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!

When You Lose Your Voice April 29, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:33 am

Tia never knew her father, or at least she doesn’t have memories of him. That is becauseimgres he was sentenced to life in prison when she was only four years old. Her mother won’t talk about him and basically tells Tia to forget about him – that for all intent and purpose, he is dead.

This works for Tia until one night at choir practice when a car jacking happens outside the church her group is singing in. For some reason, Tia can’t shake the feeling that more than a robbery happened with her father. When she learns that a young child was killed in the car jacking, Tia feels a connection with the mother of the child she can’t explain. It leads her to begin asking questions about her own life and circumstance – questions her mother clearly doesn’t want to answer or acknowledge.

Pieces of Why by K. L. Going is a thoughtful look at a teen struggling to make sense of the world she lives in and how she can continue to love those around her as her world suddenly seems too large and too small at the same time. Readers will feel for Tia as she struggles with her close friend, her mother, and finds herself navigating romance all at the same time.

Highly recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


Tell a Lie, Gain a Truth April 27, 2016

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — lpitrak @ 12:00 pm

the lie tree

Fifteen-year-old Faith Sunderly has a shameful secret; she is intelligent, curious, and a lover of natural science at a time when women are supposed to be concerned only with domestic affairs.  When her father, the esteemed Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, a preacher and a world-renowned scientist, is found dead, Faith cannot believe he killed himself.  She sets out to prove that someone murdered her father, and in doing so, uncovers a dark truth.  Her father is in possession of an ancient and whispered about tree; legend has it that a person who whispers a lie to this tree (and then takes action to make sure this lie is widely believed) will then have access to the fruit of the tree- a fruit which bears truth for whoever consumes it.  Faith plans to find this tree and use it to find the truth behind her father’s death, but to do so, she is forced to tell a number of dangerous, slanderous lies which cause havoc she couldn’t have imagined.


Can a Girl Vanish into Thin Air? April 24, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction — lpitrak @ 1:32 pm


Once a passionate, politically-minded, curious teenager, Henneke now lives in fear.  It is 1943, and Amsterdam is occupied by German Nazis who encourage an atmosphere of secrecy and betrayal.  Furious at seeing her beloved city destroyed, and her friends and family forced out of jobs and into poverty, Henneke rebels in the only way she knows how…. finding and selling black market items like beer, cigarettes, and lipstick to sell for a high price.  Her reputation for finding items leads an elderly neighbor to ask her for a huge (and very dangerous) favor.  Mrs. Janssen had been hiding a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl named Marjam, protecting her from being deported to a labor camp.  Marjam is now missing, though, even though the house was still locked from the inside.  There should have been no way for her to get out.  Henneke takes the case out of guilt, but secretly feels there is no way to solve it, because people don’t just vanish into thin air.  But, after becoming acquainted with members of the dangerous Dutch resistance (a crime punishable by death), she realizes that hundreds of people are vanishing from Amsterdam every single day.  This is a powerful novel about a very strong young woman trying to fight against a darkness that the world doesn’t fully comprehend.


Life Changes in 55 Minutes April 22, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:05 pm

For the students at Opportunity High School, the beginning of the semester “talk” by principal Trenton, is so predictable, that some of the upper class can actually recite it by heart. Autumn and Sylv, who have been best friends and are now girlfriends, are both anxious because of the empty seat next to Autumn. Autumn’s older brother, Tyler, is supposed to be coming back to school  today after dropping out. Sylv isn’t looking forward to his return because she has had some really bad encounters with him…not that she’s told Autumn about them.

What no one knows at that moment, is that Tyler does plan to return to the school, right imgresafter the principal gets done with her speech. He also plans to padlock the auditorium doors and not let anyone out – until he says his peace. And his peace will involve a gun, with lots of rounds of ammo.

This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp starts off like a sprint but quickly becomes a jog as the main characters do a  LOT of reflecting on their own lives and situations and how each of them has come to be where they are. The book covers 55 minutes, plus some at the end of the day, and while one would think that would make for a fast pace, that isn’t true. So much is going through the minds of the students, the urgency can at times be lost on the characters, even though, as a reader, you might find yourself screaming at them to pay attention to, you know, the GUN!

Still, the premise will be appeal to many readers…just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up due to situations and content.


To Be Included April 20, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:10 am

Melody lives pretty much at the whim of everyone. She can’t feed herself, go to the imgresbathroom by herself, dress herself, or, and this is what hurts her the most – talk for herself. As a young girl, she realized very quickly that her body wouldn’t do what she wanted it to. That is because Melody has Cerebral Palsy.

Her parents adore her and with with the assistance of a fabulous neighbor who is a family friend, Melody’s world is only limited by the physical. She is an engaged girl who wants to learn and learn more! Because she has basically no control over her body, except for her thumbs, she has a very hard time communicating. She’s never been able to have an actual conversation with her parents. She is limited to pointing to her word board, and as she gets older, she and those around her realize this is limiting her interactions with everyone.

All that changes in fifth grade when she gets a new assistant, named Catherine at school, and a special education teacher who knows Melody needs more from her school. Melody begins to get included in the regular education classes. There Melody realizes how limited her world has been. And when she and Catherine find a machine that will allow Melody to actually have a voice and have conversations with people she feels an unbelievable excitement.

In Melody’s Social Studies class, she learns of an opportunity to participate on a Quiz Team for the school. After years of watching and absorbing all the information she can, Melody is a shoo in for the team. However, both the teacher in charge and the other students in the school don’t seem as sure of having her on the team.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper explores what it means for a person trapped in their physical form and how those around them can help them either continue to feel trapped, or help set them free.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.



Escape Is Not an Option April 13, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:01 pm

When Nazis have invaded your country and limited what you can do, it is the small imgresdefiances against them that keep you going. Hanneke takes anything that she does against the German’s as a point in her favor. Because when her country, the Netherlands,  was taken over, she lost the boy she loved. Bas died on the front lines against the German army machine, and she can’t forgive herself for it. She feels responsible for his death.

So when she goes to work for the local funeral owner and he asks her to start making “special deliveries” she doesn’t hesitate. Even though if she is caught by the Nazis conducting this black market work, she’ll be punished and maybe even her parents will suffer.

On one such delivery during a cold winter afternoon, Hanneke is asked to help an elderly woman who confesses she’s been hiding a young Jewish girl in her pantry. The girl seems to have vanished in thin air. The woman begs Hanneke to use her contacts to try to locate this girl.

At first, Hanneke wants nothing to do with this search. After all, it could get her in so much trouble, it might even get her killed. But then she begins to become intrigued with what could have happened to the girl. After all, her city of Amsterdam is large, but there aren’t many places to hide from the Nazis these days.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is a story of loss, hopefulness and despair in the midst of one of humanities worst times in history. Hanneke is tragically trapped in the past, and this might be her one chance to escape it.

Recommended for mature 7th grade and up readers.


When Nature Strikes Back April 6, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:03 am

imgresThings haven’t been good since his mom left and his dad can’t seem to move on. Even though Cort’s mom isn’t that far away, it is like his dad can’t even focus on what is in front of him. Namely Cort. Cort knew that his mom wasn’t happy for a long time, but he is glad she’s gone because now he thinks they can move on. What he didn’t count on was his dad not being able to.

A hurricane is brewing and Cort and his dad need to get things ready for it. They live in a boat house, on the river, and Cort’s dad makes his living taking hunters into the swamp to hunt for alligators and wild boars. Cort loves living his life by the swamp and the river, but he isn’t sure his dad will be able to keep things together well enough for this life to continue. His dad doesn’t even seem all the concerned about getting ready for the hurricane.

When the storm hits, Cort finds himself left at a neighbor’s house with his good friend Liza, her little sister and their mom. Cort’s dad goes to “check” on Cort’s mom. When he still hasn’t returned after several hours, Liza’s mom goes after him.

A series of events leave Cort, Liza and her little sister at the mercy of the storm and all three of them trying to survive in the swamp – as all the other creatures in the swamp are trying to survive too.

Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key will keep you turning the page to see how, or if, Cort and the girls get out a no win situation.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.