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!

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.


Feeling Alone June 7, 2021

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

Aza has a power that not many people do anymore. She has full magic. That means she has more power and abilitydownload-2 than most everyone else – but with power comes a price. When she uses her full magic, she hurts, and so does the earth. Hundreds of years of casters using full magic has been destroying the earth, so full magic casters are against the law – or at least they aren’t supposed to use full magic because of the damage it causes.

Still, Aza doesn’t see a way to NOT use her magic. Her older sister, Shire, died using her full magic and when she died so did the major source of income for the family. Her parents are struggling to keep their tea shop going in Lotusland, and Aza knows it is only a short matter of time before the gang lord who controls their sector of the city comes asking for payment. Payment that Aza knows her family can’t come up with.

As Aza is searching for ways to help her family, she comes across a tournament where full magic casters are competing against each other for a major monetary prize. She realizes she has to try to win for her family’s sake, especially after she learns of a tie her older sister Shire had to the tournament. What she doesn’t know is if she can pay the the ultimate price the competition will have on her.

Caster by Elsie Chapman is reminiscent of quite a few books out there – Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent – to name a few, but if that is what you are looking for, and with magic to boot, check this book out. If you enjoy this book, Aza’s story continues in Spell Starter.


A Girl in Disguise November 23, 2020

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

downloadRain is an amazing Neshu fighter – but there is one problem. She is a girl, and girls aren’t allowed to fight for their kingdom. Only boys and men are allowed that privilege. Rain has lived with the knowledge that she is whole whereas her dear twin brother Storm, suffered from a fever they both had when they were just little children. Storm has never been the same. He seems stuck in a child like state, even though they are both now 17 years old. Their father is a master at teaching the style of fighting known as Neshu, but as much as he tries, Storm will never be the fighter that Rain has become.

Willow, Rain and Storm’s older sister, is eagerly waiting for her match for marriage. In their part of the kingdom, tradition dictates that the bride and groom don’t have any say in who they marry – only their parents – and they don’t even meet until a match has been made. But then word comes that the nomads are on the move and are threatening everything everyone holds dear, including their very lives. Every family must send a boy or man to help defend the lands of Ylanda. Their father says he will go with Storm to meet the demand of the kingdom. Rain knows though, that this will mean almost certain death for both her father and her brother. Storm can no way fight and be part of the army, and their father is older now and will try to protect Storm. Rain feels she has to do something.

Through her sister, Rain learns of a woman in the village who deals in dragon magic. Legend says that dragons once roamed the skies of Ylanda and even now, anything left from a dragon hold special power. Rain begins to have think she should run off to join the army and pretend to be Storm – a boy. Rain goes to the woman and asks for something that will help her from being discovered if she does go into the army. She knows if she is discovered, the penalty is death. She is hoping the powder she got from the woman that Rain takes each night will keep her secret safe. But the woman at the shop tells her she might to start having dreams about dragons.

Rain is able to make her way to the army, and she seems to be able to fool everyone. But as she takes the dragon powder, she does begin to dream of an ancient dragon, a dragon who begs Rain to set her free and help defeat the nomads. Rain has to decide if these visions and dreams are real, and if they are, can she make the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

Stormrise by Jillian Boehme is a grand adventure story, with reimagined dragons, secrecy, and forbidden love. For anyone looking for a dragon tale, you are in luck!

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Unlimited Redos to Get it Right? July 6, 2020

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

Think back to a time when something went wrong in your life. Maybe something big, downloadmaybe something small. If you had a chance to redo it, would you? And just how many times would you want to redo it, if the same result kept happening? How much would you change what you did or didn’t do each time?

Jack King is a senior in high school and has been in love with his best friend, Jillian, forever, or so it seems. So when they are on a college visit to the school they are both going to be attending the following fall, he isn’t looking to meet anyone, certainly not on the steps of a frat house. And certainly not someone as wonderful as Kate. Pretty quickly, Jack is all in on Kate, which is just as well, since Jillian has been dating his OTHER best friend Francisco for only a month longer than Jack has been in love with her.

Best case scenario, right? Now everyone is happy and in love! But then something totally unexpected happens. Kate breaks up with Jack and won’t tell him why, until he gets a phone call from her, saying she’s in the hospital. And later that same night, she dies. How can this be possible? Jack didn’t even know that Kate was sick! Unable to believe what he’s just heard on the phone from Kate’s mom telling him she has died, he runs out of his room and falls down the stairs, and into the past. That’s right. He finds himself on those same stairs at the college house, just about to meet Kate…again. How is this happening? Is he being given a chance to save her life? Or is it about more than just Kate?

Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds is a story about how we can all get caught up in that one thing, whatever it might be, and forget about all that has come before and what will be there after, when it ends. It is also about all those different paths we can take, and how it can be so hard to find that perfect one.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


A Terrible Switch June 22, 2020

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

Growing up in Mirkwood with the perfect babby brother can be a pain. At least that is downloadwhat Mollie thinks. Yeah, he never cries, and he’s sweet and cute as a button, but sometimes a girl just gets tired of all the attention given to the little one. Mollie is that girl! One day when she is out weeding the garden, watching her little brother Thomas, she just wishes that he hadn’t even been born. After all, there is always so much work, and he certainly can’t help with any of it. Still, at least he is a good babby. No one can ever say he is a good and charming child though, because if they do, the Kinde Folke might come and take him and give them a horrible changeling in his place. Thomas has a charm from Granny Hedgepath, a beautiful necklace that Mollie wishes had been given to her instead of her little brother. After all, what’s a little boy going to do with a necklace anyway? But he is supposed to wear it at all times and it will protect him from the Kinde Folke. 

But this day, when Thomas pulls off his necklace and offers it to Mollie, she can’t resist. She puts it on herself. And makes the terrible mistake of saying out loud what a sweet babby he is. When Mollie wakes from a strange nap, the baby lying where Thomas should be is different. He is crying (which Thomas never does) and has strange yellow eyes, and looks sickly. Mollie is terrified that she has let a changeling take the place of Thomas. Granny Hedgepath confirms Mollie’s worst fears, a changeling has been substituted for Thomas!

Dadoe and Mam aren’t sure what to do. Dadoe wants to abandon the changeling, but Mam heeds Granny’s advice to be nice to the creature and maybe the Kinde Folke will be good to Thomas. All Mollie knows is that it is her fault. And she might be the only one who can go to the Dark Lands and find her babby brother and make her family whole again.

Guest by Mary Downing Hahn is an imaginative fantasy using Irish tales to dream up a world where you are never sure if it is the Kinde Folke of life that is making things hard.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Lightning and Umbrella = Magic? April 20, 2020

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

Claire has a lot to think about. She wants one of the lead roles in the play at school, shedownload-4 wants her mom and dad to officially call it quits, and she would love to finally understand math! Plus, there is this guy at school, Eric, who she thinks is pretty awesome…if only he’d stop looking at Lucy, another girl at school, long enough to see her!

On her way to the store one stormy afternoon to pick up another weird food item her mom has been craving, she finds an abandoned umbrella in a garbage can. It seems okay and she certainly needs one with the rain/snow pouring down from the sky. On her way back home, as she’s thinking of all her problems with no solutions, she feels a bolt of something go straight through her! She assumes she was just struck by lightning! But everyone around her acts like nothing big just happened. Strange. She doesn’t feel hurt by what just happened, but she can’t shake the feeling that something did.

When she gets home, her mom is off the couch for the first time in months and is actually acting like a mom again. When Claire goes to work on her math that night, it finally seems to click. And when she gets to school the next day, that is when she gets the biggest surprise. As all the things that Claire has been thinking about seem to change virtually overnight, she begins to wonder if there wasn’t something magical about the umbrella. But she quickly realizes the old adage – be careful what you wish for, because it might just come true!

Struck by Deb Loughead is a really quick read about a girl who wonders is it real life or magic???

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Dragons and Witches March 2, 2020

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

Alys has just been accused of being a witch. Of course, she knows she isn’t. She also knows she is being accused of witchcraft because their neighbor wants their land and Alys’ father has not agreed to sell it. After all, if their tinsmith shop is gone, how would her father make his living? However, when a man knocks on her door, saying he is  Inquisitor Atherton of Griswold, things go badly right away for Alys. The neighbor, Gower and his wife and daughter make outlandish claims against Alys, claims that she has no hope of disproving and when she is pronounced a witch, her father dies from a heart attack. Alys is bound and dragged to a spot high up on a hill away from the village. Because you see, her punishment will not be the standard burning at the stake. No, she will be tied to one and then forced to wait for the Dragon she is to be a sacrifice for.

Alys can’t believe how her life has changed in one swift day. She has lost her father, her home, her village and any friends she haddownload there. And it seems she is to be made a meal of by the end of the day for a Dragon no less. However, when the Dragon does come, he isn’t quite what Alys thought he would be.

Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde is a true fantasy and pure enjoyment from beginning to end. Highly recommended for anyone who loves a good read.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Is it Chance or Destiny that Rules Your Life? January 20, 2020

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

It starts with a glass slipper and ends with a battle. Or a few battles actually! You knowdownload the story of Cinderella, of course, but do you know what happened after she left her ugly stepsisters and stepmother? What became of them?

Both Octavia and Isabelle, to please their mother, tried in vain to fit their large feet into the glass slipper the prince and the Grand Duke brought to their house. However, it was clear it would never work, unless they removed a bit of their foot. So, both Tavi and Isabelle make the sacrifice for their mother, although neither of them truly wants to marry the prince. For Isabelle, it is a matter of being worthy again. When she was a young girl, the world seemed a wonderful adventure waiting to happen. But one day she was called ugly by a man who came to see her stepfather, and from then on, all Isabelle could think of was how to become pretty. How to be the person that her mother wanted her to be and it appeared the world as well.

After Ella leaves to marry the prince, Isabelle and Tavi are resented by all in their small village and the only things that Isabelle every truly loved are gone. But one night as she visits the linden tree on her way from closing up the barn for the evening, she meets the fairy queen, Tanaquill. Tanaquill says that Isabelle summoned her, and she wants to know what is Isabelle’s true heart’s wish. Of course, she wants to be pretty. If she becomes pretty, all of her problems will be over. Tanaquill tells her to collect the three missing pieces of her heart and then the queen will grant her wish. The question is, what are the pieces she is missing?

What Isabelle doesn’t know is that she life is already being played with, by Fate and Chance. Both these immortals want to dictate or change, the map that has already been drawn of Isabelle’s life. She has no idea that Fate will stop at nothing to keep Isabelle’s life short and unfulfilled, whereas Chance seems to believe there is more in store for the young woman if only given a chance!

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly is a fabulous read with lots of twists and turns and just when you don’t see a way out, something surprises you. This author has always delighted me with her work, and this one is on par with her best. You will not be disappointed if you pick up this fairytale.

Highly recommended for 7th grade and up.


Back to the GRISHAVERSE! April 8, 2019

Filed under: Fantasy Books — lpitrakbromiel @ 10:16 am
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King of Scars.jpg

Leigh Bardugo returns to her magical Grishaverse world in her latest book King of Scars. Fan-favorites Nikolai (aka Sturmhund and King of Scars), Genya (the First Tailor), and Zoya (the Little Witch and the General) are still fiercely loyal to one another and to Ravka as the Triumvirate. They will protect their country and its citizens using any means necessary, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as Ravka is surrounded by enemies. Shu mercenaries have been hired to take out the Triumvirate and kidnap Ravkan Grisha in order to further their twisted experiments with parem. Ketterdam merchants want the monetary debt owed to them from the Ravkan crown. And, as always, Fjerdan druskelle are on the hunt for Grisha, whom they view as abominations instead of as magical beings connected to the making at the center of the world. Meanwhile, Nina Zenik, still heartbroken over the events the occurred at the end of Crooked Kingdom, accepts a mission to infiltrate Fjerdan ranks as a spy. What she finds, however, is a horrible conspiracy involving the druskelle, parem, and the mysterious Springmaidens who are loyal followers of Diel. Lovers of Bardugo’s books will be immediately transported into her intense world full of adventure, magic, bravery, loyalty, and harrowing close calls. Readers who are new to the Grishaverse should begin with Shadow and Bone.


It’s a Game, But Who’s Playing? January 13, 2019

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 5:57 pm

For almost as long as Scarlett can remember, her father has been a beast. He is ruthless in his treatment of both Scarlett and her sister, Tella. After their mother disappeared years before, their father became intolerable. The girls have little to no freedom and spend their days trying to avoid their father. Scarlett has spent most of the years since her mother left dreaming of escaping to the fantastical world of Caraval. Rumor says that magical things can happen during the event of Caraval, created by the amazing Legend and all his performers. Scarlett has written a letter each year to Legend, in the hopes that he will invite them to his magical event. However, years have gone by, and Scarlett has given up all hope. The only way she thinks she can escape her father is to marry and she’s hoping she’ll be able to take her sister, Tella with her to live with her and her new husband.

download.jpgWith the wedding approaching rapidly, Scarlett gets news that she can hardly fathom. A letter arrives from Legend himself, inviting her to this years Caraval, on his special island, along with her sister and her fiance. Scarlett is floored. But she knows to leave will jeopardize her marriage, and her freedom through that marriage, if she goes to Caraval. Tella decides to take the matter out of Scarlet’s hands when she has Scarlett kidnapped from their father’s island and off on a boat, heading to Caraval.

Caraval turns out to be everything and nothing like Scarlett imagined. But when the game becomes serious quickly, and Scarlett realizes that Tella is to be the prize for the game, Scarlett finds herself spinning in a world she can’t tell up from down.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a book for those who love all the figurative language that can be packed into a book, and then some! The writing at times gets in the way of the story, but if you like a book that spends more time on imagery than on moving the story forward, this is the book for you.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.