!

Clearly, something is going on, and Scarlett knows what, but she won’t tell him! Quickly, though, Eddie finds himself caught up in a world he can’t fathom –  let alone realize he and his dead mother (or is she dead after all) might play a pivotal role in!

No True Echo by Gareth P. Jones takes the reader on a wild ride, through time and back again, snapping us quickly between them so that what is truth and what isn’t become increasingly  blurred. Great book for looking at different perspectives and playing with the idea of if there are alternative time paths, how can you determine which one is the real reality?

Recommended for 8th graders and up due to the complexity of the book.


Battling Everyone July 31, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:11 pm

downloadDarwin feels like he can’t catch a break. Like how his dad is in prison and his mom thinks if he attends a fancy school out in the suburbs, Darwin won’t end up following in his dad’s footsteps. But when the history teacher at his new school questions whether he actually wrote his paper himself, or when the kids all whisper when they see him, or when a kid approaches him to join a fight club, Darwin knows life is never easy.

Tap Out by Sean Rodman is a quick read and pulls the reader in to the big dilemma facing Darwin. Should he keep fighting and winning to earn money for his mom, or is the fighting only making life harder for him; to fit in, to move on, to feel good about himself.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Never Ending Loss July 26, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:14 am

At first he thought he was having a nightmare, that he was dreaming his apartment had been hit by bombs, like so many others in his city and that he would wake up and everything would be fine. But Tareq was living the nightmare. His apartment had been bombed, and his younger sister and brothers all killed, along with his mother and his grandmother. Only one sister and his father escape alive. Now they have to make a decision. Get out of the country they have loved, or face more death, even though there are no guarantees of safety if they do leave.

downloadTareq’s father decides they must leave Syria and journey to Turkey as the first step in fleeing their war torn country. However, they need money for this and they travel to a part of Syria that is controlled by Daesh fighters and there Tareq witnesses things he never thought to see in real life. And they haven’t even left the country yet.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi is a hard and compelling look at the realities facing many people in the world today. What do you do when the country you love is fighting against itself and taking down the citizens? Where is safe in a world where many are scared of the refugees seeking asylum? This story is told by Destiny, and he/she looks at the world and knows the lives and struggles of the people and wonders how we humans can do such awful things to each other. This is a powerful book, and the story of Tareq and those he meets on his journey will leave the reader with a broader understanding and hopefully empathy for the plight of others in this world.

A strongly recommended read, but for students in 8th grade and older for the complexity of understanding Destiny is telling the story, as well as the nuances of the politics involved in this situation as well as some of the graphic violence.


Across the Years July 22, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:01 am

Two sisters who couldn’t be more different, a mother who never seems satisfied, and a father just trying to make his way in this big wide world. Sonia and Tara are used to moving – from India, to Ghana to Britain and finally to America.  It is there that many changes happen in their family. Sonia is finally able to confront their mother about how she treats their father, and Tara fully gets into her characters to help her fit in and realizes she can act like no one has ever seen before and well, life goes on.

downloadYou Bring the Distance Near by Mitali Perkins looks at a family in transition from their initial roots in India to their final settling place of America and all the trauma and triumphs that go with it. How do you fit in, and still feel like yourself? Is it even possible? And not only are the girls having their own issues, but their mother must find her own way to be herself in all these new and strange countries. And when the girls grow up and have their own girls, what challenges do the children of immigrants face that are different from their own mothers?

This book can be confusing at times and I would recommend sitting down and reading it for long periods of time, otherwise you will loose the thread of the story. There are a lot of nicknames for each of the characters in the book, which can also be daunting if you stop and start the story. As a reader, I was able to connect mostly with the last part of the book, which I enjoyed immensely. The book encompasses many years and as a result does jump in time so be prepared for that to happen.

Recommended for 8th grade and up because of the complexity of the story, not due to content. Really interesting look at the immigrant experience from many different perspectives.


Always Running July 17, 2018

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 3:58 pm

A new house, a new town, a new school. Cameron has done it all before, multiple times. In fact, he’s getting so tired of the same old story, that he’s beginning to question whether his mom is making things up. Maybe his dad wasn’t quite as bad as she remembers. Maybe if Cameron did contact him, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. After all, he hasn’t talked to him or seen him in years.

The latest move has put Cameron and his mom in a tiny town in the middle of And not only that, but the house they move into is strange. It is an old farmhouse in the middle of cornfields, with some woods off to one side. Quickly, Cameron realizes he won’t fit in at school, and his mom seems to be pretty wrapped up in her new job. When Cameron starts seeing a boy, he wonders if something is going on with him. His mom is worried about his behavior and Cameron realizes he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing all the time.

After hearing some rumors about the house he now lives in, Cameron does some investigating and finds out that a long time ago a little boy and his mother disappeared from the house. One woman in town claimed they had been murdered, along with her cousin. But no bodies were ever found and it became part of the town lore. But Cameron keeps having strange dreams about a boy, a boy he comes to believe is the boy who disappeared. Is Cameron losing it after all these years of running? Who can he trust? Maybe it’s time to let his dad back into his life.

The Dogs by Allan Stratton is a mystery of who did it back then, and who can you trust now. Readers who like a bit of suspense and uncertainty will enjoy this book.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Make a Wish July 14, 2018

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 3:32 pm

downloadRed is old. In fact, he’s hundreds of years old. He’s seen a lot in his time. Well, as much as can be seen when you never move from one spot. Ever. He’s an oak tree, but a pretty special one. You see, years ago,  someone made a wish and wrote it on a piece of paper, tied it to one of Red’s branches and then, waited. Amazingly, the wish came true! And that is how the tradition started – with Red becoming the town’s wishtree. Each year on the first day of May, people come from all over to deliver their wishes – some for the year, some for right now, some for years in the future. And Red takes them all.

However, times are changing. Red’s deep roots are starting break up the sidewalks and get into the plumbing of the nearby houses. It looks like Red’s time as the wishtree might be coming to an end. Especially when something else happens to draw attention to the tree. Someone carves a word into the tree – LEAVE. Red has a feeling he knows who that word is directed toward. A little girl and her family, who have come from a long way away and are trying to make a new life, are different from others. The little girl, Samar, makes a wish one night, for a friend.

At that moment, Red and all his friends who live in him, decide that they will try to make this one last wish come true before Red’s time runs out.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is for anyone who has ever wondered “what if the trees could talk…and the animals…to us?” Or looked for a friend in an unconventional place. This is a heartwarming quick read about acceptance, tolerance and making new friends while keeping old ones.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.