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!

Anything But Ordinary – Guest Book Review by Mrs. Krygeris, 6th grade teacher June 27, 2013

Seventeen year old Bryce Graham trained to be an Olympic diver for as long as she can remember. A high school senior, she plans to attend Vanderbilt University on a diving scholarship along with her boyfriend Greg and her best friend Gabby. The three are inseparable, whether at diving practices and meets or outside the pool. Everything in Bryce’s life seems to be perfect, until the day of the Olympic trials when her life is forever altered.

Anything But Ordinary Anything But Ordinary is Lara Avery’s first novel, written just two years after she graduated college. Avery’s plot encompasses not just the almost unbelievable twist of fate that changes Bryce’s life forever, but how this event affects all the important people in Bryce’s inner circle: her younger sister Sydney, her father, mother, and of course, both Greg and Gabby. Bryce has incredible physical and emotional obstacles to deal with and as you read her story, you’ll find yourself cheering for her, wishing you could remind her of how far she’s come and how much she’s accomplished. Lucky for Bryce, she gains a new friend, Carter, a young medical student, who becomes an important champion for her as she struggles to deal with all the changes that have happened in both her life and in the lives of the people she loves.

This is a book that I couldn’t put down because I just had to know how the story would resolve. The ending has quite an expected twist, one that made me both cry and smile. So, without divulging any more of Avery’s incredible first novel, I invite you to read Anything But Ordinary and leave some time to ponder how you would react if this happened to you?


Guest Book Review by Mrs. Krygeris, 6th grade teacher

PaperboyIn his Author’s Note, Vince Vawter uses a quote from James Earl Jones, “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” Jones, well-known throughout the world for his deep, resonating voice and award-winning roles in the movies The Hunt for Red October, Field of Dreams, The Lion King, plus so many others, suffered with a stutter as a young boy.

Paperboy captures the experiences of author Vince Vawter, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee during the late 1950s. Mr. Vawter, like James Earl Jones, also suffered with stuttering; he remembers stuttering as early as five year of age and claims that he hasn’t been cured of his stutter, just overcome it. In this, his first novel, we meet 11-year old Victor Volmer III, fondly nicknamed Little Man by Mam, his family’s live-in black housekeeper and Little Man’s true champion. Little Man is growing up in a traditional southern city during a time of huge change for all Americans, white and black. As Little Man struggles to communicate with his peers and adults, he also wrestles with the injustices that he witnesses daily: Mam can’t go to the zoo except for specified times, he can’t attend Mam’s church, he chooses to sit in the back of the bus with Mam where she is more comfortable, and he struggles with the obvious lines in his community between those that have (the whites) and those that have not (the blacks). The story setting is the summer of 1959 and Little Man takes on the responsibility of a paper route for his one friend Rat. While Rat is away visiting his grandfather in the country, Little Man overcomes many personal fears and doubts to deliver the evening newspaper along Rat’s route and then each Friday to personally knock on each door to collect the paper money. This job requires more talking than Little Man has probably done in his whole life! But as most summers are, this is one of growth and experience for Little Man. Mr. Vawter has woven a beautiful tapestry of Little Man’s life as it changes after experiencing the lives of those on his paper route. Little Man finds a friend in Mr. Spiro, an adult who is willing to sit and listen to his questions and provide thought-provoking answers. Mrs. Worthington is young and beautiful, but Little Man senses her sadness and desperation, while TV Boy, who sits day after day in front of the TV without the sound playing, is a puzzle to Little Man. But, while all these impact Little Man, it’s the influence of the neighborhood junk man, Ara T, who turns events in Little Man’s world upside down.

This is a beautifully crafted book that has the reader thinking about so many things: the impact of a speech impediment on communication, racial equality, “traditional” roles of men and women, and finally, friendship. What a wonderful first novel for Vince Vawter, a retired newspaperman, now living in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.


Being Popular Has a Price – Can You Pay?

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 2:35 pm
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So, pretty much everyone has wanted to be popular at some point in their lives. Maybe at school, at a sport they love, at a job, or party. Jordan in The Prank by Ashley Rae imgres-1Harris is no exception. She’d like to be popular partly because the boy she has been crushing on for ever, Charlie, belongs to that group.

One day, completely out of the blue, Jordan gets an invite to hang with the popular crowd after school one day. She finds out they are plotting some pranks against their rival school before a big football game. At first Jordan feels a little weird and backs out at the last minute. Unfortunately, she gives them her bike to use and they leave it at the scene of the crime. Turns out, someone gets badly hurt during the prank, and no one is sure exactly how it happened. Charlie and Jordan get drawn more and more into pranks that at first don’t seem too bad, until right in front of their eyes a classmate dies. Is it all just some horrible coincidence, or is there something more sinister at work? Time is running out for everyone involved in the pranks as the clock ticks down toward game time.

This is a great fast read. Recommended for students 6th grade and up.



The Angels are Coming…RUN! June 24, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 11:52 am
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imgresIt has only been six weeks. Six weeks and everyones lives have been turned upside down, and flipped and well, Penryn can’t even count all the ways her life has gone to hell…or should we say, to the Angels. Six weeks ago, the apocalypse began with Angels coming down to earth…and killing humans and destroying cities around the world.

Penryn is 17 years old in the book Angelfall by Susan Ee and trying to keep her small family together after this momentous change on earth. Her mother, at the best of times a lucid caring mother, and at the worst of times, a woman haunted by demons she believes are real, hasn’t had her medication for paranoid schizophrenic for some weeks now, and it is showing. Paige, Penryn’s disabled younger sister of 7, is in a wheelchair ever since her legs were injured in an accident years before. But how do you outrun an Angel? Or Angels as the case may be?

As Penryn and her small family begin to make a run for the hills outside of Silicon Valley, CA, they encounter not one Angel, but six. Five of them appear to be attacking one, one with snowy white wings, wings that Penryn watches being cut from his body as she and her mother and sister huddle behind an abandoned parked car. Paige’s small gasp of empathy for the wingless Angel draws attention to them and as Penryn attempts to help the downed Angel, another snatches her baby sister from her wheelchair and carries her away.

Her mother has run off, her darling baby sister has been taken by an Angel, and Penryn realizes her only hope of finding her again is to take the bleeding, dying Angel from the street and get him to talk, by any means necessary.

Of course, this appears to be the first book in a series, but I have to tell you, this is one that I’ll pick up the second book, because this first one was a great nonstop read.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up.



What if no one believes you? June 22, 2013

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:24 am
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imgresIn a car. After a party. Two boys, one girl. Only survivor and witness to a double homicide. The girl. In the book She Said/She Saw by Norah McClintock Tegan was in the backseat of her friend Clark’s car when an unknown assailant kills both Clark and Martin, another boy, in the front seat. Tegan is left in the backseat untouched. She keeps reliving the horror of seeing her friends killed in front of her.

Now though, to make matters even worse, no one – from the police to the parents of the dead boys to her friends – believe she didn’t see who pulled the trigger. As Tegan plays that night over in her mind, and questions herself again and again if she did see anything, her younger sister Kelly begins to piece together what happened the night of the murders. Some things Tegan has said don’t make sense with what Kelly knows to be true. Others start casting more and more suspicion on Tegan and put more and more pressure on her till she makes a desperate decision.

What would you do if no one believed you?

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Growing Up Is Hard to Do

Out of the Blue by SL RottmanIn Out of the Blue by S.L. Rottman, Stu is an Air Force brat. He has moved around the country because both of his parents are in the Air Force and have been assigned to different bases over the 15 years of his life.

Stu says his current move to Minot, North Dakota feels different than all the other moves. Stu’s brother, Ray, will not be coming along this time because Ray is starting college. Stu and Ray’s dad decides not to go to Minot with the family – he’s going to go to Las Vegas to take care of his ailing mother. Stu and Ray put the pieces together and figure out that their parents are spending some time apart, as in a separation. Stu moves with his mom who happens to be the new commander of the base.

Upon moving, Stu meets Billy, a young neighbor boy. Billy has an older brother close to Stu’s age – Curtis.

Curtis is nothing but trouble! He’s into smoking, drugs, and hanging out with the wrong people. Stu gets mixed up into some of that trouble trying to help Billy.

A big part of growing up is figuring out the right things to do. Stu is forced to face some tough choices and makes a few mistakes along the way.

This is a good book for mature readers who enjoy realistic fiction about some of the struggle teens face.


Being Chased By Ghosts

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder is the companion novel in verse to I Heart You, You Haunt Me. In Chasing Brooklyn, Brooklyn and Nico tell their sides of the story – a very sad story. Both have been affected by the death of Lucca – Lucca was dating Brooklyn and he was Nico’s older brother.

Lucca died in a car accident. Brooklyn and Nico are facing the struggles of losing someone important to them. Gabe, Lucca’s friend, survived the accident that killed Lucca. Distraught by the accident, Gabe overdoses on drugs and dies. Brooklyn was struggling with her feelings over missing Lucca and things just became worse. Now Gabe seems to be haunting her in her dreams and she is afraid! Another ghost is lurking around too – Lucca. Lucca is trying to send a message to Nico. Lucca wants Nico to help Brooklyn by making her feel safe and happy.

Nico and Brooklyn become friends quickly – they bond over what they have in common – Lucca. Pretty soon, Brooklyn and Nico aren’t sure if their strange feelings for each other are ok.

Chasing Brooklyn is a romance and ghost story told in novel in verse.