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!

To Read the End First….or Just Take a Peek? October 23, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 9:59 pm
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I just finished Bruiser by Neal Shusterman on the way home today. The last two mornings I’ve been in my car, sitting in the parking lot, not wanting to go in to work, because the story became so compelling. What if you didn’t have to feel pain, any pain. No physical, no emotional pain, ever. The only problem is that you don’t just get rid of it, you transfer it to another person. Would you still do it, or would you own your pain? Brewster, or Bruiser as most of his classmates know him, has tried to remain aloof from everyone except his younger brother, Cody. However, when a brother and sister enter his life, all that he knows and tries not to know changes.

As much as I loved this book (as I do just about every Shusterman book I’ve read) it got me thinking. I tend to look at the end of a book, you know, the last few pages, if I’m getting worried. Worried that an animal might die, worried that a favorite character might die, worried that the two people I want to stay together or end up together won’t. In general, I worry. So that is why I sometimes look at the end of the book..before I’ve finished reading. I have mentioned this a time or two to Mrs. Homel and Mrs. Casper, and both have yelled at me. They say I’ve ruined the book. I can’t help it, I need to be prepared for an ending I might not like.

The only time I’m unable to do that, is if I’m LISTENING to a book. Now, I can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to flip to the end of Bruiser to see what was going to happen. BUT I couldn’t! I was listening to the CDs in my car, as you might have picked up from my first sentence. When I listen to a book I can’t just “flip” to the end. I also find that I remember books that I’ve listened to more than books that I’ve read. Partly, because I tend to skim parts of a book that I don’t like, or want to rush ahead to the “good stuff.”

Okay, so my question to you is, have you ever flipped to the end of a book, and felt better because you did? 🙂


War Book

So last school year I read the book The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt. 

This was one of the books booktalked by Downers Grove South librarians to 8th graders a year ago as a choice for their summer reading project. This book puts me in mind of Purple Heart with the trauma combat soldiers can suffer. However, The Things a Brother Knows delves into the confusion family members can feel when a soldier returns home…changed. Levi isn’t sure how to deal with his older brother Boaz. The whole town regards him as a hero, but Boaz doesn’t come out of his bedroom, and barely talks to anyone. When Levi realizes his brother is planning on leaving again to go off to points unknown he has to make a decision, one that will effect his whole family and possibly the future life of his brother. This book I would recommend for 8th grade and up because of the mature content.


Great Books With a Message

So often at school you are asked to read a book because of a theme it fits, or because of a topic that it addresses. I find myself looking specifically for books that I know will fit some of the themes that teachers here at O’Neill utilize when working on a unit. As a result, or perhaps completely by accident, I have finished two books recently that would fit into the our Disabilities Unit. The first is called The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. The main character has been in a school bus accident and has lost the lower part of her right leg. She is a fantastic runner, and now she wonders if she’ll ever run again. As she goes through her process of grief and recovery, she finds support from a freshman girl in her math class. The friendship that develops between these two drives the book and in many ways changes Jessica’s life as much as losing her leg.

The second book is called Girl, Stolen by April Henry. This is a great action story, since it is a kidnapping story. However, the interesting twist is it isn’t supposed to be a kidnapping, but really just a car jacking. When Griffin takes the car, he doesn’t realize Cheyenne is sick in the backseat. And things get more interesting when Cheyenne reveals she is blind.

What I really liked about both of these books, is they could be used for the Disabilities Unit, but the whole point of each book isn’t the disability each person has, it is what they do with their lives, period. I enjoyed both of these books, the main characters and all the nuances they each brought to the table. I especially enjoyed The Running Dream and will remember that book for a long time.

Books can have a message or a theme without getting in the way of a good story, or character development and those are the books that I remember. I will remember Jessica and what she choices she made, or Cheyenne and how both she and Griffin are changed because he stole a car – not that Jessica lost a leg and Cheyenne was blind.